No attribution or corroboration for this, but I have it on good authority that the long-awaited deal between Beijing and the Vatican which would see the Vatican cut its ties with Taiwan and allow the Pope to play a role in the choice of Catholic bishops and priests across China, is expected to be done well before the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Under the terms of the deal being discussed, I understand priests and bishops would be approved jointly by the Beijing government and by the Vatican, in a similar way to that used in a number of other countries.
The underground church, loyal to the Holy See, has been an active element on China’s religious scene for decades, resulting in two Catholic church structures. But times change, and so do the relative levels of various perceived threats. The concept in Beijing of an evil Jesuit conspiracy intent on undermining communist rule is being superceded by the growing sense of threat from the activities of US protestant cults and church organizations, which are pumping in lots of money and missionaries disguised as English teachers. Time to do a deal with the Pope.
I understand the underground Catholic church in the south of China is supportive of a deal, and the holdouts are in parts of northern China.
There is also a split, I am informed, in the Chinese government about such a rapprochement with Rome. Ironically, the Ministry of Public Security is supportive of the idea and the Religious Affairs Bureau is negative because a deal would mean a reduction in its power.