When Chinese bloggers watched Barack Obama placed his hand on the Bible to swear the oath of office yesterday, many drew the conclusion that religion—in particular, Christianity—is the key to democracy’s success.
Quartz, the Atlantic‘s new business site, reports on how a post that credited America’s faith for its democratic achievements received two thousand forwards and five hundred comments on Sina Weibo, China’s highly popular microblogging platform. The writer credited America’s respect for natural and divine law:
Some Chinese find it unbelievable that this secular country’s democratically elected president was sworn in with his hand on a Bible, not the Constitution, and facing a court justice, not Congress. But actually, this is the secret of America’s constitutional democracy: It’s not just the Constitution or the government’s “separation of powers.” Above that is natural law, guarded by a grand justice. And below is a community of Christians, unified by their belief.
“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith,” as Tocqueville once wrote. Locke also made a cameo in the discussion:
In response to Wugou’s post, another Sina Weibo user asked, ”If Chinese officials were to swear an oath of office, what would they swear on?” Another harkened back to the Enlightenment and the idea of natural human rights, asking, “This natural law that [John] Locke spoke of—is this just God’s law?” One blogger linked human rights and rule of law with Christianity, writing, “This picture embodies the most important traits of protestant Christianity: the power of the divine, the law, humans, and citizens.” . . .
One lawyer who describes himself as Christian in his profile wrote, “I believe China will someday have a day like this. China’s head of state will stand in a constitutional court, in front of a court justice, with their hand on a Bible.” Another blogger responded, “I hope. Amen.”
Hope indeed, even if there is little cause for optimism. A few social media posts hardly amount to a Chinese Federalist, but they still are not nothing.