Breaking News:
The New York Times
MAY 22, 2015 7:23 AM

In a report it issued last week about the widespread abuse of detainees in China’s criminal justice system, Human Rights Watch interviewed dozens of people who claimed to have been mistreated and tortured while in police custody. Nearly all of them were given anonymity so they could speak to investigators without fear of retribution from the Chinese authorities.

But one witness in the report stood out: Stuart Foster, an American sociology professor who spent nearly eight months in a southern Chinese detention center after he was arrested on theft charges in 2013.

Stuart Foster spent nearly eight
months in the Baiyun Detention
Center. (Courtesy of Stuart Foster)
The testimony provided by Mr. Foster was notable, not only because he allowed his name to be used, but also because he is one of the few foreigners to have witnessed conditions inside China’s pretrial detention centers, a shadowy world characterized by filth, hunger, violence and forced labor. He and his fellow inmates at the Baiyun Detention Center in Guangzhou, he said, spent their waking hours assembling Christmas lights for export.

In an interview last week, Mr. Foster said he wanted the world to know about the mistreatment that ordinary Chinese endure after they are arrested by the police but before they are formally charged or tried in court. Mr. Foster, who later confessed to stealing money from an American colleague at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, said he shared a bare concrete cell with upward of 30 people. There were no beds, let alone bedding, and each cell was run by sadistic inmates, anointed by the guards, who terrorized detainees with frequent beatings.

“It was a living nightmare,” said Mr. Foster, 50, speaking from his home in South Carolina, where he is writing a book about his experience. After his conviction for theft, he was sentenced to time served and deported. “I’m amazed such a world exists, but I’m equally amazed they allowed me to witness it.”

In China, most foreigners accused of crimes are kept in segregated facilities where the conditions, while unpleasant, are far better than those that hold Chinese citizens. Mr. Foster says he is unsure why he was placed in the B Cell Block at Baiyun, home to about 5,000 inmates who had been arrested on a variety of charges, including shoplifting, illicit drug use and fraud.

Some of his fellow inmates, he said, insisted they had no idea why they had been arrested. “From Day 1, you were forced to work, no matter what your crime was or whether or not you were innocent,” Mr. Foster said. None of the inmates, he added, were paid for their toil.

At Baiyun Detention Center, the guards handed over day-to-day control to the hardened men Mr. Foster described as “the regime,” inmates who were in charge of setting quotas for Christmas light assembly — and for enforcing their own whims through random and gratuitous brutality. Those who were slow putting together the twinkling icicles ubiquitous in American suburbia, he said, would be kicked, karate chopped and occasionally whipped with the braided strands of wires.

Other times, the violence was prompted for flubbing the recitation of prison rules, for complaining about abuse to guards or for no discernible reason. “A few times I was kicked, only because I was kneeling down and facing the wall with everyone else, and because my head was shaved, they couldn’t see that I was a foreigner,” Mr. Foster said. “When they saw who I was, they would immediately apologize.”

Mr. Foster recalled inmates disappearing into solitary confinement or chained to the floor for days without food or access to the toilet. “You could hear them screaming,” he said.

During their months in detention, inmates were denied access to visitors, even their own lawyers.

Mr. Foster’s description of life inside Baiyun dovetails with the accounts of other detainees who were interviewed by Human Rights Watch. The abuse continues despite a number of recent regulations that seek to address problems in China’s pretrial detention centers, which are run by the Ministry of Public Security.

In 2009, the ministry introduced measures that include surveillance cameras in detainees’ living quarters, alarm bells in cells that can alert guards to abuse and an explicit ban on the use of so-called cell bosses to manage inmates. The new rules were put in place after a farmer in Yunnan Province was fatally beaten in custody. Officials initially said the man had died during a game of hide-and-seek, a claim that met with widespread public skepticism.

Since 2011, according to the state news media, independent “special supervisors” have been making surprise visits to 70 percent of the nation’s pretrial detention centers in an effort to reduce the mistreatment of detainees.

Mr. Foster and other recent detainees, however, say they saw little evidence of such changes.

“We might see a guard come by once or twice a day,” Mr. Foster said, “but sometimes you wouldn’t see them for four or five days.”

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Chencun Church re-installed the cross topping the
church. (Photo: China Aid)
China Aid
By Rachel Ritchie
(Hangzhou, Zhejiang–May 22, 2015) Authorities in coastal Zhejiang ordered all churches in the Fuyan

“A notice was sent to people in Fuyang District, Hangzhou, stating that the crosses from all churches — at least 43 churches — in the district will be removed,” said Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, president of the Chinese House Church Alliance. “The authorities are carrying out the mission of the ‘Three Rectifications and One Demolition’ campaign.”

“This major church-state conflict is caused purely by the Zhejiang Communist Party leadership with the consent and encouragement of the central government,” China Aid founder and President Bob Fu said. “Chinese government leaders should be held accountable if this order escalates to a violent clash. The only viable solution is to respect the Chinese citizens’ true religious freedom as enshrined in the Chinese constitution and in universal norms to which the Chinese government has openly committed.”

“Though some of the threatened churches are government-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) churches, they still want to safeguard the cross,” Pastor Zhang Mingxuan said. “Some recently affected churches have reinstalled their crosses.”

According to local Christians, Pingyuan Church, whose cross was demolished on May 9, re-installed their cross twice in two weeks. The cross was removed again on Tuesday. Eight other churches whose crosses were removed between May 7-9 also re-installed their crosses, including Huachang Church and Chengguan Church of Jingning County, Lishui.

In Liandu District, Lishui,
Pingyuan Church’s cross was
demolished for the third time
on May 20.
(Photo: China Aid)
In addition to Pingyuan Church, other crosses in Lishui were targeted on Tuesday, and at least three churches re-installed their crosses, including Chencun Church in Liandu District, Lishui. Another church in Liandu District, Shiniu Church, had its cross removed for the second time on Tuesday.

“I’ve heard that the government will convene a national conference in Wenzhou on the ‘Three Rectifications and One Demolition’ campaign,” a Christians from Wenzhou said. “The conference will take place in the city of Yiwu, which is under the jurisdiction of the city of Jinhua. The ‘Three Rectifications and One Demolition’ campaign may be launched on a national level.”

The conference, according to a report on the Yiwu News, published on May 5, is set to take place in mid-June.

“Last year, the authorities of Zhejiang removed churches’ crosses,” Hangzhou Christian and freelance journalist Zan Aizong said. “Some people speculated that the ‘Three Rectifications and One Demolition’ campaign was a pilot program in Zhejiang.”

“Legally speaking, there’s no law that says the cross is illegal,” Zan said. “Christians have every right to re-erect crosses. However, there’s a possibility that it’ll be removed again.”

“Another purpose of this campaign is to reduce Christianity’s impact on the Chinese society,” Guo Baosheng, a pastor at a Chinese American church, said. “The government just wants to hide the cross and make it very small. Of course, all of this persecution furthers their goal of the sinicization of Christianity. They want to reform Christianity and turn it into a variant to serve socialism and the Communist Party.”
g District of Hangzhou, the provincial capital, and the neighboring city of Huzhou to remove the crosses from atop their church buildings on Monday and Tuesday. Then, on Wednesday, crosses in Lishui were forcibly removed.

