TOPIC: Bush Visit to Church in China Little More than "Shadow Boxing"

SOURCE: Dennis McCann, professor of Bible and Religion and Chair, Religious Studies at Agnes Scott College and current Fulbright Scholar in Hong Kong. McCann has extensive academic experience in Hong Kong, China and other countries in east Asia. In 1998 he was the Au Yeung King Fong University Fellow at the Centre for Applied Ethics at Hong Kong Baptist University, where he did research on Asian business ethics within the framework of comparative religious ethics. He maintains an ongoing relationship with the university where he is an "Affiliated Fellow."

"President Bush's gesture of going to church is hardly the kind of solidarity he may have intended," says Dennis McCann, professor of Bible and Religion and Chair, Religious Studies at Agnes Scott College (near Atlanta) and a current Fulbright Scholar in Hong Kong. "The church he attended on Sunday, as well as the others that are legal in China are part of the legally regulated 'Three Self Church' that is recognized and rarely interfered with even by local officials, and whose freedom is 'guaranteed' by the PRC Constitution (1982), subject only to concerns for national security. The clergy actively cooperate with the government since they are paid civil servants. The churches that are sporadically persecuted are the so-called 'underground' churches or house churches that for one reason or another refuse to submit to government regulation."

According to McCann, "the government among other things (as with the economy) wants to 'pick the winners' and that carries over to religious access. This is to make sure the leadership is in synch with the Communist Party's basic line at the moment, which is currently about national development and modernization. The illegal religious groups, regardless of their denominational brand, get into trouble not necessarily because they are religious, but because the government of China seeks to regulate/infiltrate almost any group that operates or seeks to operate outside the state apparatus. The real issue in China is freedom of association."

"The texture of Chinese civilization is changing, and the changes may be regarded not as forms of resistance to modernization/globalization but as symptomatic of it. If my hypothesis is true, then I'd predict that Chinese Christians are more likely to be more successful with modernization pressures, more adaptable to an urban environment, and more likely to be professional and international in their outlook on the world—this clearly seems to be the case with Hong Kong and Taiwan."

"The fact that President Bush's attended church on Sunday during his trip to Beijing is little more than a photo op " it's about as meaningful as his now famous photo op on the aircraft carrier declaring 'Mission Accomplished.'"

McCann can be reached by cell phone for interviews on: (Please note approximately 12 hour difference in time).

"¢ President Bush's visit to China"¢ Religious "freedom" in China"¢ China's unprecedented experiment in modernization and globalization and its resulting impact on Chinese culture"¢ Christian business and economic ethics in China