China Boycotts Christmas

It’s Christmas and something strange is happening in China. Many local authorities, like those at Langfang, Hebei, have issued bans prohibiting shops and vendors from displaying Christmas decorations.

That’s not all. Many educational institutions from Chinese universities to primary and secondary schools even prohibit students from discussing Christmas-related content on social media. This may be shocking to many foreigners, but Chinese scholars believe that the local authorities’ boycott of Christmas is not surprising. That’s because China has recently tightened its control on churches and banned online stores from selling bibles – all without concrete directives from the top. Earlier in 2020, government officials at Anhui Province had closed down 99 Christian churches. It is likely that local governments have second-guessed the central governments’ intentions and acted preemptively to avoid undesirable political consequences.

安徽校長演講稱聖誕是中國人恥辱縣委微博讚「抵制洋節」 (17:44) - 20181226 - 兩岸- 即時新聞- 明報新聞網

In a document entitled 《关于做好圣诞节期间执法监管工作的通知》”Notice on Effective Law Enforcement and Supervision during the Christmas Period”, the Urban Management Bureau of Langfang City, Hebei Province required law enforcement officers to completely ban Christmas trees, Santa Claus and other items placed along the street. All Christmas-related items like window stickers, cloth banners and light boxes had to be removed.

The document also required law enforcement officers to be fully deployed from December 23 to December 25 to ensure that parks and public spaces are not being misused for the religious propaganda. When contacted by foreign media, local authorities declined comment, but many Langfang merchants candidly confirmed that the Christmas ban is real.

Hebei Province is not alone. Similar orders have been received at grassroots level in Bazhou, Hebei, and Cenxi in Guizhou and Wuzhou in Guangxi. On Chinese social media, many young netizens complained that their schools not only prohibits Christmas celebrations but also disallows the sharing of Christmas greetings in the form of text and pictures on social media. Below is a school directive issued by Huang Wei Central School authorities at Xixian County, Anhui Province.


According to an official report in Si County, Anhui Province, a local elementary school conducted a campaign with the theme of “Boycotting the Foreign Festivals Begins With Me” “抵制洋节,从我做起” on Christmas Eve. Among them, the principal gave a speech entitled “Christmas is a shame to the Chinese”, saying that it was the Western holidays that “brought great shame to China.”

多个城市党政部门发通告中国禁过“洋节” 圣诞狂欢要问责

The ban on Christmas has triggered a polarized reaction from netizens on Chinese social media. Some netizens said that Christmas is a religious holiday celebration and China being proudly Chinese, it is “reasonable” to prevent it from entering campuses.

Another netizen pointed out that during the last Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), the Empire State Building in New York lit up with red lights. Many foreigners were celebrating Spring Festival. Why can’t the Chinese celebrate Christmas and demonstrate some confidence in their own culture?

Some netizens even joked that “Sunday is a day of worship to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Therefore, to resist religious influence, please start working overtime on Sunday.” It’s a good argument, albeit based on some inaccuracy. Sunday is God’s day of rest.

Interestingly, Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Chinese state media “Global Times”, said that he had never heard of an official directive to “boycott” Christmas in more than a decade. He also posted a photo of a Christmas tree in the cafeteria at the headquarters of the People’s Daily.

北大一景:抵制洋节是文化自卑- 新高地New Highland Vision
Boycotting Western festivals is a sign of inferiority complex

Before that, an article entitled “Goodbye Foreign Festival, the country finally takes action”《洋节,再见!国家终于出手!》was widely circulated in WeChat Moments. The article stated that the State Council had in fact issued a statement entitled “Opinion on the propagation and promotion of supreme Chinese culture and traditions”《关于实施中华优秀传统文化传承发展工程的意见》, which advocated the complete ban on “foreign festivals.”

Ding Xueliang, a Chinese sociologist and distinguished professor at Shenzhen University, told BBC Chinese that many young people only regard Christmas as an opportunity for celebration and not a religious obligation. Therefore, there is no conflict between Christmas and traditional Chinese festivals. He believes that the reason why some young people seem to be more enthusiastic about “foreign festivals” is that China’s rapid development has led to the disappearance of the socio-economic factors that support traditional Chinese festivals.

