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Protestant five-year plan for Chinese Christianity

Translated document outlines strategy for Sinicization that will adapt religion to China's socialist society
Protestant five-year plan for Chinese Christianity

Contents of the Bible that are compatible with the core values of socialism will be deeply researched under the five-year plan. (Photo by AFP)

ucanews.com reporters, Hong Kong
China
April 20, 2018
The following text is a ucanews.com translation of the Protestant five-year plan for Chinese Christianity. The original Chinese document was compiled by the national committees of the government-sanctioned China Christian Council and Three-Self Patriotic Movement.

 

Stated aims

To deepen the establishment of theological thought in the new era, promote harmonious and healthy development of the church, exert a positive role for Christianity and practice core values of socialism. Further, to continuously improve the width and depth of adaptation to the socialist society.

Two Protestant national committees have formulated the "Outline of the Five-year Working Plan for Promoting the Sinicization of Christianity in our Country (2018-2022)" (abbreviated as "Planning Outline" below) in accordance with adherence to steadily fulfilling the requirement for Sinicization.

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The Planning Outline aims to clarify the significance, basic context, goals and tasks for the Sinicization of Christianity and to implement concrete measures and institutional protections for the Sinicization of Christianity by focusing on implementation and practical results. This is an important basis for advancing work on the Sinicization of Christianity in the next five years.

The Planning Outline consists of four chapters: general principles, major tasks, key work arrangements and organizing implementation.

                                             Chapter 1: General principles

1. The context, goals and principles of Sinicization of Christianity

The persistence of Sinicization by the religions in our country is guided by the core values of socialism, promoting the excellent traditions of the Chinese nation, nurturing the concepts of unity, progress, peace and tolerance. While maintaining the fundamental beliefs, core teachings, and liturgical systems, the doctrines and rules of the church that are conducive to social harmony, advancement and healthy civilization will also be deeply explored so that elaboration on the church's doctrine and rules will meet requirements for the development and progress of contemporary China. Based on the Bible, the Sinicization of Christianity adheres to fundamental beliefs, inherits the tradition of the universal church and religious reform, takes root on the soil of Chinese culture in faith and social practice, practices the core values of socialism, spreads the gospel, witnesses Christ and manages the church well.

The goal of Sinicization of Christianity is to build a church that exalts Christ and maintains unity; a church that is faithful to the biblical truths, rooted in Chinese culture, and has a contextual theological acceptance; a church that has the courage to take social responsibility and witness life through its living; a church that has communion with holy disciples in all churches around the world and makes unique contributions to the universal church, realizing the transformation from "Christianity in China" to "Chinese Christianity." The Sinicization of Christianity is an important goal for running the church according to the principle of three-selfs, which is the only way to adapt to the socialist society.

The Sinicization of Christianity is not only an objective requirement for the development of the church in China itself but also an ardent expectation of the Communist Party and the government. In recent years, the party and the government have repeatedly stressed the importance of doing religious work properly to fully implement the party's basic policy on religious work, to persist in the direction of Sinicization and to actively guide religions to adapt to socialist society. In this historical period when socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, promoting the Sinicization of Christianity, consistently strengthening its political awareness in recognition of contemporary China, consciously integrating into its culture and adapting to society, establishing a blood line linked with the Chinese nation, sharing honor and dishonor with the motherland, having empathy with feelings of the people, making its due contribution to the goal of "200 years" of struggle and the Chinese dream of a great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation have all become a consensus of Chinese Christians.

The Chinese Church and Christians are central in striving for the Sinicization of Christianity. To drive forwards the process on the Sinicization of Christianity, the following principles must be observed: Embrace and support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. Be guided by the core values of socialism and endorse the system, ways, theories and culture of our country's development. Based on Biblical teachings, stick to the fundamental beliefs and core teachings. Insist on independence, autonomy and self-administration of the church and persist with the direction of ecumenism. Take into account the universality and locality of the church. Learn from the practice of faith, spiritual experience and theological heritage of the universal church. Integrate outstanding Chinese traditional culture with advanced socialist culture. Be bold in taking social responsibility and actively integrate into society.

