This year, the Chinese Communist Party is celebrating the centenary of its founding with all pomp and circumstance.
The celebration has been long in preparation. On October 18, 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of the Party, delivered an important speech to the 2,280 delegates at the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He took stock of the CCP’s achievements over the century. The speech outlined the accountability, guidelines, plans and goals for the great objective of building “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.”1
Mao Zedong was called the “Great Helmsman.” By comparison, Xi Jinping is dubbed the “Great Helmsman version 2.0.”2 In this role, he reaffirms his position of guiding and strengthening China and the CCP’s authority over the people and the state. In the official English translation of the speech, the verb strengthen and derivatives appear 117 times.
CCP’s platform is a mixture of political dictatorship, State economic planner and strong nationalist regime. The Chinese State and society is presented as a model, especially for underdeveloped countries.
The Model Proposed: Single Party Dictatorship
The October speech makes it clear that the political model is the dictatorship of a single party:
“China is a socialist country of people’s democratic dictatorship under the leadership of the working class based on an alliance of workers and farmers; it is a country where all power of the state belongs to the people” (p. 32).3
“We must uphold the Four Cardinal Principles: keeping to the path of socialism, upholding the people’s democratic dictatorship, upholding the leadership of the Communist Party of China, and upholding Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought” (p. 10).
The Party’s Dictatorship: Total and Omnipresent
This Party dictatorship is total and omnipresent. No area or sector of activity escapes the CCP’s surveillance and control:
“Every one of us in the Party must do more to uphold Party leadership and the Chinese socialist system, and resolutely oppose all statements and actions that undermine, distort, or negate them” (p. 14).
“It makes clear that the defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the leadership of the Communist Party of China; the greatest strength of the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the leadership of the Communist Party of China; the Party is the highest force for political leadership” (p. 18).
“The Party exercises overall leadership over all areas of endeavor in every part of the country. We must strengthen our consciousness of the need to maintain political integrity, think in big-picture terms, follow the leadership core, and keep in alignment. We must work harder to uphold the authority and centralized, unified leadership of the Central Committee, and closely follow the Central Committee in terms of our thinking, political orientation, and actions” (p. 18).
“We must strengthen the Party’s ability and resolve to chart our course, craft overall plans, design policy, and promote reform; and we must ensure the Party always provides overall leadership and coordinates the efforts of all involved” (p. 18).
“Upholding absolute Party leadership over the people’s armed forces. Building people’s forces that obey the Party’s command” (p. 20).
Religion “With Chinese Characteristics”
This speech’s reference to “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” obviously implies a “religion with Chinese Characteristics.” In the case of the Catholic Church, this means the schismatic National Patriotic Church, controlled by the CCP and put at the service of communism.
Thus, Xi Jinping states:
“We will fully implement the Party’s basic policy on religious affairs, uphold the principle that religions in China must be Chinese in orientation and provide active guidance to religions so that they can adapt themselves to socialist society” (p. 35).
The Sino-Vatican Agreement
In this context, Pope Francis approved a September 2018 secret agreement between the Vatican and China, which legitimized the Communist Party’s control over the Chinese Church.
We don’t know the terms of the agreement. But the fact is that in practice the only Church in China recognized by the Vatican is the one in which the power to appoint bishops is “shared” between the Holy See and the Beijing Government, i.e., the Chinese Communist Party.
Tragically, the Vatican completely ignores the so-called underground Church as if non-existent. A Church that, paradoxically, prefers to suffer persecution and martyrdom to conserve the Faith and remain faithful to Rome.
Adaptation of Religion to Socialist Society
This adapting religion to socialist society took the form of a CCP order calling upon the faithful to join the “Chinese people” in celebrating the Party’s centennial. At the same time, Catholics were forbidden to promote pilgrimages to China’s national Marian shrine.4
The “official Church” was quick to show its allegiance to the Party line:
“Every community, every diocese has done congresses, performances, theaters, and even pilgrimages to the places of the Communist Party history.”5
As early as June 20, 2021, the Persecution.org web site reported:
“On July 1, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will celebrate a century of existence. In anticipation of such a grand event, religious groups, including churches affiliated with the government, are using various venues to exalt the greatness of the CCP.
“Other than asking religious persons to learn the history of the party, go on a ‘pilgrimage’ to visit revolutionary sites, or hold exhibitions at religious venues, some religious groups voluntarily host events to feature centennial celebrations.”6
The Vatican Policy of Détente with Communist Governments – Should the TFPs Stand Down? Or Should They Resist?
One of the centennial commemorations hosted by the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association was a “Grateful and Praise for the CCP Blessing Mass.”7
Bitter Fruits of the Sino-Vatican Agreement
In this context of cooperation, a new bishop was consecrated on July 28 in China. He was the fifth one since the Holy See signed an agreement with Chinese authorities.
On the eve of this consecration, Father Joseph Liu, from the diocese of Mindong (Fujian), was detained by the police for his refusal to join the Patriotic Church. According to AsiaNews sources, he was subjected to terrible violence because of his resistance:
“After torturing him for 10 hours, six policemen took him by the hand and forced him to sign. The persecution of Catholic religious does not stop.”8
In the nearly three years since the agreement was signed, the situation of underground Catholics has been very different from those under the leadership of the government-approved Patriotic Association.
Life has been “‘very harsh’ for the underground Catholic community,” explained Father Bernardo Cervellera, a missionary priest and editor-in-chief of AsiaNews.
“We have seen some convents of sisters destroyed, churches closed. We have seen priests chased from their parishes and also some seminarians forbidden to study theology … and also bishops who are arrested or in whole house arrest, 24 hours a day,” he said.9
The Worst Persecution Since Mao’s Cultural Revolution
The persecution has not ceased after the agreement but only intensified:
“Over the last two years, however, the CCP has waged the worst persecution of religion since the Cultural Revolution. Under President Xi Jinping’s ‘Sinicization’ program, the CCP has tried to substitute religion with Marxism and ‘socialist’ values. China is demolishing churches, arresting thousands of clergy and faithful and placing severe restrictions and outright bans on freedom of worship.”10
These are the bitter (yet predictable) fruits of the Sino-Vatican agreement established by Pope Francis in September 2018.
Photo Credit: © luzitanija — stock.adobe.com
- Xi Jinping’s report at 19th CPC National Congress.
- See Matthias von Hein, “Opinião: Xi Jinping, o ‘grande timoneiro’ versão 2.0” (Opinion: Xi Jinping, the “great helmsman” version 2.0).
- The numbers in parentheses correspond to the pages of the document in PDF format: Xi_Jinping’s_report_at_19th_CPC_National_Congress.pdf.
- Courtney Mares, “Catholics in China told to celebrate communist party and forgo Marian pilgrimage,” Catholic News Agency, Aug. 13, 2021. Accessed Sept. 6, 2021, 4:54 PM.
- International Christian Concern, “Chinese State-Vetted Churches Praise CCP to Celebrate the Party’s Centennial,” Persecution.org, June 20, 2021. Accessed June 29, 2021.
- Courtney Mares, op. cit.
- James Bascom, “Pope Francis’s New Ostpolitik with Communist China Is Just Like the Old One,” TFP.org, October 21, 2020.