“It is difficult for young people now to understand the traditional Chinese festivals based on agricultural societies.” said Ding Xueliang. Again, this professor failed to grasp the fact that Christmas is based on a society no more advanced than ancient China.

China’s wariness over religious activities is not new. In December 2017, Hunan Hengyang issued a strongly worded notice requiring the city’s party members, cadres and relatives not to blindly observe the “Foreign Festivals” or “participate in any religious activities with a Western background.” The prerequisite for joining the Communist Party of China is to believe in communism and not have any other religious beliefs.

Independent scholar Deng Yuwen pointed out that the authorities have been tightening control of religions such as Christianity in recent times. It is thus not surprising that Christmas, being seen as a religious holiday, is under official scrutiny. In order not to appear overbearing, the central government would not issue any official ban. The latest moves by the local authorities may not have been ordered from the top, but these moves would certainly please the central government more than they would irk them. Diplomatic relationship between China and the vatican notwithstanding, the Chinese authorities’ suppression of religion has not stopped. In early December 2020, more than 100 members of the Qiuyu Covenant Christian Church in Chengdu, Sichuan, were summoned and arrested by the police. The pastor of the church, Wang Yi and many church members had become uncontactable in police custody.

Vanessa 姗on Twitter: "确实,官二代富二代在欧美过圣诞, 草民们在国内抵制圣诞🙈… "

The New York Times previously reported that after Xi Jinping came to power, crosses on 1,200 to 1,700 churches were demolished in Zhejiang Province alone. In March 2020, China also banned the sale of the Bible on online retail platforms. As this wave sweeps over China, local authorities took the initiative to act in ways that would please the master.

In the current tense political climate, many officeholders are afraid of not reading the mind of the boss correctly. There were instances of preachers and evangelists using festivals and holidays to recruit new members. This has made the party nervous. Hopefully, Valentine’s Day would be recognised as what it actually is and not get banned in the name of protecting supreme Chinese culture and traditions.

Patriot Or Traitor


Written by historian and journalist 梁启超, one of the leaders in the 百日维新 Hundred Days’ Reform Movement who saw the transformation of imperial China into a republic, the text from this 2016 book was published in its original 文言文 or literary form, making it a challenge to read. Perhaps that’s why it was not banned in China.

Taking over from the legendary Zeng Guofan, Governor 李鸿志 Li Hongzhi (15 February 1823 – 7 November 1901) was probably one of the greatest diplomats that China ever had. In the eyes of the conservatives during his time, however, he was more than a little controversial. His success in suppressing the Taiping Revolution can be attributed to the 淮军 or Huai Army which was under his command during his time.

What made Li’s Huai army so effective? It broke all traditions. Li Hong Zhi completely reformed the old system of training and military strategies. It was an army which could have protected China from foreign invasion if only the systemic problems in its governance could be tackled simultaneously. Sadly, that was not the case.

As big fan of Western technology, Governor Li’s Huai Army was trained by German trainers and armed with German weapons. Compared to traditional Chinese soldiers, they were much more disciplined and effective on the battlefield. For his efforts in saving the empire from the Taiping rebels, he was awarded the 双龙宝星 Order of the Double Dragon which he proudly wore whenever he posed for portraits.

Orde van de Dubbele Draak 2e Klasse1e Graad rond 1900.jpg

Unfortunately, not long after the Taiping battles were won and a few other minor rebellions put down, Governor Li was relieved of his command of the Huai Army.

Without Li at the helm, arrogant Chinese commanders refused to be trained under German instructors. While most of the men were still good fighters, the commanders were incompetent and corrupt, often misappropriating military funds for personal use. As a result, China was thrashed by the Japanese during the First Sino-Japanese War (25 July 1894 – 17 April 1895). Unlike the Chinese commanders, Japanese commanders trained with the men and were equally disciplined. Li was demoted in the aftermath of China’s defeat.