2. The current situation on the Sinicization of Christianity

The historical lesson that the propagation of Christianity in China has suffered from repeated setbacks reveals the failure to overcome its foreign nature. The Three-Self Patriotic Movement launched in the 1950s achieved for the Chinese Church organizational sovereignty. In the 1990s there was an initiative for development of theological ideas of Chinese churches. The Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the development of theological ideas are all aimed at developing "Chinese characteristics" of the Chinese Church and striving for the Sinicization of the Chinese Church. They relate not only to the practice and achievement of Sinicization of Christianity in different historical periods but also lay a solid foundation for Chinese Christians to adapt to the progress of contemporary Chinese society and to further push forward Sinicization.

In 2013, the Ninth Chinese Christian Congress proposed to earnestly study "how to promote and realize the Sinicization of Christianity." In 2014, a seminar was held to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the national committee of the Three-self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China. The seminar officially proposed to stand at a new historical starting point and to push forward the process of the Sinicizaiton of Christianity to a deeper level. In 2015, a seminar, which was held to commemorate the 100th birthday of Bishop Ding Guangxun and to discuss the Sinicization of Christianity, formed a consensus in the context of the Sinicization of Christianity. In 2017, coinciding with the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, a seminar was held again and proposed that the Sinicization of Christianity should be promoted in the spirit of the Reformation. In recent years, the two Protestant organizations and theological colleges across the country organized symposiums, seminars and forums and invited politicians, academic experts and scholars to exchange ideas with Hong Kong, Macao, and overseas church members, forming a fervent atmosphere and adding to momentum for studying and promoting the Sinicization of Christianity. The two Protestant national organizations edited and published "Bishop Ding Guangxun's Views on Sinicization of Christianity" and "The Collection of Papers of the Symposium on the Sinicizaton of Christianity" (two volumes). Also published was a series of contributions by a group of preachers on the development of theological thought called "Preaching Collection" and "To the Holiness of Jehovah — Snapshots on the Architectural Structure of Chinese Churches." As well, other books and pictorial albums were produced. Some provinces held original sacred music concerts and cultural performances with the Sinicization of Christianity consistently creating new forms.

However, there are still some problems and areas of misunderstanding on the road to striving for the Sinicization of Christianity. For example, the lack of a pool of talent, with both accomplishments on traditional culture and theology, has led to a failure to effectively carry out basic work such as translations of Christian works and the Sinicized interpretation of beliefs and teachings. There exists a phenomenon that the two Protestant national organizations highly regard the matter and some provinces actively follow through, but some grass-roots Protestant organizations and churches do not actively respond to it and their enthusiasm is not high. Some pastoral workers do not have a clear understanding of the internal links of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the development of theological thinking and the Sinicization of Christianity. Some even have mistakenly regarded it as a "campaign" required by the government and have been perfunctory in pushing the work forward. In some areas, they simply revert to the old ways, mechanically or with far-fetched misinterpretations, in pushing forwards the process in a way that is vulgarized and secularized. At the same time, overseas forces which are against China and the three-self movement have come up with the "three visions" to deceive people and cause misunderstandings about the Sinicization of Christianity.

Therefore, striving for the Sinicization of Christianity must be combined with the realistic situation of contemporary Chinese society. It cannot be separated from the reality and caught up in empty rhetoric. It requires both in-depth theoretical research and practical exploration. This is a gradual process of history with a long way to go that will take a long time to accomplish.

Chapter 2: Major tasks

The major task for the Sinicization of Christianity in the next five years is to gradually move toward the stage of implementation from the stages of promotion and mobilization. National and local Protestant organizations should strengthen their sense of responsibility and mission, enhance patriotic education, nurture and practice the core values of socialism, continue to deepen the development of theological ideas, consolidate the theological basis of Sinicization and accelerate and improve the quality of talented teams to take root in Chinese culture and express Christian faith through Chinese culture. Strive to serve society and perform other solid work by engaging in justice and charitable activities to steadily make progress in stages.

