will construct a "Chinese Christian theology" suitable for the country,
state media reported on Thursday, as both the number of believers and
tensions with the authorities are on the rise.
China has between 23 million and 40 million Protestants, accounting
for 1.7 to 2.9 per cent of the total population, the state-run China Daily said, citing figures given at a seminar in Shanghai.
About 500,000 people are baptised as Protestants every year, it added.
"Over the past decades, the Protestant churches in China have
developed very quickly with the implementation of the country's
religious policy," the paper quoted Wang Zuoan, director of the State
Administration for Religious Affairs, as saying.
"The construction of Chinese Christian theology should adapt to China's national condition and integrate with Chinese culture."
China's ruling Communist Party is officially atheistic and keeps a
tight grip on religion for fear it could challenge its grip on power. It
requires believers to worship in places approved by the state and under
Besides officially sanctioned churches, China also has "underground"
or "house" churches which seek to exist outside government control and
are occasionally raided and shut down.
In April, authorities in the eastern Chinese city of Wenzhou, known
as China's Jerusalem, with more than a million Christians, demolished a
church following government claims it was an illegal structure.
Though a registered church, state media reported that the building was far larger than originally approved.
"Over the past years, China's Protestantism has become one of the
fastest growing universal churches," Gao Feng, president of the China
Christian Council, was quoted as saying in the China Daily report.
It did not include a number for Catholics in China, who must also
worship only in officially sanctioned churches which reject the
Vatican's authority, though an "underground" church loyal to the Holy
See also exists.
Experts estimate that there are as many as 12 million Catholics in China, split roughly evenly between the two churches.
As of the end of last year, China had published 65 million copies of
the Bible, the report said, including minority-language editions.