What Christianity in China Is Really Like

Claude reports on an article by Colin Clark.

The issue in China is the lack of trust between government and believers who know how quickly rules can change, leaving you high and dry. The core concern of the authorities is foreign and subversive elements forming disruptive, dangerous movements – so they insist on whatever religion is practised, is done transparently and with no foreign influence. This results in a very mixed outcome for churches.

The following quote says it well:

First, a disclaimer. I can’t tell you what anything in China is really like—that is, unless we’re comfortable with saying it’s like a bunch of contradictory things all at the same time. A faithful and honest description of Chinese Christianity will be nuanced and somewhat paradoxical, not definitive and one-sided. Joann Pittman wrote an extremely helpful article that should be required reading for anyone visiting or discussing China. In some places and at some times China is one thing, while at other places and times it’s the opposite.

When asked if China is like this or that, the answer is almost always “Yes.” In fact, it’s easy to spot a China rookie: They’re the ones who confidently begin, “The church across China looks like ______,” “All Chinese Christians believe ______,” “Ministry in China is always ______,” or “The government’s attitude toward Chinese Christians is ______.”


So the goal of understanding what China is really like must be tempered. Or at least approached in a way that allows for ambiguity and recognizes the enigma of the subject. Toward that goal and in that spirit, here are five things helpful to understand about the church landscape in China.