Religion in China

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 25, 2004 | Go to article overview

Religion in China


Byline: Arnold Beichman, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Some years ago at a Washington meeting on the future of Asia, one of the panelists was the military attache at the Chinese Embassy. The then-head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Deng Xiao-ping, was busy introducing the first of many internal reforms, explaining Marxism didn't have all the answers.

At the end of the panel presentations, I asked the Chinese diplomat whether, in the light of Mr. Deng's surprising announcement, the People's Republic of China (PRC) was still a Marxist-Leninist state.

He stared at me and then began talking rapidly in Chinese. We were all amazed, because until that moment he had been speaking in better than passable English. In any case, the translation didn't answer my question.

Later I realized that while Mr. Deng's China was revising Marxism, the other half of communist ideology, Leninism - the totalitarian party - was unamendable and that for the Chinese leadership Leninism, unlike Marxism, has all the answers.

In other words, neither Mr. Deng nor any of his successors were going to do a Gorbachev - that is, rob a Leninist dictatorship of its revolutionary legitimacy.

The best proof of my thesis, that the PRC is welded to Leninism (while Marxism is in the eye of the revisionist beholder), is how badly to this very day religious Chinese are treated by the party, the police and the government. And I say to this very day because of the Jan. 6 appearance in the official party organ, People's Daily, of the latest article denouncing religion and congregants in language that goes back to the early post-revolution days in Russia.

The Soviet CP established a national newspaper called the Bezbozhnik, "The Godless," and in 1925 it established the "League of the Godless" in a campaign against the Russian Orthodox Church.

In China, the People's Daily message touting "scientific atheism" against what it calls "theism" is this: You can diddle with the economy as much as you can get away with, but you risk life and limb when you organize any institution, especially a religious institution, that might threaten CCP totalitarian power. As I read the People's Daily article, I thought to myself: How can anyone conceive of a reunion of Taiwan, a democratic land of free religious practice and free trade unions, with a communist dictatorship - one that regards all religions as contemptible?

The People's Daily commentary by Gong Xuezeng, a prolific anti-religion propagandist, is titled "Education in materialism, atheism must be further enhanced. …

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