China Aid reports on cases such as this to expose the abuse against Christians and other religious practitioners to rally support for advancements in religious freedom and rule of law in China.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
A close-up of the seal on the
church’s gates reads: Xushui
County Ethnic and Religious
Affairs Bureau, May 22, 2015.
(Photo: China Aid)
 China Aid
By Rachel Ritchie

(Baoding, Hebei–May 22, 2015) The Catholic House of Prayer in Baoding in China’s northern Hebei province was forcibly demolished today by special police who refused to allow church members near the building.

Prior to the demolition, authorities sealed the gates to the church, as pictured.

One church member was injured and transported to the hospital. At this time, her injuries and the events that caused them are unknown.

China Aid will continue to monitor and update this story.

One church member was injured.
(Photo: China Aid)
Authorities sealed the church’s gates. 
(Photo: China Aid)

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Believers Stand United
May 21, 2015

This week, the Christian international human rights organization China Aid reported that officials in the Fuyang District of Hangzhou, the provincial capital of Zhejiang, and the city of Lishui has ordered all Christian churches in the area to remove the crosses from the tops of their buildings. This is the latest episode in the government’s efforts to curb religious expression.

Another Chinese church is stripped of its cross as a Communist
Party ‘anti-church’ demolition campaign continues in Zhejiang
Province. Photo:
Authorities have already toppled crosses from some 400 churches, which have been determined to be “in violation of building codes.” In some instances, this has resulted in confrontations with local Christian congregations. The codes in question are extremely restrictive—crosses must be attached to the front of the building, not the top of it; they must have unobtrusive colors that blend in with the building, and they can be no more than one tenth of the building’s height. This time, church leaders decided to avoid confrontation and resist peacefully. A city-wide prayer vigil is planned.

“This major church-state conflict is caused purely by the Zhejiang Communist Party leadership with the consent and encouragement of the central government,” said China Aid founder and President Bob Fu. “Chinese government leaders should be held accountable if this order escalates to a violent clash. The only viable solution is to respect the Chinese citizens’ true religious freedom as enshrined in the Chinese constitution and in universal norms to which the Chinese government has openly committed.”

Why It Matters

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom calls Chinese religious freedom violations “severe” and “systematic.” Christians may not be murdered as they are in the Middle East, but many languish in prison due to their beliefs, and faced with hardships on a daily basis.

Take Action

– Follow China Aid on Facebook or Twitter for China-specific updates.
– Write to Chinese authorities and demand for the release of religious prisoners.
– Pray for the persecuted in China and across the world.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
China Aid
By Rachel Ritchie

(Midland, Texas–May 21, 2015) The United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) concluded a three-day conference, aimed at setting policies on a number of fronts, including religion and social media, yesterday in Beijing.

“President Xi’s remarks at the United Front Work Department conference on safeguarding against so-called ‘foreign influence’ and regulating religion to garner support for the Communist Party are draconian policies that have been utilized for decades in China,” China Aid Vice President Kody Kness said in a response to Xi’s statements following the recent United Front conference.

At the end of the United Front conference, the first one held in almost a decade, Xi also emphasized the need to persuade non-Communist social media moguls to embrace censorship in the name of nationalism and the need to persuade young Chinese students to study abroad, but to return to serve China upon the completion of their studies.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Xi’s remarks was his emphasis on engaging youth and social media leaders to unify the Communist party and oppose dissent, including censoring the Internet, which Xi described as “purifying cyberspace,” according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

“President Xi’s plea to the youth and social media representatives signals the Communist party’s weakness, namely a generation unwilling to trade freedom and basic civil and political rights for party allegiance and prosperity,” Kness said.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
UCA News reporter, Hong Kong
May 21, 2015

Response follows circulation of draft rules restricting crosses

A dozen Protestant churches have defied a cross removal campaign by the provincial government in Zhejiang by replacing crosses already forcibly taken down.

Authorities removed 12 crosses in Lishui City near Wenzhou in just three days from May 7 to 9 without resistance from church members, according to US-based China Aid.

Many affected churches have responded by re-erecting crosses – some larger than those removed – in defiance of recently a circulated draft law that would ban crosses from the tops of churches and restrict their dimensions and color.

“Some churches elsewhere [in Zhejiang province] have also done this but collective action is more obvious in Lishui,” a Protestant preacher who declined to be named for security reasons told

This image taken on April 30, 2014 shows a church in the town
of Oubei, outside the city of Wenzhou, that Chinese authorities
had begun demolishing on April 28 (AFP Photo/Mark Ralston)
As many as 20 Protestant churches are also facing the threat of demolition in Anji County near Zhejiang’s provincial capital, Hangzhou, the preacher added.

Zhejiang authorities have forcibly removed at least 470 crosses and destroyed more than 35 churches since the end of 2013, often following violent exchanges with local Christians.

Last month, China Aid said that the true scale of the demolition campaign may be as many as 1,000 crosses removed and up to 50 churches destroyed based on unverified reports in local media.

The campaign appeared to be slowing at the start of the year but in recent weeks dozens of crosses have been reported removed coinciding with the circulation of new draft regulations.

A number of church leaders have expressed alarm at the draft law – both privately and publicly – with many arguing it enshrines state meddling in everything from cross size to what heating systems churches may use.

Zhejiang authorities asked for feedback on the draft regulations up to yesterday. So far there has been no official word on whether the proposed rules will be amended following strong objections or when they may come into effect.

On Tuesday, the Catholic Diocese of Wenzhou became the latest critic of the proposed legislation in a statement arguing that only new churches should be required to comply.

The preamble to the draft law states that any changes or expansion to existing religious buildings will fall under the new rules, a “sneaky term” that could apply to old structures previously permitted by authorities, the diocese added.

“How could these churches be built in the first place? It reflects the lack of supervision from the relevant government departments,” the statement said.

“But now it throws a historical burden at the Church. How can the faithful not complain and oppose it?”

The diocese consulted opinions from all of its priests before issuing the statement, according to a Wenzhou Catholic who declined to be named for security reasons.

A Catholic priest in the city’s underground Church who also declined to be identified praised the state-sanctioned Church for publicly voicing its concerns.

“It is impossible for us to do the same. We can only tell our grievances to God,” the source added. “But I doubt the government would ever listen to the Church.”

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Two police officers stand outside the Home of
Bodani church in Yichun, Heilongjiang.
(Photo: China Aid)
China Aid
By Rachel Ritchie

(Yinchun, Heilongjiang–May 21, 2015) Authorities in China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province raided a house church gathering in late April and demanded that the church members attend a government-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) church.

“When we were gathering on April 29, people from the domestic security protection squad (DSPS), the local police station and the religious affairs bureau entered our building and demanded that we stop the worship service,” said a female leader, Yu, from the Home of Bodani church in the city of Yichun. “When they entered the room, one church member was delivering a sermon. I told them that we were worshipping and that they could tell us whatever they wanted after our gathering was over. A man said no and that he wanted to talk to the person in charge.

