Chinese officials say that there are between 23 and 40 million Christians in the country. However, other estimates indicate that there are between 60 and 120 million believers.
The meteoric spread of the gospel continues despite a recent crackdown on official church buildings in the country. In 2014, more than 230 structures have been classed as illegal, with some even being demolished by the authorities. Many more Christians meet in unregistered ‘house churches’, which are increasingly emerging into the public sphere.
An article in The Economist stated that: ‘Christianity is hard to control in China, and getting harder all the time. It is spreading rapidly, and infiltrating the party’s own ranks. The line is blurring between house churches and official ones, and Christians are starting to emerge from hiding to play a more active part in society’. However, according to The Economist, government officials view religion – especially Christianity – with ‘deep unease’, concerned it will divert loyalty away from the state.
The newspaper demonstrated how believers are having a greater role in Chinese society. It stated: ‘There are growing numbers of Christian doctors and academics. More than 2,000 Christian schools are also dotted around China, many of them small and all, as yet, illegal.’ It also reported that many officials turn a blind eye to Christians because they find that they are ‘good citizens’
In mid-December the Telegraph reported that China’s ambassador to the UK has invited the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to tour the country. Archbishop Welby is considering visiting the People’s Republic, as it is set to become the world’s ‘most Christian’ country by 2030.