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Chinese seminary to promote ‘sinicization of Christianity’

Collaboration between the East China Theological Seminary and govt is a political 'sell-out' agreement, rights group says
Members of a Hong Kong Chinese Christian Churches Union delegation pose for a photo with officials of the East China Theological Seminary in Shanghai during a visit on March 15, 2023. The seminary has signed an agreement to promote the communist government's sinicization policy.

Members of a Hong Kong Chinese Christian Churches Union delegation pose for a photo with officials of the East China Theological Seminary in Shanghai during a visit on March 15, 2023. The seminary has signed an agreement to promote the communist government's sinicization policy. (Photo: China Christian Daily)

Published: February 26, 2024 09:49 AM GMT
Updated: February 26, 2024 10:03 AM GMT

A Protestant seminary in China has signed an agreement with two state-sanctioned bodies to promote the controversial policy of the sinicization of Christianity and the thoughts of President Xi Jinping.

The East China Theological Seminary, a government-approved institute based in Shanghai signed the agreement with the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China and the China Christian Council, in line with the  "Patriotic Education Law" of the communist government, says a report from, China-Aid, a US-based rights group run by exiled Chinese dissidents.

This politically-motivated agreement between the state-run organizations and the theological seminary is quite unusual, deviating completely from the usual path of faith and the church, the group said.

As per the agreement, the seminary will follow the “Outline of a Five-Year Work Plan To Advance the Sinicization of Christianity (2023 – 2027)” approved by the People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The new plan emphasizes the study of Xi Jinping’s thoughts and aims to continually enhance the compatibility of Christianity with socialist society. It promotes the sinicization of Christianity by starting with the sinicization of theological thought, striving to interpret doctrines and regulations in a way that aligns with the core values of socialism.

The seminary had already arranged several seminars last year to initiate the five-year work plan including a “Seminar on the Sinicization of Christianity” and “Preaching in Shanghai,” according to reports from the official website of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, a state-body overseeing the affairs of Protestant Churches in the country, ChinaAid reported.

During the seminars, the speakers discussed the theme of “Be Patriotic and Faithful, Then Can One Be Promising,” and explored the “Elaboration on the Sinicization of Religious Doctrines in China.”

The state-run Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau of Huangpu District in Shanghai said it would help monitor the work of the Christian community in Huangpu district.

The officially atheist China has asserted more control and launched a renewed crackdown on religious groups and religious activities since Xi came to power in 2012.

The CCP has firmed up and implemented a series of policies and regulations including the sinicization of religions, a political ideology that aims to impose socialist principles on individuals and society to ensure loyalty to the party.

Under the sinicization policy and new regulations on religious affairs, the party has systematically and gradually undertaken deliberate transformations of religious beliefs, with an increasingly suffocating level of interference, ChinaAid reported.

This includes controlling religious individuals, venues, and institutions such as seminaries.

This year, the party has adopted the “Patriotic Education Law” to further solidify these efforts. It encourages and supports religious groups, religious schools, and venues for religious activities to carry out patriotic education.

The aim is to strengthen the national consciousness, civic consciousness, legal awareness, and patriotic sentiments of religious personnel and believers, guiding religion to align with a socialist society.

The open collaboration between the East China Theological Seminary in Shanghai and the government to sign a highly political “sell-out” agreement will only lead to the further loss of identity for the seminary, the ChinaAid report added.

China’s constitution recognizes the freedom of religion or belief. However, rights groups frequently rank the Chinese government as one of the worst offenders of religious freedoms in the world.

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