“Our leader is an elderly man named Dong Shiyun. He couldn’t do anything but follow the officers out of the building in order to not disturb the gathering," Yu said. "I followed, too, and heard them say that our gathering is illegal because we don’t have a ‘site registration permit.’”

Yu said there were 10 people at the gathering, most of whom are elderly people who live near the gathering site. She also said the church has been meeting at the site
for more than 20 years.

The Xilin District Religious Affairs Bureau of Yichun and the Xilin District Public Security Bureau issued a notice, claiming that the Home of Bodani gathering site is “not approved by the government department in charge of religious affairs. It was established without approval, and the worshippers violated regulations by engaging in religious activity. All illegal religious activity must be stopped.”

“We negotiated with them, and they said we should go to a TSPM church because it is a state-approved church,” Yu said. “Our church leader said that we are different from the TSPM church as we only worship God. Then, the authorities said if we don’t go to a TSPM church and continue to worship on our own, we will be considered a cult.

“They demanded that we go to the religious affairs bureau to apply for a permit,” Yu said. “However, I’ve heard it’s impossible to get a permit at this point. But we did the application process and submitted the required paperwork; we haven’t gotten a response yet. We were told not to hold another gathering before we received a permit.”

China Aid’s reporter contacted the Xilin District Religious Affairs Bureau director, Zhao Wendong, after the incident and asked about the circumstances regarding registering the church.

“We have ‘Regulation on Religious Affairs.’” Zhao said. “[The circumstances] are clearly written there. You can read it on the Internet and see all the regulations. We do things according to normal procedures.”

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
The Huffington Post via Associated Press 
Posted: 05/20/2015 10:19 am EDT Updated: 05/20/2015 10:59 am EDT

BEIJING (AP) - China's president warned Wednesday that religions must be independent from foreign influence, as the government asks domestic religious groups to pledge loyalty to the state.

China is ruled by the officially atheist Communist Party, and Beijing attempts to control a variety of religions and their spread.

"We must manage religious affairs in accordance with the law and adhere to the principle of independence to run religious groups on our own accord," President Xi Jinping said at a high-level party meeting that sought to unite non-Communist Party groups and individuals. His comments were widely reported in state media.

"Active efforts should be made to incorporate religions into socialist society," Xi said, adding that the party's religious work should be about winning over the hearts and minds of the public for the party.

As part of its religious policy since the 1990s, the government believes that hostile foreign forces can use religions to infiltrate Chinese society by winning over the population and subverting party rule. It has banned foreign missionary work, refused to acknowledge any appointment by foreign religious entities such as the Vatican, and declared any unregistered religious groups illegal.

In the western regions of Xinjiang and Tibet, the government says foreign forces are using Islam and Tibetan Buddhism to incite local people to defy Chinese rule.

Still, religions have spread quickly in the country, which is suffering a crisis in beliefs as people largely abandon communist values.

Since early 2014, the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang has forcibly removed crosses from more than 400 Christian churches in an apparent effort to reduce the rapidly growing religion's visibility.

However, the government has been vague about what constitutes foreign forces and whether the term refers to foreign individuals, foreign non-governmental groups, foreign cultural traditions or foreign governments, said Yang Fenggang, a scholar of Chinese religions at Purdue University.

Such a policy can also be difficult to carry out in an age of globalization and at a time when China wants to promote its own culture outside China, he said.

"How can you influence the foreign but not be influenced by the foreign?" Yang wrote in an email.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
The Daily Ardmoreite
Posted May 18, 2015 at 1:00 PM


Senator James Lankford (R-OK) has offered a Trade Promotion Authority amendment (#1237) that promotes international religious freedom among potential trading partners of the United States. Specifically, the amendment would add a provision to the overall negotiating objectives outlined in TPA, requiring the Administration to take religious freedom into account whenever negotiating trade agreements. Today at approximately 5:30 p.m., the Senate will vote on the amendment, which is subject to a 60 vote threshold.

Lankford believes that trade is a leverage point that can be used to ensure that the religious freedom conditions of a particular country are taken into account during negotiations.

In its 2015 annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended that the State Department redesignate China as a Country of Particular Concern, and urged the same designation for Vietnam, because these are countries where severe violations of religious freedom are perpetuated or tolerated by their respective communist regimes.

According to the report, in China, religious minorities continue to face arrests, imprisonment and the closure of places of worship. In Vietnam, at least 100-200 prisoners of conscience are detained for religious activity or advocacy of religious freedom. Vietnam is currently 1 of 11 other countries the U.S. is negotiating a Pacific trade agreement with.

During his Maiden Speech last week, Lankford said, “Our freedom is foreign to most of the world and it’s a threat to them. Not because the United States is an aggressor nation, far from it. But because the liberty we export is so powerful, they know it could depose their dictatorships and weaken their control.”

“We should export our freedom to the world. We should export our values to the world. And we’ll do that at our best as we rise up and speak about the things that we know are right.”

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Pingyuan Church members stood against Lishui police when
officials came to remove the church’s cross on May 9, 2015.
(Photo: China Aid)
China Aid
By Rachel Ritchie

(Lishui, Zhejiang–May 19, 2015) Shortly after Zhejiang authorities began circulating a provisional code regarding crosses affixed to Christian buildings, they removed 17 crosses in Lishui during a three-day period from May 7-9.

The cross demolitions began on May 7 in Qingtian County, Lishui, when authorities removed 12 crosses from local churches with little to no resistance from church members. Local Christians said that most of the targeted churches were built in the past two years and had all the necessary government approval.

“On May 8, the Wenxi Township Government in Qingtian County, Lishui, removed crosses from four churches,” Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, said. “On May 9, one church’s cross in Liandu District, Lishui, was removed. Many people were taken into custody, and many church members were injured, including elderly people in their 70s-80s.”

In Wenxi, church members said that the government dispatched about 100 officers to demolish the crosses at Xiazhuang Church, Xizhuang Church, Shiniu Church and Dongan Church. Christians reportedly felt too pressured to resist the demolitions.

The cross demolition on May 9 occurred at Pingyuan Church in Liandu District, Lishui, where the authorities met resistance for the first time that weekend.

Church members said that three Christians were taken to the Bihu Township Police Station, including Zhao Lizhong, Zhuang Hequan and Hu Moxi. They also said that the 30-plus force of officers didn’t present legal papers ordering the cross’s removal.

“When the Zhejiang provincial government takes down crosses like this, they undermine religious freedom and social harmony and violate the Chinese constitution. Pray for the Chinese Christians who are suffering in Zhejiang province.”

Cross removals and church demolitions have been ongoing in Zhejiang since January 2014 when the “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign began.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Targeting gatherings in homes is common, as in the case of
church member pictured above, who were detained in Beijing
when trying to visit a sick Christian. (Photo: China Aid)
China Aid
By Rachel Ritchie

(Asku, Xinjiang–May 18, 2015) Two Christians in the far western Chinese Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are awaiting the verdict of an April lawsuit against the Asku Reclamation Area Public Security Bureau after they were detained for signing hymns in a private home.