1. Fostering and practicing the core values of socialism and leading the Sinicization of Christianity:

Promote prosperity, democracy, civilization, harmony, freedom, equality, and justice, the rule of law, patriotism, industriousness, honesty and friendliness as core values of socialism. These are the ways to embody the fundamental value system of socialism and reflect its rich connotations as well as fulfilling practical requirements of the system. The promotion of Sinicization of Christianity must be guided by the core values of socialism so as to strengthen the "four consciousnesses," persist in the "four confidences" and implement them in specific ministries such as theological thought together with observing rules and regulations. It should also be reflected in the practice of faith in the daily life of believers to further stimulate patriotism of pastoral workers and believers with insistence that the church be run in accordance with the law.

Contents of the Bible that are compatible with the core values of socialism should be deeply researched in order to write books that are popular and easy-to-understand. Such books can be provided to grass-roots church members, pastoral workers and believers in general to widely spread information among Protestant churches and expand their influence.

Include the core values of socialism as important content for preachers in the development of theological thought. Groups of preachers should be trained in order to guide grass-roots believers.

Promote the core values of socialism on campuses and in classrooms with teaching materials that instill them into students' minds. Teaching demonstrations and exchange activities should be organized on the core values of socialism. In theological colleges, develop classroom teaching and campus culture to propagate these values.

Take the practice of the core values of socialism as an important criterion for evaluating the development of a civilized and harmonious church, vigorously propagate progressive examples, select and commend moral models and use the exemplary roles of outstanding Christians from all walks of life to form a conducive atmosphere for practicing the core values of socialism in Christian communities.

Another aim is to seriously organize the promotion, study and implementation of the newly revised Regulations on Religious Affairs and teach the majority of believers to correctly understand the relationship between state law and church rules. This is so Christians will consciously abide by the regulations and constantly strengthen awareness of the law, safeguard the dignity of the law and run the church in accordance with the laws and regulations as an effective way for Christianity to be integrated into society.

2. Continuously deepen and develop theological thought and strengthen the theological basis of Sinicization of Christianity

The core and soul of Sinicization of Christianity are the Sinicization of theological thought. Only by the realization of Sinicization of theological thought will there be Sinicization in the true sense. Otherwise, the Sinicization of Christianity will be empty slogans like trees without roots, water without a source. Through deepening the development of theological thought, the Chinese Church should be guided to find a development model that adapts to Chinese society and gradually establishes a theological system for the Protestant churches in China that can adapt to the socialist society. Deepening theoretical research on the development of theological thought will promote this transformation.  

Bible study needs to be strengthened to establish a correct view of the Bible and the biblical hermeneutics in conformity with the situation in China as a foundation for deepening the development of theological thought. Be conscious of fostering research talent on the Bible and lay a solid foundation for reinterpreting the Bible and writing annotations for it.

Focus on the theoretical discussion of ecclesiology and the establishment of positive and healthy religious relationships to gradually create theoretical self-confidence of the Chinese Church.

Promptly adjust the theological thought of preaching team members and drive preaching work to the grass-roots level to push the Church forward on promotion and education in relation to the Sinicization of Christianity.

Launch academic journals for Protestant churches in China to encourage academic research to provide a platform for embodying the achievements of theoretical research.

Historical records should be retrieved, collated and studied along with relevant articles and discourses by Chinese Church predecessors and theologians on indigenization, contextualization, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the development of theological thought. Such material should be published as a series of books.

Revise the "Questions and Answers on Doctrine," prepare materials for spiritual daily prayers and guard against extreme ideas, heresy, cults and infiltration.

3. Continuously standardize theological education and accelerate the pace of personnel development

The formation of personnel is the top priority for healthy and harmonious development of Protestant churches in China. It is also the key to advancing the Sinicization of Christianity. Promoting the Sinicization of Christianity requires the efforts of generations. It is necessary to clarify the goal of personnel training in accordance with the need for persistence in Sinicization of Christianity. The design of a training model with an optimized structure to play an important role in theological education should be coordinated and integrated with existing resources. Such a platform should allow all kinds of personnel to develop their talents and be politically reliable and religiously accomplished as well as morally convincing in order to inject new vitality into the Sinicization of Christianity.