Li was further sidelined for not bargaining hard enough during the negotiation of the peace treaty with Japan. The final blow to his reputation came when the Boxer Rebellion (who were originally enemies with the Manchus) took an ugly twist. The anti-West Boxers received support from the government which was feeling more and more insecure as Western values began to undermine their absolute authority. Defying the imperial edict, Governor Li forbade southern provinces under his jurisdiction from destroying churches and provision shops selling Western goods. While Christians elsewhere were slaughtered, Governor Li offered them protection. He even secretly negotiated with foreign powers that made up the 8-nation Alliance to leave provinces that safeguarded their interests alone, saving millions of Chinese people from the ravages of the 8-nation Alliance.

Until today, Li’s actions and attitudes are still being debated. Many shallow patriots have conveniently labelled him as a traitor, probably because he did not always treat foreign powers as enemies. He even protected their interests and adopted their methods, thus insulting 5,000 years of greatness. Only a minority regard his as hero for all the lives that he had saved.

This mentality has carried on till this day. During the Beijing Olympics, many Tibetan exiles hit the streets in Western countries calling for a boycott. Many of them ended up being assaulted by Chinese nationals residing overseas. However, there were a few individuals who tried to persuade their compatriots not to resort to violence. Unsurprisingly, they were instantly labelled traitors and their homes in China were splashed with excrement.

The Red Guards haven’t really died out. Getting on the wrong side of these guys still isn’t very good for your health.

Lu Xun A Communist?

Credit: Bettmann Archive/Bettmann

The Treaty of Versailles was about to be signed in June 1919, officially ending World War 1. In East Asia, Germany would surrender and withdraw from Shandong and return it to Japan. It pays to note that initially, the Allies had wanted Germany to return Shandong to China. It was only after 13 demands from Japan (reduced from 21 made in 1915) that both the Yuan Shikai government and the Allies reluctantly agreed that Shandong should go to Japan.

This sparked a massive protest at Tiananmen Square on 4 May 1919. Following these protests, the Chinese ambassador to France, Wellington Koo, stated that China could no more relinquish Shandong, which was the birthplace of Confucius, the greatest Chinese philosopher, than could Christians concede Jerusalem. Koo’s only supporter was US president Woodrow Wilson. It was the persistence of the US that finally got Shandong returned to China – something which is seldom acknowledged in China today.

Woodrow Wilson | Biography, Presidency, & Accomplishments | Britannica
Potus Woodrow Wilson

The majority of the protesters at the May Fourth Movement who accused the Tong Meng Hui government of selling out China, were unknown students. However, one man stood out from the crowd. He was a famous writer, a pioneer in modern Chinese literature. He was the then 40-year-old Zhou Shu Ren, alias Lu Xun 鲁迅.

Lu Xun was a master of the short story. He wrote many satirical pieces mocking the stupidity, inflexibility and cruelty of those who were totally reliant on their ancestors for guidance and wisdom without any regard for changing challenges and circumstances. Apart from the return of Shandong, Lu Xun also called for the modernisation of China, espousing that backward, outdated traditions ought to be abolished.

Curiously, many years ago when I was still in university, I came across a book about Lu Xun which described him as a communist. There are a few clues which might lead to this flawed conclusion. First of all, Lu Xun demonstrated against a pre-communist government. But those in charge then were Yuan Shi Kai and the Tong Meng Hui which had purportedly sold out China. The KMT was not formed until October 1919 and many of its members came from the May Fourth Movement. Next, perhaps the most important reason, Lu Xun’s biggest and most prominent fan was none other than Chairman Mao Zedong.

Reading Notes On The Soviet Text Political Economy

Mao unleashed the Cultural Revolution in 1966 to take revenge against those who disgraced him for the disastrous Great Leap Forward in the aftermath of the Great Famine. Based on Lu Xun’s calls for reformation, he mobilised Red Guards to demolish the Four Olds: Old Ideas, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Customs 破四旧:旧思想、旧文化、旧风俗、旧习惯. The results were devastating and any reasoning person could see that Lu Xun would never have approved of any of the atrocities during this period of mayhem which lasted nearly a decade.

Interestingly, when Mao was asked what would have happened to Lu Xun if he had lived to see the communist era, Mao replied matter-of-factly that he would either have to stop writing or go to jail.