“These two Christians sang a song at home,” said a lawyer named Xing, who is representing one of the Christians seeking to repeal the administrative penalty. “Before they could finish singing, people from the local police station broke in and took them away. Ren Demei was detained for five days, and Zhao Qi was detained for seven days. Zhao Qi led the singing, and Ren Demei is the owner of the house.”

“On Jan. 12, Ren Demei invited Zhang Yang and Zhao Qi to come to her residence … to engage in religious activity in the name of sharing and exchanging information and studying Christianity,” stated a detention notice from the Asku Reclamation Area Public Security Bureau on Jan. 16. “On Jan. 14, Ren Demei invited many people to her residence, and Zhao Qi led them again in engaging in illegal religious activities in the form of singing Christian hymns and disturbed public order.”

The official charge is “engaging in illegal religious activity to disturb public order.”

Lawyer Zhang Kai, also hired by the Christians, told China Aid that authorities stated the Christians didn’t have the qualifications to teach or preach and that they were detained because they sang songs at an unregistered site.

“Peng Liyuan, the First Lady of China, once sang Hallelujah in a public place,” Xing said. “Can we say she violated the law? We submitted the video of Peng Liyuan singing Hallelujah to the court.”

The lawsuit against the public security bureau began on April 20. Xing said that he and other lawyers argued that authorities had forged evidence. “According to the written account made at the scene, the authorities received the tip on the case at 11:44 a.m., Jan. 14, but the time recorded for when the account was written was 11:25 a.m., Jan. 14. The police wrote the record before they got the tip.

“Besides this, in the written record from the interrogations, the two interrogators are named Lu and Chen. Yet the signatures at the end of the record are Lu and Ye. This is inconsistent; it is obvious they forged the document and didn’t have any evidence,” Xing said.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Christian Examiner
by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez | 18 May, 2015

WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) -- With fierce persecution weighing on China's churches, Christian activists in the U.S. are joining in advocacy to raise awareness and stand in solidarity against campaigns by the Chinese government to destroy its nation's church buildings and symbolic crosses.

Last week, a group from the community Church on the Hill, based in D.C., led a protest against China's demolition of crosses in the Zhejian province where its estimated that since 2014 more than 100 churches have been destroyed and over 1,000 crosses have been forcibly removed, according to a China Aid, a human rights organization that exposes injustice and defends religious freedom in the communist country.

Leaders of Thursday's protest included Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition who carried a large wooden cross as an outcry for religious freedom in China.

Church on a Hill
The Washington-based community Church on a Hill gathered
outside the Chinese embassy Thursday, May 14 in protest 
against China's persecution of Christians and the demolition
of their churches.

"It is critical that the faith community in America stand for religious freedom, human rights and freedom in China and throughout the world!" the organization wrote in a statement on their Facebook page.

In addition to the demonstration organized by The Church on the Hill, China Aid will also coordinate a number of advocacy initiatives with other faith-based groups and human rights organizations in the coming months. Initiatives will include efforts around the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in late June and the upcoming visit of President Xi Jinping in September, the organization told Christian Examiner.

Last month the Texas-based China Aid, release a report exposing that the overall religious persecution by the Chinese government against its citizens rose 152.74 percent since 2013.

The Organization called the activity over the last year the most "severe suppressive measures since the Cultural Revolution."

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
The Washington Post
By Simon Denyer
May 5 

Chinese authorities have ordered Muslim shopkeepers and restaurant owners in a village in its troubled Xinjiang region to sell alcohol and cigarettes, and promote them in “eye-catching displays,” in an attempt to undermine Islam’s hold on local residents, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported. Establishments that failed to comply were threatened with closure and their owners with prosecution.

Facing widespread discontent over its repressive rule in the mainly Muslim province of Xinjiang, and mounting violence in the past two years, China has launched a series of “strike hard” campaigns to weaken the hold of Islam in the western region. Government employees and children have been barred from attending mosques or observing the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. In many places, women have been barred from wearing face-covering veils, and men discouraged from growing long beards.

This photo taken on April 16, 2015 shows Uighur men praying in
a mosque in Hotan, in China's western Xinjiang region.
(Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)
In the village of Aktash in southern Xinjiang, Communist Party official Adil Sulayman, told RFA that many local shopkeepers had stopped selling alcohol and cigarettes from 2012 “because they fear public scorn,” while many locals had decided to abstain from drinking and smoking.

The Koran calls the use of “intoxicants” sinful, while some Muslim religious leaders have also forbidden smoking.

Sulayman said authorities in Xinjiang viewed ethnic Uighurs who did not smoke as adhering to “a form of religious extremism.” They issued the order to counter growing religious sentiment that was “affecting stability,” he said.

“We have a campaign to weaken religion here, and this is part of that campaign,” he told the Washington-based news service.

The notice, obtained by RFA and posted on Twitter, ordered all restaurants and supermarkets in Aktash to sell five different brands of alcohol and cigarettes and display them prominently. “Anybody who neglects this notice and fails to act will see their shops sealed off, their businesses suspended, and legal action pursued against them,” the notice said.

Radio Free Asia, which provides some of the only coverage of events in Xinjiang to escape strict Chinese government controls, said Hotan prefecture, where Aktash is located, had become “a hotbed of violent stabbing and shooting incidents between ethnic Uighurs and Chinese security forces.”

This photo taken on April 16, 2015 shows a paramilitary
policeman standing guard in front of an armored vehicle at the
central square in Hotan, in China's western Xinjiang region.
(Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)
China says Uighur militant groups based abroad are using the Internet to inspire local Muslims to take up violent jihad against the state. Critics say China’s long repression of Uighur rights and nationalist sentiment has pushed people toward Islam as the only permitted assertion of their community’s identity, and pushed a minority toward a violent form of Islam. Clumsy attempts to promote alcohol or forbid beards and veils may prove counterproductive, they warn.

James Leibold, an expert on China's ethnic policies at Melbourne's La Trobe University, said Chinese officials were "often flailing around in the dark" when tackling extremism. An acute lack of understanding leads them to focus on visible, but imprecise, perceptions of radicalism such as long beards, veils and sobriety, he said.

The result is often "crude forms of ethno-cultural profiling," Leibold said.

"These sorts of mechanistic and reactive policies only serve to inflame ethno-national tension without addressing the root causes of religious extremism, while further alienating the mainstream Uighur community, making them feel increasingly unwelcome within a hostile, Han-dominated society," he wrote in an e-mail.

Sulayman said around 60 shops and restaurants in the area had complied with the government order, and there were no reports of protests. But in an unrelated incident in neighboring Qinghai province on Friday, an angry crowd of Muslims smashed windows of a supposedly halal store in Xining city, after pork sausages and ham were found in a delivery van, according to the local government and photographs on social media.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
China Aid
By Rachel Ritchie

(Hangzhou, Zhejiang–May 17, 2015) China Aid learned that authorities ordered all churches in the Fuyang District of Hangzhou, the provincial capital of coastal Zhejiang, and the city of Lishui to remove the crosses from atop their church buildings yesterday and Friday.

Church leaders in both cities unanimously decided to peacefully resist the ordered demolitions and planned a city-wide prayer vigil for tomorrow.

