Professor Says that Chinese Christians Number About 39.7 million

The 2018 Conference on the Study of Christianity was held in Beijing on Nov. 20-21, 2018.
The 2018 Conference on the Study of Christianity was held in Beijing on Nov. 20-21, 2018.
By Yi YangOctober 31st, 2018

Based on the follow up of a long-term study, a Chinese professor has claimed that the number of Chinese Christians is estimated to be around 39.7 million.

At the 2018 Conference on the Study of Christianity held in Beijing this month, Professor Lu Yunfeng from Peking University addressed participants saying that, based on the survey data from China Family Panel Studies (CFPS), this number most accurately reflects the true size of Christianity in China.

In his speech entitled "The Rise of Christianity in Modern China and Its Controversies: Scale, Ecology, and Sinicization", the director of both China's top university department of sociology and Center for the Study of Internet and Society, shared that the greatest change in Chinese religion since reform and opening up was the rise of Protestantism.

According to the Publication The Basic Point of Views and the Basic Policy on Religious Problems during the Socialist Period in Our Country released in 1982, the number of Chinese Christians totaled only 700,000 in the early days of communist China. This number grew to 3 million during the early stage of reform and opening up.

However, in the subsequent twenty years, debate has arisen regarding the actual number of Christians in China.

For instance, a 2014 report published by the Longway Foundation stated that the number of Chinese Christians and people who had the same religious identity was around 100 to 150 million, whereas David Aikman argued that it should be at least 80 million.

In 2010, Asia Harvest, the most influential transnational Christian organization in Asia, concluded that there were 83.5 million Christians in China. The next year, the Pew Research Center said that Chinese Christians totaled approximately 58 million.

The largest Chinese seminar on the study of Christianity, held on Nov. 20-21, included four symposiums: Biblical studies, historical studies in Christianity, patristic philosophy, and cross-cultural and current studies in Christianity. During the fourth symposium, scholars and pastors concluded that Christianity in China has begun to experience stagnation and decline. According to Shi Hengtan, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Christianity in China showed negative growth in the last decade rather than rapid development or "blowout" growth prior to that. 

In addition, Prof. Andrew F. Walls, founder of the Center for the Study of World Christianity, also gave a speech at the opening ceremony entitled, "Early Christianity and Its Varieties of Cultural Expression".

More than 180 scholars attended the conference sponsored by the Department of Christian Studies of the Institute of World Religions, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

- Translated by Karen Luo

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