China, an officially atheist country that is converting into Christianity at breakneck speed, is bound to become the world's largest Christian country with about 250 million faithful by 2030, save for one group-the Orthodox Christians. Yang Fenggang of Purdue University said that since the 1980s, the Chinese Christian community has been growing by an average of 10 percent per year.
A Pew Research pegged their number at 67 million or roughly about five percent of the total population in mainland China in 2011. Unless something short of a miracle happens, however, the Orthodox Christian community-the supposedly prevailing Christian group because of its geographical and historical traces in China-will not see a rise in number. Present estimates suggest they are less than 0.1% of the population and will remain within their current number in the foreseeable future.
Since the Communist Party of China (CPC) came to power, religions with western flavors have been tolerated but legally banned from the land. This is not the case with the Orthodox Christian church. According to an article published on The Economist, Orthodox Christianity has legal claims in China because it has historical roots in the land tracing as far back as the 17th century. In northern China, two communities have been practicing the Orthodox faith for the last three centuries: the Albazinians who are of Russian descent and the Evenks who live near the Siberian border.
The religion has since travelled to Harbin and Shanghai and has all but completely died during the communist takeover. At present, they are only numbering to about 15,000 Orthodox Christians who are largely untethered by priests and church leaders. Meanwhile, the Christian communities are swelling in mostly underground or "house" churches. Majority of Chinese Christians are forced to go underground because there are very few state-sanctioned places of worship in the country. The CCP cadres are wary of the growing popularity of the Christian doctrine, which they fear would overtake that of the ruling party's.
This has come to the fore during the recent persecution of Chinese Christian communities in places like Wenzhou, also known as the Jerusalem of the East, where a massive crackdown against Christians have been raging on since April this year.
- 2010 On 11 April, St. Thomas Sunday, Fr. Michael Wang Quansheng, who lives in retirement in Shanghai, celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Protecting Veil in Harbin for the Orthodox community, with the permission of the state authorities; during the XI session of the intergovernmental Russian-Chinese committee on humanitarian cooperation in St. Petersburg, Russian Prime Minister V. Putin gave Premier Wen Jiabao of the People's Republic of China the gift album "Orthodoxy in China", dedicated to 325th anniversary of the Orthodox presence in China.
- 2011 Abp. Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk, head of the DECR, stated that China has up to 15,000 Orthodox believers who live in Beijing, Shanghai, Heilongjiang Province, and the autonomous districts Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, however the Chinese Orthodox Church has only two Chinese priests aged over 80.
- 2013 Patr. Kirill of Moscow and All Russia conducted an official visit to China from May 10 to 15, 2013, the first visit in history of a Primate of the Russian Church to China, by invitation of the country’s secular leadership; in Moscow, Patr. Kirill of Moscow and All Russia met with a delegation of monks from the Shaolin Monastery in China, headed by the vice president of the Chinese Buddhist Association Shi Yongxin, after first meeting Shi Yongxin on a visit to China in May.