After a false start and a three-year period of national reassessment of resources and industrial performance, China commences a new ten-year plan in 1981. Leaders and people alike genuinely look forward to China’s rapid modernization—hitherto delayed by the follies of the past regime and the resulting shortage of scientists, technologists, and foreign exchange.
Everyone, including Christians, is required to serve under the banner of the United Front. Christians, therefore, are enjoying a tolerance and even respect quite unthinkable a few years ago. Religion has become a respectable topic in academic circles.
Moreover, the mushrooming of household churches all over China, and the very large numbers of conversions among young people, make it clear that the church today is much larger than in 1951 when the missionaries withdrew. But the critical question is how Christians from the West should react to this changing situation.
“Facing the Future or Restoring the Past” is the title of an article by a leading Chinese Christian. For nearly 30 years the church has boasted of its independence of foreign financial support and foreign control. The “three autonomies” principle has been enforced and accepted. After a century of foreign imperialist exploitation the Chinese nation and the Chinese church are equally proud of having attained their own selfhood. Chinese Christians now fear any attempt, however well meaning, to turn the clock back to the prerevolutionary age of “missionary imperialism.” They demand to be treated as equals. They have forcefully expressed their fears and suspicions; they will carefully monitor the plans and activities of all Western agencies. They claim that they have outlived the era of Western denominationalism ...1
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