Despite the ongoing careful control of “authorized” churches and the suppression of all others by the Chinese government, data collected by Tea Leaf Nation, a magazine run by researchers studying China's social media trends, provides a tantalizing window into what is happening in China today.
The data shows that Jesus and Christianity are far more popular subjects on Weibo than Chairman Mao and Communism. A search for 'Bible' on Weibo produced over 17 million results, whereas a search for the Quotations of Chairman Mao yielded only 60,000 results.
Another telling comparison: the words “'Christian Congregation” brought some 41.8 million results on Weibo, but “Communist Party” got only 5.3 million results.
As Trimmer explains in his article, “Despite being an outwardly atheistic country, 'God' received over 165 million Weibo mentions, more than 18 times the searches for 'Mao Zedong'.” These statistics are incredible of themselves, although we may wonder if the Weibo searches give an accurate portrayal of the Chinese population – Weibo is used mainly by a younger and more progressive demographic. This in itself is grounds for hope, as Weibo users do not include most of the elderly, and many of those who are turning to Christianity are elderly. You can read the full article online in Christian Today here.
While official Chinese estimates put the number of Christians in China at around 25 million, those with knowledge of the extensive underground church situation feel that the actual number is probably somewhere between 60 to 100 million. Nevertheless, China is regarded as one of the most dangerous countries for Christians by all watch groups. Persecution is common and often severe. Historically, we know that this will only further the growth of Christianity in China, but there are other difficulties. Religious cults and coercive groups are thriving in an atmosphere which lacks open distribution of knowledge, and many underground Christians have little guidance.
With present growth it is expected that in fifteen years China will have more Christians than any other nation in the world. However, the present realities of Christian life in China mean that our brothers and sisters there deserve and need our continued prayer and support.