China and Religious Freedom
Jude Wanniski
May 29, 1997


Memo: To Rep. John Kasich
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: China/MFN

I'm sorry to see you have decided to vote against MFN for China. Your comments on "Fox Sunday Morning" (May 25) with Tony Snow and Brit Hume were quite extraordinary, indicating to me that you allowed yourself to be bulldozed by cheap propaganda from the China-bashers. At the conclusion of the show, when you were asked if you were going to run for President in 2000, you did an aw shucks. Seriously, though, you can forget ever getting to the Oval Office, John, if this is how you make up your mind on matters of central importance to the nation's and the world's peace and prosperity. I'm not saying there is no position you could take in a vote against MFN, only that the stuff you babbled, about Chinese atrocities against the Catholic Church, are completely off the wall. At another point in the show, on another subject, you said you "don't pick fights." There is no reason to be picking a fight here either. As a Catholic myself, I've gone to some trouble to find out what the situation is in China today, and find no reason to get hysterical. Following is an op-ed I've written on the subject for the Journal of Commerce. As you can see, I have been talking directly to the Chinese government. I can see exactly where it is and what it will take to make progress in this area of religious freedom.

China and the Holy See
By Jude Wanniski

At a lunch recently with Li Daoyu, China's ambassador to the United States, I made the argument that the United States and China will never be able to have a "normal relationship" until Beijing comes to terms with Christianity. This is because the Christian Coalition and the Catholic Conference will remain a constant source of political friction over "human rights" issues, in weighing against a Most Favored Nation trade relationship.

This does not mean the Christian community can block MFN this year or next, but that it will almost certainly be able to prevent a permanence to MFN and maintain continued agitation against Beijing. Mr. Li, who learned his good English at a Baptist mission while growing up in the Shanghai of the 1930s, was not surprised or even unsympathetic to my analysis.

Religious "belief1 is guaranteed in the Chinese constitution, and a government information pamphlet on "Human Rights in China" insists that the state also "protects normal religious activities and the lawful rights and interests of the religious circles." But "The Constitution makes it clear that no one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of other citizens or interfere with the state's educational system."

Ambassador Li does make the valid point that a normal relationship with the Catholic community is hardly possible as long as the Vatican recognizes the Republic of China on Taiwan as the legal representative of the people of China.

The point is one rarely found in U.S. media reports, as we ponder renewal of MFN and also observe the transfer of sovereignty in Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China. In fact, of the 29 countries of the world that recognize Taiwan, and not the PRC, almost all can be considered "Catholic" countries that clearly follow the lead of the Holy See.

In hearing of the persecution of Catholic priests in China, we can more easily understand, from Beijing's viewpoint, that the underground priests are not restrained from providing the sacraments, but from registering with the state. "Registration" means an explicit disavowal of the Vatican, and of course the Pope.

For his part, Pope John Paul II does not recognize as legitimate the so-called "Patriotic" Catholic church established in 1957. In the spirit of reconciliation, which he has also shown to the governments in Havana and Tripoli, the Pope has let it be known, though, that the sacraments received by Catholics in the Patriotic church are valid. China also permits clergy of all kinds to study abroad.

Ambassador Li also insists that there are no restrictions on worship among Protestants, as long as they observe the rules against religious assemblies that become involved in issues the state considers political abortion, for example. Even there, Mr. Li says the state does not promote "forced abortions," although families that have more than one child in the cities or two in the rural areas must pay a tax, which of course invites abortion.

What is it that is holding up diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Beijing? As far as I can tell, there are divided opinions in the state bureaucracies of both. While freedoms of expression and worship have palpably grown since Deng Xiaoping put China on the capitalist road in 1978, there remain deep suspicions in Beijing about the Pope's political agenda.

The experience, after all, goes back to the 1940s, when the Vatican openly aligned itself with Chiang Kai-shek in the civil war between Kuomintang and Communists. My argument with the Ambassador is that the church of Rome had been politicized during the two world wars. Even here, there were warnings in 1960 against the presidential candidacy of John F. Kennedy, on the grounds that if he were elected, he would be controlled by the Pope.

In any event, Pope John Paul and the Vatican II council of 1963-64 essentially depoliticized the Holy See and put it on a course of global ecumenical faith and reconciliation. How else could we be seeing John Paul II reaching out to Fidel Castro and Mu'ammar Khadafy?

If there is to be complete normalization of western relations with China, with an end to threats against Beijing's sovereignty over provincial Taiwan, there has to be a way of rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and to God that which is God's.

There is surely a way to bridge this gap, if enough good faith can be found. My guess, which I shared with the Ambassador, is that once this bridge to diplomatic relations is crossed, the Vatican's presence in Beijing will not subtract, but add greatly to smoother relations with the west on every other level. There are now, by some estimates, 20 million Christians in a nation of
1.2 billion, or one in 60, and an equal number of Muslims. With their foot in the door, evangelical Christians will have every interest in staying out of the political realm in order to reap a great harvest of souls.