Two steps forward, one step back: Vatican diplomacy with China

Michael Sainsbury 
 
When Deng Xiaoping took charge of the Chinese Communist Party in late 1978 and announced his programme of reform, it was the beginning of the end of 39 years of isolation for China’s Christians.
 
The year 1978 was also the beginning of the 27-year papacy of Pope St. John Paul II, and it has taken another 40 years of slow progress and some backward steps for the Vatican to reach its first official agreement with Beijing after China cut ties with the Holy See in 1951. 
 
The provisional agreement, announced on September 22, concerns the appointment of bishops in China.
 
Pope Francis has described the negotiations “two steps forward, one step...