Church personnel should cooperate with related departments to formulate and implement the "Mid-term and Long-term Plan for Training Protestant Personnel in China" to create a high-level system for personnel training and the building of teams of personnel.

Educational reform of colleges and schools in relation to theology should pay close attention to the "Outline for the Medium and Long-term Development Plan of Theological Education of Protestant Churches in China" and result in standardization.

Maintain the right direction for running schools by strengthening the regulation of management and strive to improve the teaching quality of schools and colleges on theology. Sinicization of Christianity needs to be integrated into teaching and research and play an important role in Sinicization of Christianity.

Curriculums require a higher proportion of teaching on the core values of socialism, patriotism, Chinese history, literature, philosophy and arts along with other traditional culture. Pushing these subjects on campuses and in classrooms allows for the correct guiding of students.

Highly regard the importance of on-the-job training for pastoral staff and volunteers and gradually establish a three-dimensional training system that coordinates and interacts with Protestant churches across the country to complement each other's advantages. Increase the content of Sinicization of Christianity at all levels of training.

Organize Chinese Christians to compile their own textbooks for colleges and schools on theology as well as training materials for volunteers. Strive to publish textbooks that reflect the Sinicization of Christianity.

4. Take root in Chinese culture and express beliefs in a cultural form with Chinese characteristics

Christianity is both a religion and an important part of world civilization. God is unique, but the expression of God's faith should be rich and diversified. Chinese culture is long-standing and splendid, wide-ranging and profound, witnessing the spiritual pursuit and great wisdom of the Chinese nation. Maintaining the direction of Sinicization requires Protestant churches to take off the "tether" of the West and adopt China's "elucidation" by conforming interpretations of church doctrines and rules to distinguished Chinese culture and to form a Sinicized way to express Christian faith.

Learn from, draw on and absorb distinguished Chinese traditional culture and advanced culture of socialism so it consciously takes root in the fertile soil of Chinese culture and top up its beneficial nutrients for self-enrichment.

Promote the churches' worship rituals, sacred music and hymns, pastoral clothing, church buildings, etc. to integrate them with Chinese elements including spiritual qualities of the Chinese nation reflecting Chinese characteristics.

Encourage original interpretations of the Bible, spirituality, literature and art into church life in China as well as the testimonies of believers in the context of social conditions. Provide help and support in publishing and distributing such material.

Organize the composition of hymns and paeans which have traditional Chinese music melodies or local tunes. Compile and publish Sinicized paeans and hymns. Hold special performances along with art and touring cultural performances. Promote the Siniciziation of sacred music.

Use Chinese unique national paintings, calligraphy, seal carving and paper cutting as well as cultural expressions that people love to see as manifestations of Christian faith. Organize art exhibitions and stimulate Sinicized creativity.

Promote the diversification of church buildings and encourage the church to integrate Chinese architectural styles or local architectural features.

5. Engaging in public charity, working hard to serve the community

Serving the community and striving for the well-being of the people is an important way for the Protestant churches to demonstrate their faith, take on social responsibilities and integrate into society. The Sinicization of Christianity requires the churches in China to combine the benevolent thoughts of caring for the elderly as we do to our parents and caring for young ones as we care for our children in traditional culture. Practice the Biblical teaching of "loving others as yourself." Exalt the distinguished tradition of being the world's light, honoring God and benefiting people, nurturing a charitable Christian culture and actively providing social services.

Play positive Protestant Church roles in humane care, ethics and morality, spiritual consolation, witnessing the honor of God and benefiting people by properly handling relationships between all parties and striving to promote social harmony.

Call on Christians to love and respect their careers, observe social ethics, professional ethics, family virtues, and personal morality. Establish a positive outlook on life and correct values, act as salt and be a good citizen who obeys the law and respects the well-being of the people.

In line with the principle of "acting according to local conditions, sending charcoal in the snow, supplementing shortages, and working in accordance with one's ability," continue to carry out social charity projects in the provision of care for the elderly, support for impoverished students, poverty alleviation and disaster relief and constructing public facilities as well as enhancing environmental protection and health care.

Explore effective mechanisms for Christian service to society, promote the registration of Christian social service organizations, train professionals and improve the standard of operational management and professional skills in Christian social services.

