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Trade: Freer Trade, Freer Faith?

The unexpected support of house-church leaders helps turn the tide in the China trade debate, but Christians remain divided.
2000This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

The passage of Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) for China is nearly complete, due in part to five last-minute faxes from house-church leaders in China. But many Christian activists wonder if improved trade relations in reality will help or hinder freedom of religion in China.The House of Representatives passed PNTR May 24 on a 237–197 vote. Until a few days before the vote, however, many legislators were undecided. Business, labor, political, and religious lobbyists put on the most extensive legislative battle in years.Traditional political alliances were turned topsy-turvy. But the odd couple of top Republicans siding with the president they tried to impeach proved decisive, staving off an ad-hoc assortment of trade unionists, small businesses, human-rights activists, and conservative religious groups.On both sides, the alliances were marriages of convenience that participants think will have little long-term durability. There were also some surprising realignments that may have more long-term consequences for Christian politics and China ministry."The labor groups and people concerned about jobs were on a parallel fight [with religious conservatives]," says Focus on the Family vice president Tom Minnery, who dismisses the possibility of closer collaboration. "I doubt that they will help us in the future. But we didn't lose any allies."Anti-PNTR evangelicals were startled, however, when prolife stalwart Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) announced his support of PNTR. One evangelical leader was on his way to Hyde's office when he was stunned to hear of the congressman's defection. "I knew that the tide had turned," he says.

House-Church Support

Pro-PNTR evangelicals pulled the proverbial rabbit out of a hat with a packet of faxed ...

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