The Crackdown on Christmas in China

The Grinch regime is slowly outlawing 'foreign festivals'
December 25, 2021 Updated: December 25, 2021

Commentary

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is a totalizing party because it requires absolute obedience from its citizens. Any groups, organizations, or philosophies to which Chinese citizens belong, must be consistent with CCP rule. This includes all religions, including Christianity and its celebration of Christmas.

CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping called for the “sinicization of religion” this month at a conference on religious affairs. In effect, this means the subordination of religious leaders, including Christians, to CCP officials.

Xi told the national conference “to develop a religious theory of socialism with Chinese characteristics, work in line with the Party’s basic policy on religious affairs, and uphold the principle that religions in China must be Chinese in orientation.”

That doesn’t leave much room for old Father Christmas.

According to the Independent, “Some Chinese officials have tried to deflect attention from Christmas in the country by instead encouraging people to celebrate the birthday of Mao Zedong, the former leader and architect of modern China who was born on 26 December 1893 and died aged 82.”

In 2019, officials in Linyi, Shandong province, placed a birthday cake for Mao at the foot of his statue in a temple on Christmas Day.

It’s hard to imagine what effect “Santa Mao” in Linyi could have on the millions of people who want to celebrate the real Christmas. But the signal is there, loud and clear, for the communist faithful: celebrate Mao not Santa.

While Christians have gotten off easily compared to Uyghurs, Falun Gong, and Tibetans, who are all undergoing a genocide by the U.N. definition, those who look to Christ for inspiration are increasingly persecuted in China. Christian churches are torn down, Christian leaders forced to take orders from Beijing, and since about 2018, even the celebration of Christmas is discouraged by local authorities.

A Dec. 24 article titled “China cancels Christmas: why Santa Claus is not coming to town for Chinese kids,” by Jane Cai in the South China Morning Post, provides the latest evidence of an ongoing persecution of Christianity in China. And, there are plenty of Christians to persecute.

A man stands near the razed remains of a Catholic church in a village in Pingyang county of Wenzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang Province on July 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Didi Tang)
A man stands near the razed remains of a Catholic church in a village in Pingyang county of Wenzhou in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province on July 16, 2014. (Didi Tang/AP Photo)

As many as 84 million Protestants and 21 million Catholics live in China, according to one estimate. This would be 7.5 percent of the population. However, young people of all religions, including atheists, have increasingly celebrated Christmas since the 1990s. It’s a fun and youth-oriented holiday to “shop, date, skate, and have a feast,” according to Cai.

But the Grinch regime scorns Christmas. According to Ahmed Aboudouh writing in the Independent, the CCP calls it “Western spiritual opium” and the “Festival of Shame.”

The Post attributes increasing anti-Christmas sentiment in China to “rising nationalism triggered by the Sino-U.S. trade war” started by President Donald Trump in 2018.

The Independent adds military tensions and more recent human rights legislation, for example the Dec. 23 U.S. law that bans the import of goods from the Xinjiang region of China. The U.S. government has recognized that Uyghur Muslims, who are from Xinjiang, are suffering from genocide.

Since 2018, according to the Post, “local governments from Hebei in the north to Guizhou and Guangxi in the south have been issuing orders to ban extravagant festive decorations and large-scale gatherings to celebrate Christmas.”

The Post notes that shopping malls and stores must keep Christmas decorations and sales promotions in check. “Schools and universities across the nation have been instructed by education authorities not to celebrate ‘Western festivals.’”

A primary school in Shanghai, for example, has a rule against celebrating any non-Chinese holidays, including this Christmas season.

“It’s a rule emphasized by education authorities again and again in recent years,” one teacher told the Post. “We are told that any teacher found in violation [of the rules] will be punished.”

Parents also feel the pressure. One civil servant in Beijing told the Post that “he would not buy a Christmas tree for his two daughters this year to ‘avoid trouble.’”

He said, “Though I enjoy decorating the tree with my kids, I’ve decided we will no longer celebrate Christmas for the sake of political correctness.”

Chinese propaganda films also discourage the celebration of Christmas, according to the Post. One 2021 film called The Battle at Lake Changjin, the highest-grossing film in China at $874 million, depicts brave and stoical Chinese soldiers in Korea fighting lazy and sadistic Americans eager to return home for Christmas.

The moral of the story for the holidays: don’t celebrate if they are western, especially not Christmas.

Outraged and inspired by the film, thousands of social media users launched an online campaign against Christmas and any Chinese citizens who share photos of Christmas cheer.

“CCP notices have banned party members, government agencies, and even universities from taking part in any festivities while slogans urging citizens to boycott Christmas are common on social media platforms,” according to the Independent.

Aboudouh notes the example of Hengyang city in Hunan province, where the regime in 2018 banned any Christmas sales and activities that blocked streets. The year prior, the regime warned CCP officials against celebrating Christmas and recommended the promotion of traditional Chinese culture instead.

According to the letter, “Party members must observe the belief of communism and are forbidden to blindly worship the Western spiritual opium.”

Epoch Times Photo
During an anti-Christmas street protest, university students wearing traditional Chinese outfits holding banners reading “Resist Christmas, Chinese people should not celebrate foreign festivals” in Changsha, central China’s Hunan province on Dec. 24, 2014. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Many Chinese parents who would otherwise celebrate, are grudgingly giving up the holiday.

“I don’t see the direct link between Christmas and patriotism,” the civil servant told the Post. “I think most Chinese celebrate the holiday just for fun. Anyway, it is easy for people to be judged politically nowadays. To play [it] safe, I have to forgo Christmas and let down my kids.”

In a society where church and state are constitutionally separated, like the United States, it is true that there is no necessary link between Christmas and patriotism. Christians can be patriots, or not.

But this does not apply in China because the CCP aims to replace true religion with its own purely political ideology that can withstand no competitors other than those that have vanquished themselves through subordination to the CCP hierarchy.

As Mao said, political power grows from the barrel of a gun. When that gun is pointed towards Father Christmas, there is no room for religious diversity.

Chinese citizens are gradually being forced to choose: either the Party, or their Christian beliefs. They cannot have both. If they choose the Party, they must forgo Christmas to demonstrate a purist form of subordination to the state as demanded by Beijing. If they choose even the spiritually thinnest of Christmas celebrations, they are heading down the road of not only trouble, but much worse if Uyghurs, Falun Gong, and Tibetans are any indication.

Yet, despite all the threats felt by Christians in China, the Christmas spirit is still flickering. According to the Independent, “one can still see trees, lights, and decorations adorning public spaces and shopping malls in major cities including Shanghai.”

Let’s help China keep that Christmas spirit alive.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).