These articles are intended to present a very particular reality, which plays a determining role in the life of the Catholics in China, either by conscripting them under the banner of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or by casting them back into the catacombs. The article has been published on the website of the Foreign Missions of Paris. This presentation will allow the uninformed reader to understand what are the stakes of the agreement between China and the Vatican, which should be renewed for the second time in October.
40 years after the founding of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics, it is possible to decipher the purpose and the objectives that the leaders of the CCP had set themselves and that they hoped to achieve through its creation.
The Chinese Communist Party (continued)
2. Communism: a new type of faith
In the first half of the 20th century, China was shaken by terrible political and social upheavals. The Qing dynasty entered the new century prostrate, mainly because of the inability of its institutions to adapt to modernity; its history would end in a dramatic way in 1911, with the definitive fall of the Empire.
The republican regime did not have much better luck in improving the lot of institutions and citizens. The political front quickly broke up into a mosaic of “warlords,” effective masters of parcels of territory. The internal political explosion was at the same time confronted with the reinforcement of the very close Japanese neighbor who very quickly invaded Chinese territory.
The temporary truce to face the common enemy broke down long before the collapse of Japan: the ruling faction, the Kuomintang, unable to deal in a coordinated and intelligent way with the serious problems of the country, broke down beyond repair. This allowed the opposition to organize based on the discontent that permeated people's lives.
These, ill-informed about the events, unaware of the games of power but “losers” every time in all the games played by those who claimed to dominate the political field, were above all eager to survive and to obtain decent living conditions. In the late 1940s, very few Chinese could recall having experienced a period of relative peace and tranquility.
“Victory” over the common enemy proved incapable of satisfying the aspirations of the people. The great content with seeing the foreigner (Japan and Western nations) outside the national borders was replaced by a preoccupation: the search for something which could “transcend divergent interests, demand undivided national devotion, and which could offer action capable of catalyzing attention.” This was the need of individuals and the nation.
But this center of attraction “could not develop within traditional theistic religions which were no longer able to guide individuals and the nation.” These no longer served the people to avoid the calamities which befell them and which they could not understand, nor did they serve to provide the intellectual class with motivation and a course of action.
What the father of the motherland, Sun Yat-sen, had proclaimed, turned out to be true: “China urgently needs an ideology. An ideology would inspire faith and faith would engender strength; a collective force, so essential in a time of national crisis.” For him, the ideology of his “Three Principles” defined in Canton in 1924 (nationalism, democracy, and well-being for the people), was sufficient.
After the end of World War II, the Communist Party presented itself to the nation as Sun Yat-sen's most authentic heir. Its credentials were constituted by the victory over the nationalist armies of the old government and by the firm will to tackle the two main aspirations of the Chinese nation: material progress and the restoration of national pride by the reconquest of respect on the international scene.
From the previous century, the political weakness of the country and the state of material backwardness of the people had been constantly singled out as being the main reasons for China's inferiority in the modern world. The Party that emerged victorious from the revolution set itself the objective of restoring strength and well-being to China and the Chinese.
3. Party policy towards theistic religions
“Communism's position with respect to theistic religions is that of one belief meeting another belief.” C. K. Yang continues: “Since faith is always radical, the relationship between different faiths implies a reciprocal exclusion. Between mutually exclusive bodies, there can be no reciprocal tolerance, only conflict.”
From pre-revolutionary times to the most recent official pronouncements, the Beijing regime has always asserted that theistic religions are a product of ignorance and the inability to understand the world in which we live. With the progress of the revolution, the expansion of science, and the political liberation of the masses, religions are inevitably destined to become historical trash.
This same concept appears unchanged in the first writings of one of the founders of the Chinese Communist Party, Chen Duxiu (1879-1942), until the documents published after the turn taken by Deng Xiaoping. Pragmatic considerations discourage the elimination of religion by force.
But they did not completely prevent it, especially but not exclusively during “the years of the great catastrophe,” as a document (1981) of the Central Committee of the Party calls the “Great proletarian cultural revolution” (1966-1976). But any religion in China that tries to resist or poses an obstacle to the Party would be violently suppressed.
In 1960, C. K. Yang wrote that “the only organized religion by which the Chinese communist regime feels threatened is Christianity, and more particularly the Catholic Church, because of its links with Western powers.” At the end of the century, this affirmation appears retrospectively in all the tragedy of its truth.
In any case, the policy of tolerance combined with the policy of subordination certainly does not mean the renunciation of the long-term plan for the non-violent elimination of theistic religions. Document No. 19/82 affirms this openly, in full. The privileged instrument is the monopoly on the education of young people, the preserve of the regime.