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China's Culture War Raises Concerns About Freedoms and Christianity in 2012

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    (Photo: Reuters / Petar Kujundzic)
    Christians attend Sunday service at Shouwang Church in Beijing's Haidian district October 3, 2010. Shouwang is a "house church", a church that is not officially sanctioned by the government and houses smaller congregations.
By Ivana Kvesic, Christian Post Reporter
January 5, 2012|4:37 pm

The People’s Republic of China is battling a culture war with the Western world, according to Chinese President Hu Jintao in a recently published essay.

The essay can be found in the Communist Party magazine, Seeking Truth, founded decades ago by China’s most prominent Communist revolutionary Mao Zedong.

“We must clearly see that international hostile forces are intensifying the strategic plot of westernizing and dividing China, and ideological and cultural fields are the focal areas of their long-term infiltration,” the Chinese president said, according to a translation by The Associated Press.

The essay follows a policy initiative announced by Hu this past October in which the Chinese President said that China was facing a cultural supremacy war with the Western world and discussed protecting the “cultural security” of the Chinese.

Hu said that in order to respond to the infiltration and avert a cultural tsunami, the Chinese need to produce more cultural products that will intrigue and meet the growing demands of China’s massive populace.

Although a significant portion of China’s population continues to struggle with poverty, a large segment of Chinese society has faced a dramatic shift in living standards and a new burgeoning group of middle class Chinese are increasingly relishing in cultural activities, films, books, and artwork – much of which has emerged from outside of China.

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“The international culture of the West is strong while we are weak,” Hu said in an October speech, adding that China should “deeply understand the seriousness and complexity of the ideological struggle.”

Indeed, some of the most popular movies and music in China come from the West, with Lady Gaga and Hollywood films gaining widespread popularity among the Chinese.

However, the new policy aim to elevate China’s cultural status appears to have motivations beyond merely maintaining Chinese traditions, and could be interpreted as a push by hardliners within the Communist party to reign in some of the social freedoms that have evolved with China's rapid economic expansion.

With increased financial empowerment, some Chinese citizens and communities have become more bold in discussing social ills and expressing criticism of government policies.

Exemplarily of this new reality is the uprising viewed in the small Chinese fishing village of Wukan in China’s southern province of Guangdong.

This past fall, nearly 20,000 people rose up against the Chinese government in an uncharacteristically intense land dispute - an uprising that would have likely witnessed bloodshed just several decades ago.

Although, Chinese authorities dealt with the Wukan village uprising in a moderate manner, a more vocal Chinese citizen is undeniably raising alarm amongst hardline party members fearful that increased social freedoms could challenge the political power of the party.

Jinato’s push for a more culturally vibrant China is occurring simultaneously as the government is dually increasing its crackdown on activists and expanding its censorship in the cultural sphere.

Examples include the Chinese government crackdown and tax claim against artist Ai Weiwei, and the nine year prison sentence handed to activist Chen Wei for “subversion of the state.”

Chinese authorities have also recently established a new push on Internet freedom requiring people to register to microblogging sites using proper identification and have additionally banned dozens of “low-taste” television shows from airing on Chinese television stations.

The Chinese government response to changes emerging from within Chinese society is causing many experts to express their concerns over what freedoms might be curbed in 2012, a year when China will be facing a leadership transition.

Bob Fu of China Aid fears that China and its current leadership might be heading in the direction of a quasi-fascist state.

Fu told The Christian Post that in the upcoming year, the Chinese government will likely implement more media controls while allowing less freedom of expression, association, and assembly.

Furthermore, Fu believes that there will be more severe punishment against human rights defenders, religious freedom defenders, and independent religious groups, combined with less tolerance of any substantial criticism of the Communist party.

“Given leadership transition in fall of 2012 we do expect a much harsher year, even more so than 2011, although 2011 already marked the worst in terms of religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law in two decades,” Fu said.

Other organizations have also expressed concerns for Chinese freedoms in 2012 as well.

Just days ago the Christian persecution organization Release International projected that China will be upping its defense against Christianity in the new year.

China is home to the world’s largest persecuted church, with some estimates suggesting that there are as many as 130 million Christians in the country.

Mao Zedong perceived Christianity as a Western influence and referred to the religion as “poison, ” attempting to eradicate Christian followers during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s. Religious belief in China was pretermitted again in the 1980s, but freedom of religion in the tightly controlled country has not come without challenges.

Only recently, dozens of members of a Beijing independent house church faced detention, abuse, and lost their jobs with all church leaders having been placed under house arrest, according to Fu.

Although concerns abound about the safety of Christians and general freedoms in the upcoming year in China, hope can be found through Christian communities according to Fu.

Fu regards Christians as one of the “largest peace keeping NGO’s in China” and believes that with Chinese Christians wagging their persecution struggle with the state through prayer and non-violent means, they will serve as an important example to the rest of Chinese society and could stand to be "the biggest stabilizing force" in the future of China.

“I think 2012 will be marked as a year of repression, but also a year of a great rights defense consciousness,” he said.

Others agree that a shift in consciousness is emerging in China.

After receiving his nine-year prison sentence in December, activist Chen Wei warned the Chinese court “dictatorship will fail, democracy will prevail.”

 

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