"This major church-state conflict is caused purely by the Zhejiang Communist Party leadership with the consent and encouragement of the central government," China Aid founder and President Bob Fu said. "Chinese government leaders should be held accountable if this order escalates to a violent clash. The only viable solution is to respect the Chinese citizens' true religious freedom as enshrined in the Chinese constitution and in universal norms to which the Chinese government has openly committed."

China Aid will continue to update this story as information becomes available.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
The Wall Street Journal
May 15, 2015 10:17 a.m. ET

Pu Zhiqiang indicted on charges of inciting ethnic hatred and ‘picking quarrels’

BEIJING—A prominent, outspoken Chinese human rights lawyer, already detained for a year, was indicted Friday on charges of inciting ethnic hatred and “picking quarrels” and his case given to a court that usually handles serious criminal cases.

The charges against Pu Zhiqiang appear to draw heavily from social media postings made over the course of a few years prior to his detention. Prosecutors told Beijing’s No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court that Mr. Pu disturbed social order by severely cursing others online “on multiple occasions,” according to a statement posted by prosecutors on their verified feed on Weibo Corp.’s microblogging site.

Pu Zhiqiang, seen in a June 2010 photo, has been formally
indicted, more than a year after he was taken into police
custody. (Photo: Ng Han Guan/Associated Press)
A lawyer for Mr. Pu rejected the charges as baseless. “All he did was go on Weibo and publish his opinions about public figures and public incidents,” said Shang Baojun, the lawyer. “It was all within the range of the freedom of speech provided under China’s constitution.”

The prosecutor’s office declined requests for further comment.

The indictment of Mr. Pu comes a little over a year after he was taken away by state security agents following his participation in a small commemoration of the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Beijing. As a lawyer, Mr. Pu defended high-profile dissidents like artist Ai Weiwei and was known for his ability to avoid the country’s political red lines. His arrest symbolized for many Chinese activists the plummeting tolerance for dissent under Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Human rights lawyers and experts noted that prosecutors had filed the indictment with a court that typically handles serious crimes that carry a potential life sentence and those involving threats to national security.

Neither of the charges mentioned in Friday’s indictment meet those conditions, according to Liu Xiaoyuan, a human rights lawyer. “That means they see this as a major case, a case with significant impact,” Mr. Liu said.

Friday’s announcement comes days ahead of the legal deadline for authorities to either indict or release Mr. Pu. Documents compiled by Mr. Pu’s lawyers from a list of evidence provided by prosecutors last year showed most the charges being linked to a series of 28 messages he posted to Weibo between 2011 and 2014. The messages included a spirited attack on Lei Feng, a Communist Party propaganda icon from the 1960s, and criticism of a deadly terrorist attack on a railway station in the city of Kunming in 2013.

Authorities attributed the attack to terrorists from the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where many members of the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic group chafe at what they see as discriminatory government policies. Mr. Pu’s posts chided the government for not recognizing the role its policies may have played in driving some to desperate acts.

Mr. Pu’s lawyer, Mr. Shang, said he had yet to see the full indictment and it wasn’t clear whether prosecutors had amassed new evidence. Two other charges previously leveled against Mr. Pu by prosecutors—illegally obtaining personal information and separatism—weren’t mentioned in the prosecutor’s statement. That, Mr. Shang said, suggested police had failed to find anything new to hold against his client.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
The Weekly Standard

Overhauling U.S. strategy in Asia

At the top of our next president’s task list will be rescuing American foreign policy from the wreckage of the Obama years. The prevailing headlines detail a grim litany of new threats, each one emanating from an Obama administration policy failure. From the expansionist barbarity of the Islamic State, to the collapse of Libya into warring factions, to Yemen’s degeneration into civil war and a terrorist safe haven, to unprecedented concessions that have strengthened Iran, to Russian adventurism forcibly redrawing Europe’s borders, to the expansion of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, the threat environment that the Obama administration is preparing to hand over to its successor is grave.

Not since the end of World War II has the American-led international system been under such severe strain from so many quarters. While the above threats all command attention, perhaps the greatest challenge to world order is the resurgence of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). It is the only nation that has the size, wealth, and ambition to credibly threaten U.S. global leadership and international stability. At stake is not only the national security of the United States but the future of the international system our nation helped create and has led for seven decades. In truth, they are almost inseparable. At the end of the Cold War, the late Samuel Huntington argued that only by remaining the dominant world player could the United States ensure the continuation of a liberal order. Thus, the challenge from China is not only geopolitical; Beijing is also ideologically hostile toward democratic capitalism and free societies.

Repression at work: The CCP assembles, March 8, 2015.
Our next president’s China policy needs to address the heart of the problem: The external assertiveness of the Chinese Communist party (CCP) emanates from its internal repression. As Aaron Friedberg has pointed out, “the party’s desire to retain power shapes every aspect of national policy. When it comes to external affairs, it means that Beijing’s ultimate aim is to ‘make the world safe for authoritarianism,’ or at least for continued one-party rule in China.”

The CCP has thus far successfully maintained its monopoly on power and avoided any meaningful political reform. American policy in recent years has conceded this monopoly to the CCP and done little to support Chinese reformers, dissenters, and voices for liberty. There may have been short-term rationales for this, but as a policy it has run its course.

A new strategy that aims for a freer China would, in the span of history, not be so new at all. It has been part of the strategic conception of most U.S. presidents since the Cold War opening to China.

U.S. Policy and Democracy in China

Nixon and Kissinger’s justly heralded strategic opening to Beijing in 1972 realigned mainland China from a Communist revolutionary adversary to a “normal” authoritarian partner in the Cold War. This new relationship rekindled hopes that China might eventually transition from autocratic to democratic. A series of developments in the 1970s and 1980s—including Mao Zedong’s death, the opening of diplomatic relations between the United States and China, the 1978-79 Democracy Wall movement, Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms, and the collapse of Soviet communism at the end of the Cold War—provided some episodic momentum to these hopes. Many wondered if perhaps the words “Chinese democracy” might eventually become a reality and not just a Guns N’ Roses album.

Accordingly, every American administration since 1989 has premised its China policy on a strategic bet: that as China becomes more prosperous, it will also become freer and a more responsible member of the international system. From George H.W. Bush to Bill Clinton to George W. Bush, each administration built its China policy on this assumption that economic reform would lead inevitably to political reform. This was a reasonable premise. Many of Washington’s authoritarian friends in Asia had successfully embraced democracy, including South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Indonesia. As other Asian societies made this transition, it made sense to assume that China would follow the same path.

While encouraging closer economic ties between the United States and China, these presidents also attempted to engage China through outreach and dialogue. Treating China like an adversary would cause it to act like an adversary, the assumption went, whereas engaging with China would lead it to be more like us: peaceful, stable, and free.

This strategic bet has failed. China has become much richer, but it has not become freer. A few years ago James Mann perceptively called these dashed hopes that an engaged and prosperous China would become a peaceful and free China “the China fantasy.” If anything, its increased wealth has equipped the Chinese Communist party to devote even more resources to maintaining its authoritarian rule and monopoly on power. It turned out that one critical difference between China and America’s allies and partners in the region was that the United States had little leverage over Beijing. Its allies were dependent on Washington and more susceptible to inducements and punishments on the path to democracy.

