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Chinese Authorities Weren't Feeling the Christmas Spirit This Year

College students in Hunan province held anti-Christmas pageant. Image from Sina Weibo.

College students in Hunan province held anti-Christmas pageant. Image from Sina Weibo.

The Christmas atmosphere this year in China was less than joyful, as online voices challenged local authorities who publicly boycotted and banned the Western festival.

Last Wednesday, university students in the central province of Hunan, where People's Republic of China founding father Mao Zedong was from, held an anti-Christmas pageant with banners declaring that “Chinese should not celebrate foreign festivals.” Some students later complained online that they actually were forced by the university authorities to wear traditional Chinese costumes and to display anti-Christmas banners. Education officials in the coastal city of Wenzhou issued a decree banning the celebration of Christmas-themed events at schools.

Students at a different university in northwestern China were forced to endure three hours of propaganda films, including one glorifying philosopher Confucius, as local media reported. Faculty members literally stood outside classrooms, making sure no one tried to sneak off to partake in illicit Christmas cheer.

“Be good Chinese boys and girls, and oppose adulation of foreign festivals,” read one banner strung across the campus of Modern College of Northwest University in Xi’an, home to the famed Terracotta Warriors.

Although controversies against increasingly popular western festivals have emerged from time to time, this surge of anti-Santa activities suggests that the Communist Party is continuing its campaign against Western values.

Christians in Wenzhou, a prosperous city with rapidly growing number of Christians in Zhejiang Province, have suffered regular crackdowns on church buildings. The policy statement issued by the local government suggests the campaign is actually aimed at regulating “overly popular” religious activities.

Christmas, nonetheless, has become big business in China, with retailers enjoying increasing sales in late December. Even if the holiday is largely devoid of its religious connotations, gift-giving among young Chinese is popular. For many young Chinese, Christmas is simply a lighthearted diversion that has little to do with religious faith.

But hard-line traditionalists and Communist doctrinaires say the growing prevalence of Christmas has been manipulated by outside forces to subvert the Party’s ruling and traditional Chinese culture.

News portal site Sina highlighted the story of a speech by the head of China’s State Bureau of Religious Affairs, who visited two churches in Beijing before Christmas and told the religious personnel that they should make sure that the content of Christianity is consistent with socialist core values as well as resist the infiltrative activities of outside forces through Christianity.

Celebrities with a Christian background have become the target of state media attacks. For example, military newspaper People Liberation Army Daily accused popular Christian actor Sun Haiying on its Twitter-like Weibo account of slandering Party founders like Mao Zedong and asked, “Can a Christian play the role of an excellent Communist?” Newspaper Global Times labelled Sun as “the third weapon” of disseminating American political ideas and values in the cloak of Christianity to topple China, following weapons of universal values and constitutionalism.

The anti-Christmas and anti-Christianity activities were quickly met with a wave of refutations and scorn on Weibo, including from some popular commentators and intellectuals.

Popular writer “Fat man Tian You” criticized that the anti-Christmas activities were essentially a politically ideological campaign aiming to continue brainwashing students:

年轻人过圣诞节都要管,仅仅是大学奇葩?不,这是政治意味颇浓的反潮流行动。其实,他们抵制的不是圣诞节,而是为了反西方思潮。因为一旦是“平等博爱”的基督教思想深入学生的灵魂,他们那套洗脑术就失去了效力,而学生一旦有独立思想,学生就不再是任他们指挥的工具,于是,他们的特权就会失去。

Is forbidding young people from enjoying Christmas just a weird university regulation? No, it’s the political movement against the trend. Actually what they want to boycott is not Christmas, but Western thinking. Because once the Christian thoughts of equality and fraternity are accepted by university students, the conservative power's brainwashing will lose its effect. Once the students have independent ideas, they will not be tools manipulated by conservative power. Then the conservative power will lose their privileges.

Zhao Xiao, a popular economist and a Christian, raised concerns over the material culture surrounding Christmas and spoke highly of missionaries disseminating modern civilization to China:

其实更应该探讨的是圣诞节该怎么过的问题。所有传统的节日其实都有一定的宗教性,而现在这些节日已经越来越物质化商业化,以致脱离了节日本身神圣的含义。但不管怎样,希望圣诞带给人们的不是狂欢,而是平安。

What should be more discussed is how Christmas should be spent. All of the traditional festivals have some meanings of religion. Now these festivals have become so materialistic and commercial that they stray far from their original holy meanings.

He further explained the history of Christianity in China:

基督教传入中国正值西方殖民主义扩张时期,从而和殖民主义、帝国主义的关系于「斩不断、理还乱」之中。总体来看,绝大多数传教士是抱着为了信仰而来中国的。公道地讲,正是这群“境外势力”因着对上帝的爱,对中国人的爱,不断地“渗透”,最终为中国带来了现代文明。

Christianity was introduced into China when Western colonialism expanded, so it has been connected with colonialism and imperialism. Overall, most of the missionaries came to China with beliefs. To be fair, it’s this group of ‘outside forces’ who have constantly penetrated into China for the love of God and of China that eventually brought modern civilization to China.

Lei Yi, a famous historian with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, mocked the anti-Western camp:

还真有些人不知道“星期天”原来是“礼拜天”。这根本不是中国传统,应坚决抵制,天天上班上课,对吧?呵呵。有兴趣者可写论文:从星期天的实行看西方文化对中国传统的侵入、殖民文化……

Some people even don’t know that ‘Sunday’ is originally ‘the day to go to church’. Let’s resist it because it’s not a Chinese tradition. We should go to work and school everyday, right? Some people interested in this could write a thesis: A study on the encroachment of Western culture and colonial culture: How the custom of ‘Sunday’ was introduced to China.

Zhang Ming, a well-known politician at Renmin University, questioned that authorities don't seem worried about some corrupt officials who could bring down China, and instead targeted an actor as a potential enemy:

扳倒中国的武器,不是周永康,也不是徐才厚,更不是令计划,却是一个演员孙海燕?他演的激情燃烧的岁月,不是主旋律吗?写了几条微博,就把中国扳倒了?你是在污蔑中国是弱不禁风的林黛玉?

Is it an actor who could be the weapon that topples China, and not [former security tsar] Zhou Yongkang, [former vice president of Liberation Army] Xu Caihou, or [aid to former General Secretary Hu Jingtao] Ling Jihua? Isn't the TV drama “The Passionate Times” in which he acted in line with the ideology of the current socialist regime? Could he bring down China just by posting some microblogs? Do you smear the Chinese government as too weak?

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  • real name

    at least one brave with jeans and sports shoes

  • tocharian

    I don’t understand why so many Chinese students, such as Guagua Bo and Mingze Xiwant would prefer to study in the US at mediocre reactionary colonial Universities like Harvard and Stanford. China Agricultural University and even Minzu University are much better places to learn about the superior Han culture and the Revolutionary Spirit of Lei Feng.
    May the Hukuo-Proletariat rise!

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