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Abstinence program partners Chinese officials with U.S. evangelicals

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The program, called "No Apologies," took two years for staff to translate into Chinese and another two years to pass through government regulations.

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Before the Yunnan deal, the program was mostly taught at occasional seminars by associated nonprofit groups in four major cities. The piecemeal approach reached only 9,000 students, according to program coordinators.

The Yunnan agreement promises wider exposure. In the past week alone, 512 teachers from about half the school districts in the province were trained to teach the curriculum in seminars sponsored by the government.

So how exactly did Focus on the Family sell the government on its program? Like most things in China, it required a little guanxi, a term that translates roughly as having the right connections.

In 2006, Yunnan officials, who had heard some of the long-running 90-second radio commentaries by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, inquired about airing them on their own station. That led provincial leaders to stop by Colorado during a 2007 tour of the United States.

Provincial leaders told Dobson during their visit that they admired his strong stances on everything - marriage, parenting, gender issues, the sanctity of life. The only thing they disagreed with was evangelism, according to Go, the Focus on the Family official, who served as translator.

The exchange led to two inaugural seminars this week in which Yunnan teachers learned how to steer teens away from sex. The curriculum warns of consequences including STDs, teenage pregnancy and abortion. It also offers women myriad ways to turn boys down, in Chinese:

"Do you want to bet my future on that condom?"

"I'm not like everyone else."

"If you want to celebrate our love, bring me roses at 7 p.m. and let's go to dinner."

And, of course, there's the pledge.

To work in China, however, Focus on the Family has had to make a pledge of its own: no politically sensitive material, and no religion. The evangelical group says it's strictly abiding by those terms.


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