Just as it has failed to encourage political reform, the current U.S. strategy of engagement has also not enticed China to become a more responsible member of the international system. Evidence otherwise abounds, including China’s destabilizing aggression in the Asian littoral, its free-riding on America’s preservation of the Indo-Pacific’s open maritime order, its shielding of oppressive dictatorships in Syria, Sudan, and North Korea from human rights scrutiny, and its thuggish blockage of meaningful human rights and carbon emissions limitation initiatives in multilateral fora. Xi Jinping’s repeated invocations of “Asia for Asians” provide one of the most explicit statements yet of what has become readily apparent to close observers of Beijing’s strategy and intentions: It wants to push the United States out of the western Pacific and be the sole regional hegemon. No wonder virtually all of its neighbors—with the exception of North Korea—have distanced themselves from China and sought closer ties with the United States.

As far back as the Clinton administration, the United States began quietly contemplating the possibility that China’s rise might not always be peaceful. This led to the development of a second prong to the U.S. strategy of engagement: hedging. As Washington deepened its relationship with China, it also began upgrading its security alliances in the region and modestly increasing its defense capabilities as a hedge against potential Chinese bellicosity. The Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia (once hyped and now largely forgotten) was, in fact, just a continuation of this two-part strategy of engagement and hedging as already pursued by Clinton and Bush.

Yet after almost three decades of U.S. engagement and two decades of hedging, China is more threatening externally and no freer internally. If anything, the CCP’s hold on power under Xi Jinping is stronger than ever, even as China’s erstwhile “peaceful rise” has turned into something more ominous.

The Answer: The Freedom Prong

If this two-pronged strategy has not succeeded, should it be jettisoned? No. The U.S.-China economic relationship remains too important to our nation, to Chinese reformers, and to the global economy for engagement to be abandoned. In addition, China’s military capabilities and intentions remain too threatening for the American defense hedge to be abandoned. Rather, the American strategy should be expanded: It needs a freedom prong.

A growing threat to liberty deserves a symmetrical response—a sophisticated defense of freedom. Just as the United States should protect its security and economic interests in Asia, the grand aim of U.S. strategy should be the measured yet persistent push for a free and democratic China. The freedom prong should be evolutionary, not revolutionary, especially given the abundant recent examples of the chaos that can emerge when dictatorships fall suddenly. But a gradual and prudent policy of supporting liberty is the most responsible course for China’s longer-term future.

A free and democratic China would not only tame the increasingly dangerous strategic rivalry but also change the world: The Chinese people are enterprising and resilient, and more freedom in China would unleash their potential for innovation, commerce, and creativity. With a freer China there is a real possibility for Sino-American comity, especially in light of history. The United States long tried to side with China, from the Stimson Doctrine calling for Chinese territorial integrity to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s support for China against Japan’s aggression and his strategic concept that China would act as one of the four “policemen” that would help govern the post-World War II global order. This history of American support for China has been obscured by the CCP’s hostility.

Unfortunately, Washington has previously squandered some of its best chances to press for Chinese democracy. President George H.W. Bush and his national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, decided to reinforce ties with Deng Xiaoping after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Before and immediately after the brutality, the CCP was split and weak. China was more dependent on the United States than it is today. Support for party leaders such as Zhao Ziyang could have prodded the Deng government toward compromise with China’s student-led democracy activists. Skilled diplomacy could have quietly asked Deng to remove the hardliners and make room for Zhao’s reformist faction. That would have followed Reagan’s approach in the Philippines in removing Ferdinand Marcos, a longtime ally. Instead, Bush and Scowcroft chose the short-term security of dictatorial stability over the long-term promise of Chinese freedom.

President Clinton spoke forthrightly about his hope for “peaceful evolution” in China. His secretary of state, Warren Christopher, told Congress that the Clinton policy would be to encourage a “broad peaceful evolution in China from communism to democracy.” But zeal for this push soon began to fade as Beijing and entrenched interests in Washington wore him down. Clinton’s eventual support for China’s membership in the World Trade Organization combined with the free-market instincts of Chinese premier Zhu Rongji allowed for greater economic openness in China, and the hope was that a real private sector would emerge and demand political liberty. Indeed, Chinese entrepreneurs then and now have struggled for liberty where they could, but it was a mistake to think that the procession toward political liberty was inevitable.

President George W. Bush complemented his focus on the commercial and security dimensions of the relationship with a genuine concern for human rights and religious liberty. Bush pressed harder than any other president for religious and political freedom. He supported political and religious activists in China, even holding high-profile meetings with Chinese house church leaders and lawyers and speaking out against Beijing’s repression. This was all done in the hope that President Hu Jintao was a real partner under whose leadership China could become a “responsible stakeholder” in the international system. The personal diplomacy did not produce long-term change, as Hu lacked either the desire or the ability to reform his government. Almost a decade later, China’s international irresponsibility has increased, and there is little talk anymore in Washington or Beijing of responsible stake holding.

Even if a democratic China did not materialize, at least Clinton and Bush based their policies on the goal of greater freedom in China, leading in turn to a better relationship between Washington and Beijing. President Obama has not made a freer China part of his agenda. Since he implicitly acknowledges that a clash of values—in the administration’s parlance, “China’s disrespect for international norms”—is an impediment to better relations, his theory of how the United States and China can build an enduring friendship is a mystery. There is today no meaningful U.S. policy to support economic or political liberty in China. The Obama administration’s answer to China’s authoritarian rise is rhetorical devotion to the policy of pivoting or “rebalancing.” The strategic conception is that since America’s economic and political future is in Asia, the region is too important to be dominated by China. In order to position itself for an “Asia-Pacific” century, the United States should largely divest itself of commitments in the Middle East and Europe.

The declared goals were worthwhile, ambitious, indeed aspirational. But in practice the policy has failed. Obama’s first-term foreign policy team embraced Asia with verve. The Pentagon is doing its best to reposition a shrinking asset base into Asia, and the Obama administration is at last making a push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. There has been hardly any other notable implementation. It is the very definition of strategic insolvency to increase commitments while decreasing resources.

The failure is not only in implementation. The strategic conception itself is flawed. The United States cannot abandon a century of successful grand strategy—a preponderance of power in and around the strategic centers of Europe, the Persian Gulf, and Asia. It cannot pivot away from any of these regions. They are profoundly interlinked by trade, energy relations, and security, not to mention America’s alliance commitments across each region. The rhetoric of the “pivot” notwithstanding, it is impossible to seal off one region of the world from others.

The key problem with the pivot, however, is that it disregards the main competitive advantage of America: its historic support for liberty. Any great power can become the predominant security and economic power in Asia. Imperial China and Imperial Japan each filled that role at different times. Only the United States can lead by affirming the principles upon which the nation is based—principles that speak to the personal aspirations of many Asians.

