ICC Note: This article should be read with the understanding that it is authored by the People’s Daily, a news source edited and censored by the Chinese government. The article details a small study and the “alarming” increase of Christianity on college campuses in China. Christianity has been growing rapidly in China and most estimates of the number of Christians are far higher, near the 130-150 million mark, then the estimates stated in this article. Last year one Christians rights group revealed a secret Communist Party document calling for a clamp down on evangelism on college campuses across the country.
7/9/2013 China (People’s Daily) – After concluding a two-year study on college students’ religious beliefs, Marxist scholars warned against the rapid growth of Christianity and proselytization disguised as cultural studies on campuses across China.
Such warnings were met with objections as many people believe there is nothing wrong with college students discovering religion. At the heart of the debate is to what extent and how religion should be discussed and taught on campus.
Xi Wuyi, a Marxist scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, wrote on her blog about a project she led which looked at religion on campuses in 2011 and 2012. She wrote that the percentage of believers among college students was higher than among the general population and growing each year.
However, the validity of the study came under question as researchers surveyed only 195 people at four universities in Beijing, among whom 16 were believers.
Most studies done about religion in China have had rather small sample groups, in the hundreds or a few thousand at best.
Various religions have been growing in China since the 1990s. Official figures from 1997 put the number of protestant Christians at 1 million.
In 2010, a report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) showed that there were over 23 million protestant Christians in China, or 1.8 percent of the population. However, many believe the figure is still larger.
Despite disagreement over the numbers, scholars agree that there have been growing proselytizing activities in recent years. Many people say they have been approached on the street and asked if they would like to know more about Christianity.
Chinese regulations prohibit religious activities taking place outside of authorized religious sites. Preaching and proselytizing in schools are also not allowed.
Xi’s research showed that 60 percent of students had had such encounters. Zuo and Yang also said that more students now reported having been approached on campus than a few years ago, although it’s not always clear what the background of these would-be evangelists is.
Studies by Zuo and Xi both found that at gatherings of churches or associations not recognized by the authorities, priests and followers were often critical of the government and sometimes hostile toward the State-sanctioned patriotic church.