05/06/2014, 00.00
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Internet in China: the Bible trumps Mao’s Little Red Book (and the Pope tops the Prime Minister)

An analysis conducted on Weibo, the popular micro-blogging site used by about 300 million people, shows that the Christian content far outweighs those related to the Party and Communist ideology. Blame rests on censorship, which fears political debate more than religion, but also an increase of interest in Christianity.

Beijing ( AsiaNews) - The Bible has trumped Mao's Little Red Book; Christians far outnumber members of the Communist Party; Pope Francis is more popular than Li Keqiang and Jesus tops Xi Jinping. These are the surprising results of an analysis conducted by Foreign Policy on Weibo, the popular Chinese micro-blogging site. A researcher analyzed the flow of words quoted on the site, used by about 300 million Chinese, and has compiled a ranking of popularity.

There are about 17 million biblical quotations compared to 60 thousand attributable to Chairman Mao. Users who discuss the various Christian churches are 41.8 million, while those who speak of the Communist Party are 5.3 million. In addition, although present every day in the national press - and often also the international press - President Xi Jinping is mentioned by 4 million: Jesus Christ, much less present in the national media, 18 million. Similarly, Pope Francis has many more entries than Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

According to Bethany Allen, who led the study, the results "are amazing" but they have a logical explanation: about 100 thousand Chinese officials in charge of censoring the network "has a big role to play, as it is their job to delete anything that may be deemed politically sensitive, so any entry containing the names of top leaders in China is more likely to be deleted in order to avoid controversy".

This of course does not mean that there is no complaints against Christianity: " If you search for posts made in underground churches, communities or those who refuse to register with the state, it produces a blank search page, with a notice reading, 'results cannot be displayed due to relevant laws and regulations'. This is also true for other sensitive topics from religious point of view [such as Tibet, the Dalai Lama and Uyghurs - ed] . "

Allen, however, hastens to add that this type of analysis is not an exact science: "To the people of China Communist ideology is no longer of interest, while Christianity continues to attract people. For more than two decades, in spite of everything, the Christian population and the presence in China continue to grow".


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