Continue to respond to and launch Religious Charity Week and organize and implement activities of Theme Day for Public Charity to inspire love and devotion of believers and continue to expand the scope of public charity activities.

React to the appeal of the two national Protestant organizations by implementing the "Proposal on Responding to the National Strategy for Poverty Alleviation and Deeply Launching Poverty Alleviation" to  contribute to ensuring all impoverished areas and poor people will get rid of poverty by 2020.

Establish the Chinese Protestant churches' brand name on senior nursing care facilities and improve the overall level of Christian social service in China.

Chapter 3: The major work arrangement for 2018-2022

Promote the Sinicization of Christianity by the Protestant churches in China as the Sinicization of Christianity is always the best way forward. While carrying out extensive promotion and mobilization, it is necessary to implement the goals and tasks set out in the Planning Outline and reflect them in concrete work practices to obtain substantial results. In the next five years, the two Protestant national organizations will also formulate plans in conjunction with major annual events or time nodes, fully pushing forward and focusing on implementation.

A. In 2018

1. Study in depth the spirit of the 19th National Congress of the Party, establish the Sinicization of Christianity as guiding thought and key elements of the 10th Chinese Christian Representative Congress, co-ordinate all efforts, build collective wisdom and form a joint force to promote the Sinicization of Christianity.

2. Organize symposiums to mark the 40th anniversary of reform and ‘opening up' policies to enhance the system, methods, theory and cultural identity of Christianity in contemporary China.

3. Continue to study and fully implement the newly revised Regulations on Religious Affairs, based on the spirit and stipulations of the regulations to revise The Constitution of National Committee of Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, The Constitution of the Chinese Christian Council and The Regulations of the Protestant Churches in China in order to increase the content of significant theoretical perspectives and development of practices on the Sinicization of Christianity. Reflect the latest achievements in the Sinicization of Christianity.

 4. By taking the opportunity of 20 years of developing theological thought, organize symposiums or seminars to explain the internal connections between development of theological thought and the Sinicization of Christianity. Hold commemorative activities such as Sinicized art and cultural shows. Review and conclude the five-year planning work of preaching groups for developing theological thought. Adjust the group's functions, responsibilities and work approach to promotion of the Sinicization of Christianity.

B. In 2019

1. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, organize art exhibitions such as calligraphy, painting, paper cutting, sculpture, photography, etc., to demonstrate achievements of Sinicization of Christianity. Conduct patriotic education, stay in line with people's hopes and be devoted to construction of a great socialist motherland.

2. Make full use of resources such as the Exhibition Room on History and Heritage of Chinese Protestants' Patriotism and other patriotic educational bases to strengthen patriotic education for pastors and students who are studying theology. Compile and publish relevant historical materials on patriotism to make patriotism deservedly righteousness for Christians.

3. Combine celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of the Chinese and the Union version of the Bible by organizing related commemorative activities and seminars for promoting Sinicized biblical interpretation. Recruit Chinese Christians to annotate the Bible so as to provide basic theological support for advancing the Sinicization of Christianity.

C. In 2020

1. Commemorate the 70th anniversary of the launch of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement through essay composition contests and seminars held to organically to combine the deepening of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement with the strengthening of the development of theological thought and the advancement of Sinicization of Christianity. Persist in the independence, autonomy and self-administration of the church and defend against foreign infiltration in the new era.

 2. Organize an exhibition of achievements to mark the 70th anniversary of the Three-Self Movement. Hold special performances of Chinese original sacred music, hymns and paeans; start work on compiling and publishing Sinicized hymn books to further blend Christian and excellent Chinese traditional culture and advanced socialist culture.

D. In 2021

1. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, launch educational activities on the theme of realizing the core values of socialism. Deeply explore and honor the deeds of Christians who have been united with the party in the same spirit, virtue and pace during different periods of time for educating and guiding believers.

2. Through "Tianfeng" solicit articles on the theme, display, exhibit and propagate through preaching groups and other activities so the majority of believers inherit the excellent traditions of their predecessors' love of the country and the church and promote the conscious recognition of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party of China and the road of socialism.