Democracy’s history in Asia offers both insight and hope. While U.S. power and influence certainly helped, the remarkable transitions to freedom by Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Indonesia were the product of the desire of Asians themselves for individual human dignity after a legacy of colonialism and conflict. It is easy to forget how unthinkable democracy in Asia seemed to be just a generation ago. Asians were considered politically backward, dependent, and culturally hostile. With American support, Asians in several countries defied this crude cultural determinism.

Now China is in the awkward position of being surrounded by not only suspicious powers but democratic powers. Chinese entrepreneurs, intellectuals, and diplomats work in and engage with India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and much of Southeast Asia. They wonder why democracy is good enough for these smaller powers, but not good enough for them. China is becoming the outlier, as in the arc from India to Indonesia to Japan most Asians live in democracies.

The Building Blocks of a New Strategy

China’s isolation on the issue of political liberty is an opening for a return to a strategy of peaceful evolution. Consider economic liberty: The Chinese private sector that was allowed to sprout in the 1990s desperately wants to be part of an Asian system of free markets and political liberty. A cornerstone of a new China strategy should be to build free institutions like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and informal “freedom” groupings that China can join if it meets the criteria. There are good reasons to believe that, if given the choice, most Chinese citizens would rather be part of an aspirational Asia of free markets and political liberty than stifled amidst China’s corrupt state capitalism.

China’s loneliness in a majority democratic Asia is one basis for the freedom prong of a new U.S. policy. Another is the stunning growth of Christianity—a faith long associated with the West that is being adopted by Chinese believers on Chinese terms. As observers such as David Aikman and Evan Osnos have written, China is now in its fourth decade of a profound church expansion. By numerous estimates, China already has as many as 100 million Christians, one of the largest, most vibrant, and fastest-growing Christian populations in the world.

The growth of Chinese Christianity is a hopeful development for the cause of liberty. The Chinese spiritual awakening bears some resemblance to the religious revivals that occurred in the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries and considerably influenced such liberal movements as the American Revolution, abolitionism, and women’s suffrage. Christianity also played a key role in the democratic transitions in Eastern Europe and South Korea.

While in the earlier years of the Chinese church’s growth this development was concentrated in rural areas and was relatively apolitical, more recently many Chinese intellectuals, business leaders, and even Communist party members have embraced the Christian faith. As these Chinese Christians have matured theologically, they have also begun to work out the social and political implications of their faith, and are at the vanguard of movements against maladies such as corruption and forced abortion and for religious freedom, labor rights, free speech, and the rule of law. There are now Christians in every important profession in China, including the “Boss Christians” running Chinese companies, who are equipped to step into political leadership positions. As Osnos argues, the key social dynamic in China today is the conflict between the aspirations of the Chinese people for a more meaningful life and the party’s continued repression.

A third basis for the freedom prong is China’s burgeoning class of entrepreneurs and lawyers. After a hopeful period of dismantling statism that lasted from Deng through Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji, the state has reasserted itself in squeezing the private sector. Many Chinese private business leaders are quietly fighting back within the system. They are rich, powerful, and networked and have contacts and partners within the CCP establishment.

While China is not a rule of law state, it has many Western-educated lawyers skilled and experienced in complex commercial transactions. This cadre conducts much of its work within democratic legal systems and knows well the economic benefits of such rule of law fundamentals as an independent judiciary and depoliticized legal system. Chinese criminal and constitutional lawyers are now consistently taking on more controversial cases that challenge governmental authority—defending such imprisoned figures as Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiabo and Uighur economist Ilham Thohti. They are using the rights guarantees already present in the Chinese constitution in arguing their cases, as well as appealing to international legal and human rights standards. A number of these legal activists form the influentialweiquan movement of human rights lawyers, many of whom are also Christians.

In short, China is filled with latent democrats whom the United States and other freedom-minded allies can and should support. A first step for American policy-makers is to expand the concept of engagement beyond just government-to-government contact and engage broadly with China’s most courageous and dynamic citizens: its dissidents, reformers, and freedom activists. Right now the CCP tries to dictate the engagement agenda to the United States—whom U.S. officials may meet, what topics may be discussed, and so on. By one count the U.S. government maintains over 90 annual “dialogues” with the Chinese government, across a staggering array of departments, agencies, bureaus, offices, and commissions.

Over 90 dialogues a year—not including the countless informal bilateral meetings constantly taking place between American and Chinese officials—provides a lot of business for luxury hotels in Beijing and Washington. But do these encounters do enough for the U.S.-China relationship? Ironically, these dialogues are at once too many and too few. It is far too many in that Beijing has become adept at managing and manipulating American expectations while diverting pressure from more substantive policy changes. Yet it is far too few in that the vast majority of these dialogues are only with Chinese government officials. Largely missing from these forums are the Chinese citizens who provide much of their nation’s dynamism and productivity today and who will do much to shape its future. These are the entrepreneurs, intellectuals, house-church pastors, artists, and other reform-minded Chinese who love their country but loathe their government. They are America’s natural allies.

The fourth building block is China’s own century-long internal discussion of and attempts at democratic reform. The United States would be joining, not starting, a Chinese conversation about Chinese liberty. At first glance this might not seem apparent. Beijing tries to persuade its own people and the West that democracy is a foreign antibody in China. However, as Columbia Sinologist Andrew Nathan has written in his definitive book on Chinese democracy, as the Qing dynasty fell and the Chinese republic was formed in 1912, “all politically aware Chinese agreed that China must be in some sense democratic.” Every Chinese constitution after the imperial fall recognized that the people must be sovereign. The ideological fight in China became a fight over two Western ideologies adapted to Chinese conditions: Marxist Leninism and democracy. While the former won out, the debate continues.

The greatest exemplar of Chinese democracy is the former president of Taiwan, Chiang Ching-Kuo, and his deputy and successor, Lee Teng-hui, who together led one of the most orderly and successful democratic transitions in history. Mainland Chinese are riveted by democratic Taiwan. Mainland Chinese leaders including Sun Yat-sen, Wei Jingsheng, Wu’er Kaixi, Fang Lizhi, Zhao Ziyang, Bao Tong, Ai Weiwei, and Liu Xiaobo have kept the fight alive. Under Deng Xiaoping the PRC promulgated a new constitution in 1982 expanding the rights and duties of the Chinese people. High-level study groups—often the drivers of Chinese reform—made up of officials and scholars have been allowed to discuss the role of an independent judiciary and an independent legislative branch and elections. In short, a strategy of encouraging peaceful evolution would work alongside China’s own efforts at political reform.

Implementing a New U.S.-China Strategy

Building upon the existing democratic elements in China, a new China policy should have three main parts. First, as multiple astute observers have pointed out, getting our China policy right means first getting our Asia policy right. That starts with our regional alliances. The continued primacy of the United States through its alliance system provides the greatest means to deepen the development of an Asian liberal order. Asians simply cannot consolidate their democracies and grow economically if they face growing Chinese political or military pressure. The strengthening of an Asian democratic order could have the most consequential impact on China’s political future, particularly if there is a way into such a system for a liberalizing China.

