As a Communist-ruled country, China has seen surprising growth in its religious population, especially amongst those of the Protestant Christian faith. The Chinese government reports approximately 200 million religious citizens with 38 million of them adhering to Protestant Christianity. That number alone would account for about three percent of China's 1.4 billion people population, though likely many more Chinese Protestants worship at "underground" churches to escape the scrutiny of the government.
However, as the number of Christians in the country increases, so does the amount of oversight from the government. Since Xi Jinping rose to power in 2012, religious groups have faced much more censorship as the government has tried to maintain tighter control over them. The government represses those religions they believe could inspire dissent amongst the people and promotes government-approved faiths. This repression can be seen amongst the hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims who are imprisoned in camps in the Xinjiang region of China.
Chinese Communist Leadership even rewards those who help to subdue undesirable religions. In 2014, Xia Baolong, the Communist Party Chief of the Zhejiang province, headed a campaign to stamp out Christianity by removing 1,500 crosses, confiscating Bibles, and arresting pastors. He was rewarded with being assigned as head of the office that oversees all Hong Kong and Macau affairs.
Pastors continue to encounter harsh inspection, being forced to give lectures on topics that would adhere to the Communist Party's desires. Many Churches gather in secret, unregistered, and preach freely. However, those that do meet "underground," if discovered are persecuted and could potentially face legal charges. Just this last December, Pastor Wang Yi was arrested and now faces nine years in prison for "inciting subversion."
As Christianity rapidly grows in China (38 million currently, up from 22 million a decade ago), Churches face the difficult choice of operating "underground", yet under constant threat of exposure, or in alignment with the Communist party, preaching on pre-approved party-favored topics. Even by operating in the good graces of the government, Churches risk losing the interest of their congregations. A study by Harris Doshay, a doctoral student at Princeton University, revealed that during these Party-favored lectures, many parishioners showed their preference towards the church by "voting with their eyelids" as they chose to nap rather than be attentive to the service.