Plans Underway for China's First Private Christian University

March 21, 2005

Government officials in central China have backed the plans of the U.S.-based International Council for Education Development (ICED) to open China’s first privately run university with an openly stated Christian mission.

The Chinese government regularly insists that religion must be separated from education, and is currently running a national campaign to promote atheism. While the 2002 Law on the Promotion of Privately-Run Schools mandates the separation of education from religion in Chinese-run schools, ICED lawyers note that July 2004 Ministry of Education Regulations on Sino-foreign Jointly Run Schools do not include such restrictions. In a break from earlier national regulations, the new Religious Affairs Regulations that became effective March 1 explicitly discuss guidelines for establishing religious schools. Whether or not the Chinese government will actually loosen its tight restrictions on religious education remains unclear, however. Xinjiang’s Communist Party General Secretary recently called on "schools of all types and all levels…to intensify education in dialectical materialism, historical materialism, and atheism" in a January 2005 article in the national Communist Party’s main theoretical journal.

China’s Ministry of Education has encouraged the expansion of private schools over the past decade. More than 1.5 million students, or 40 percent of all students, attend private higher education institutions, according to official Chinese sources. Facing increasing financial pressures, the Chinese government has recently encouraged private institutions to provide social services previously controlled by the state, including schools and hospitals.