Second, U.S. policy should focus on enabling Chinese people to communicate with one another, debate their history, practice their faiths, and expand their constitutional and legal reform efforts. What is needed is a policy of meeting lies with truth. This will require counterpropaganda and informational resources including a reformed and expanded broadcasting and communications effort such as Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, efforts to circumvent the Great Firewall, and, perhaps through a new United States Information Agency, a mobilization against the propagation of illiberalism. We face a new battle of ideas in the 21st century on two fronts: the well-known ideological foe of militant Islamism and the less-appreciated challenge of state authoritarianism led by China and Russia. We need to reorganize our government to engage in this battle.

Third, senior-level engagement should be restructured. Washington should continue to engage the Chinese government diplomatically on economic, security, and diplomatic issues of common concern. But just as Chinese leaders can meet with whomever they want in the United States, senior U.S. officials (including the president and the secretary of state) should engage all of China, including reformers in the realms of the economy, religion, the environment, and law.

Specifically, senior American officials should hold regular meetings with Chinese reformers and dissidents, integrate human rights as a top-line priority in the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue, and increase funding for Human Rights and Democracy Fund programs in China. They should devote more rhetorical attention to PRC oppression and freedom activists in China. The United States should lead this effort, but not do it alone. Against Beijing’s “divide and conquer” tactics of splitting the U.S. and EU countries into multiple low-level human rights dialogues, America and like-minded allies such as Australia, Japan, and the EU countries should present a multilateral united front to China on human rights.

Resistance to Something New

The CCP would obviously continue to fight any attempts to support Chinese reformers. Its propaganda machine works overtime to try to convince Chinese people and Western elites that: “the West pushes democracy to keep China down,” “democracy is not for Chinese people, who need order,” “democracy is a form of Western imperial spiritual pollution,” and “a democratic China will be more hostile and dangerous than an autocratic one.” If some of these messages sound familiar to American ears, it is because the CCP has aimed them at American audiences. As a result, some prominent Americans repeat these tropes back home, which can cut off debate about democracy in China. The United States needs to help Chinese democrats expose these lies within China and educate Western elites about the ways the Chinese themselves have been grappling with their democratic future.

In the past the U.S. business community greeted attempts at peaceful evolution with wariness. But today there might be more support from business leaders for adding a freedom prong to our China strategy than is commonly appreciated. After years of losing billions of dollars worth of intellectual property to China’s state-sponsored cyber-theft and piracy, many in the business community have come to see that China’s predatory state poses a threat not only to its own citizens but also to American corporate balance sheets. American businesses are victims of China’s endemic lack of rule of law, transparency, and accountability: All these hurt the commercial environment as much as they prevent political freedom. In short, the CCP’s pathologies are a bundled commodity. A stable business climate in China requires rule of law and transparent regulation and government. And then there is the question of where the next cycles of Chinese growth will come from. The great hope for a massive consumer class in China rests on economic liberalism: the freedom of ordinary Chinese to invest where they want, take their money in and out of the country freely, and compete, through their small businesses, with the Chinese state colossus of crony capitalism.

The main purpose of a new U.S. strategy is to create the conditions for more liberty in Asia and better relations with China as part of an aspirational vision for Asia. But the other reason to support democracy in China is to hedge against the possibility that the Communist party will fail.

Both tracks of the American dual-strategy of engagement and hedging rest on the assumption of internal stability and enduring CCP control in China. Engagement depends on this because it is predicated on working with the CCP as the sole authority in China. Paradoxically, hedging also depends on stable party rule because it is predicated on China’s continuing on its current trajectory as a strong rising power. But what if these assumptions are both flawed? What if China internally is not stable but fragile, not strong but weak?

China is more brittle than many imagine. First, its slowing economic growth is not just a typical cycle but reflects some of the fundamental limitations of China’s state-owned enterprises and low-cost export economic model and the challenges of shifting to a more decentralized domestic-consumption model. Second, China’s massive environmental problems, long painfully evident to visitors to its major cities, are becoming ever more acute and engendering widespread frustrations.

Third, the endemic corruption that pervades Chinese society also undermines confidence in the government and inspires deep resentments among the populace. Xi Jinping’s highly visible anticorruption campaign may seek in part to address these resentments, but it is primarily intended to purge Xi’s rivals and cement his hold on power. Think of Putin’s vendetta against many Russian oligarchs in the early part of his presidency: What may have appeared at the time to be a high-minded effort to suppress corruption turned out in hindsight to have been a craven, cynical, yet effective bid to consolidate his power. But if Xi’s campaign continues, it could also create a political backlash and split the CCP as never before. A party split on top of an existing party crisis of legitimacy portends real trouble for one-party rule.

In short, China’s ruling structures are brittle, costly, and strained by the corrosive effects of corruption, environmental calamities, and lack of popular consent. The fact that China spends more on internal surveillance and policing than on its military only confirms that the CCP’s greatest fear is of its own citizens, not an external rival like the United States. The real threat to Chinese stability comes from possible state collapse or revolution, without a peaceful civil society to step in and help manage the subsequent vacuum.

Adding a freedom prong to the engage and hedge strategy is the most prudent course for dealing with this possibility. It helps answer the question “Then what?” If, through whatever course of events, the CCP were to lose its monopoly on power, what political authorities would emerge to take its place? Right now the CCP is successfully repressing all vestiges of civil society; Burke’s “little platoons” of civic organizations and religious groups that mediate between the individual and the state are nowhere to be found. This does not mean that China’s collapse is imminent. The CCP is resilient and acutely aware of the demise of past authoritarian regimes such as the Soviet Union. That said, when have we ever correctly predicted a massive political change in a major country?

Those who fear change in China fear—with justification—an Arab Spring scenario from which something much worse than the current leadership would emerge. But American policy does little to mitigate this scenario. A freedom prong would cultivate and support alternatives in anticipation of the day when the CCP as currently constituted might no longer be in control.

How might a greater American effort to support freedom in China affect the overall U.S.-China relationship? Probably less than one might think in the short term, and certainly less than the profound disruption some China experts fear. Beijing can always be counted on to act in its own perceived interest, and the CCP still prioritizes a stable bilateral relationship with the United States. Increased U.S. support for human rights and rule of law programs, and more meetings with dissidents, would doubtless provoke some annoyed démarches from Beijing and the usual grumblings about “meddling in China’s internal affairs,” but little more. The CCP is nothing if not ruthlessly pragmatic. It might note the continued existence of the KMT in Taiwanese politics and prepare itself to compete in real elections.

A new China strategy with a freedom prong is a high-risk and high-reward proposition. Before President Obama, all post-Cold War U.S. presidents favored encouraging China’s peaceful evolution. Their mistake was a misreading of past Asian transitions to democracy, which they believed were inevitable. They were not. Instead, American presidents mixed sound political judgment with carrot and stick policies that sometimes risked far worse outcomes. But the reward for their successes is self-evident in our vibrant alliances today with Asian democracies. With China, the United States may be reaching an inflection point. Our present path is likely to lead to a high-risk, volatile rivalry with an increasingly unstable regime. The alternative path holds out the hope of leading gradually to Sino-American comity and an enduring peace. It begins with supporting those Chinese people who seek more freedom and a better future for their country.

Dan Blumenthal is the director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. William Inboden is executive director of the Clements Center for History, Strategy, and Statecraft and associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985