3. Combine the building of a well-off society to achieve the first "100 years" of the general goals "200 years" for the Chinese nation's great rejuvenation. Organize activities to recognize the advanced contribution of the Protestant churches to economic and social development. Inspire awareness of the churches and believers to serve people. Foster the culture of Christian public charity with Chinese characteristics so as to better integrate into society.

E. In 2022

1. Organize conferences to exchange experiences on promoting the Sinicization of Christianity. The exchange of good practices and experiences across the country will help enhance the coordination of the Sinicization of Christianity.

2. Review and summarize the five-year implementation of the Planning Outline and outline a work plan for promoting Sinicization of Christianity from 2023 to 2027.

3. Focus on training, recruitment, and use of personnel to form a talented echelon so that there will be professional leaders in all aspects of promoting Sinicization of Christianity.

Chapter 4: Organizing implementation

This Planning Outline was submitted to a (joint) meeting of the standing committee of the two national committees of the Protestant churches for discussion and approval by the chairpersons of the two national committees and president of the Administration Conference. Under the guidance of the State Religious Affairs Bureau, the two national committees are mainly responsible for organizing the implementation of the Planning Outline, while the two Protestant organizations, colleges of theology and churches in various provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities will actively cooperate to complete the working plan in the next five years. The specific measures for implementation are as follows:

1. To promote the Sinicization of Christianity, the two Protestant national committees set-up a leading team to consist of members of the Administration Conference. For strengthening the leadership and coordination on the relevant work of promotion, the chairperson and the president will become the team leaders while members of local groups will be deputy team leaders.

2. In the first quarter of the year, the leading team for promoting the Sinicization of Christianity will submit concrete plans for implementing the promotion plan and organizing activities in this year. Progress on implementation of the plan will be reported to the (joint) meeting of the standing committee at the end of the year.

3. The two Protestant committees at national and local levels across the country will focus on the long-term goal of the Sinicization of Christianity, further consolidate and improve all the rules and regulations and provide a strong institutional protection for the work of promotion so it can be achieved in institutionalized and standardized ways.

4. The ad-hoc committees under the two national committees will effectively utilize advantages through numerous and strong representations of personnel and close connections to the grass roots to provide policy advice, decision-making consultation for the work of promotion and the undertaking of part of the actual work if necessary.

5. The various departments of the two national committees will formulate working schemes around this plan, share and undertake the tasks and put all the work into practice so that it can be verifiable. Strengthen coordination and cooperation among all departments to ensure that major events are completed on time while maintaining their quality.

6. The two national committees will encourage, guide and promote the participation of the two committees, colleges of theology and churches across the country to plan carefully and organize elaborately in accordance with the content and deployment of the Planning Outline and the actual situation in various regions for pushing the work forward systematically.

7. The two national committees will organize timely exchange of working experience on promotion work, promptly sum up and actively propagate good practices and effective experience in various regions. Enhancing the promotion in various regions will be advanced together.

8. Intensify efforts on publicity and actively create a public opinion environment conducive to the Sinicization of Christianity for winning the understanding and support of all sectors of society at home and abroad. The websites of the two Protestant committees, Tianfeng, Huixun and WeChat public account will report on relevant activities in a timely manner and publish books, hymns, calendars and audio and video products about the Sinicization of Christianity.

9. According to the plan, academic journals will be published to strengthen exchanges and communication with the academic community to have the aid of their academic research and intellectual support for achieving breakthroughs on theoretical study. Promote friendly exchanges with other fraternal religions and learn from their beneficial experiences.

10. Do a good job on monitoring and verifying the work, establish a mechanism for monitoring and evaluation, conduct annual scrutiny and assessment on the progress and effectiveness of the work and make necessary adjustments to goals and tasks.

Socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era and the new journey has already begun. We are closer to the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation than any other time in history. The Protestant churches in China will always breathe and share the fate of the motherland and people and will persist in running the church in accordance with the three-self principle and continue to drive forwards the Sinicization of Christianity so as to build a prosperous, strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious, beautiful and modernized nation. The Protestant churches in China will make a positive contribution to the composition of a magnificent chapter in the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

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