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How Many Christians are there in China?

Comments on Past Surveys 

1920 – The China Continuation Committee’s 2.3 million

 

Between 1918 and 1920 an exercise took place that was described as “a general survey of the numerical strength and geographical distribution of the Christian forces in China.” This huge undertaking, assisted by more than 150 Protestant missionary organizations under the auspices of the China Continuation Committee, mapped the progress of the church in China. It culminated in the publishing in 1922 of a large book titled The Christian Occupation of China. Without doubt, this remains the most comprehensive and accurate survey of Christians in China in history.

In 1920, the China Continuation Committee published a figure of 366,524 Protestant believers, which represented a 330-percent increase since 1900. The number of believers had risen dramatically over the preceding three decades, as the following graph shows:

PROTESTANTS IN CHINA (1807 – 1920)

 

In addition, the China Continuation Committee reported a figure of 1,971,189 Catholics in China in 1920, plus 5,587 Russian Orthodox Christians. Overall, this exhaustive survey counted a grand total of 2,343,300 Christians of all descriptions in China in 1920.

The chaos and civil war that ravaged the country in the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s made accurate research impossible, and no further comprehensive statistics on the church in China were published before the Communists too control in 1949. There was, therefore, a huge gap of some 70 tumultuous years before the next detailed account on the size of the Chinese church emerged.

 

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View a map showing the distribution of Christians in China

(courtesy of Global Mapping International)