In 1949 the Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong declared the creation of the People’s Republic of China. This announcement brought to the end the costly civil war between the Communist Party and the nationalist Kuomintang, led by Chiang Kai-shek, which had broken out immediately after the end of Word War II. The communists had strong grassroots support and years of corrupt and incompetent government had eroded the support for the ruling Nationalist Party. The communists also had superior military organization and discipline and could draw on stockpiles of weapons seized from Japanese supplies in Manchuria. The communists’ attitude was one of hostility to all religions, though some Christians succeeded in making a deal with this hostile government. Churches were closed and Christians were driven underground. Apart from small ‘house’ groups, who worshipped clandestinely, the movement appeared to be dead. When the government loosened its restrictions on the practice of Christianity in 1979, it became clear that the churches were very much alive and in some areas had even increased their membership.
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