From The Spectator-
One afternoon in August 1978, Geoffrey Howe and Leon Brittan were flying from Beijing to Shanghai. They were on the last leg of what was for both of them the first of many official visits to China. Soon they would be ministers in Margaret Thatcher’s first government, but at the time they were still in opposition. As first secretary in the British embassy, I was accompanying them, and I told them that I had heard on the grapevine that Holy Trinity’s Anglican cathedral in Shanghai was in the process of being reopened after 12 years in which every place of worship in China had been closed, and every faith persecuted. ‘Roger, that cannot be right,’ Geoffrey Howe declared; ‘this is a communist country.’ But we asked our Chinese hosts about it, and within an hour of landing we were ushered into the soaring Gothic cathedral. Over dinner, the deputy mayor of Shanghai assured us that the reopening was in line with government policy. The Reform Era was getting underway.
Since then, China has moved from zero tolerance of worship to more than 350 million believers in Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Islam.