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As the Chinese coronavirus distracts the world, the Chinese Communist Party has ratcheted up its crackdown on religious freedom, and sources say President Xi Jinping is working on rewriting the Bible itself to “create a new version of Christianity shorn of its transcendent visions and values.”

Xi Lian, a professor at Duke University Divinity School, told The Wall Street Journal‘s Matthew Taylor King that Beijing doesn’t just want to repress religion — the Chinese Communist Party wants to transform it.

Lian said Beijing wants to “drain Christianity of its spirit.” China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported last year that Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Yang had presided over a meeting of so-called scholars and “religious people from the grassroots level” to discuss “making accurate and authoritative interpretations of classical doctrines to keep pace with the times.”

The Chinese Communist Party sees Christianity, which is likely China’s largest-growing religion, as a unique threat, Lian insisted. He mentioned three key reasons: Christianity’s international connection to believers inside and outside of China; Christianity’s congregational strength — “You have this ability to mobilize a stable, reliable community;” and the faith’s “transcendent vision, transcendent values,” which form a “moral and ideological rivalry” to communism.

Lian argued that Chinese people largely see the party’s Marxist-Leninist foundation as a spent force.

Xi has long insisted that religion should be “Chinese in orientation.” China is notorious for cracking down on Uyghur Muslims in the northern province of Xinjiang, but it also heavily restricts religious freedom for a wide range of beliefs, including Tibetan Buddhists.

According to sociologist Rodney Stark and co-author Xiuhua Wang in A Star in the East: The Rise of Christianity in China, there has been a 7 percent increase in Christians every year in China.

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