Secret talks between diplomats from each side began in 2013, and were aided by support from the Vatican.
The Vatican's role was largely unknown until the process had already been mostly formalized, but the Vatican's role in helping broker the deal was significant.
Francis showed just how invested the Holy See was in restoring relations between the two nations that he added a stop in Cuba ahead of his visit to the United States in September 2015.
For the China deal currently being discussed, the biggest concern is how much religious freedom Catholics will actually have if it's signed and implemented.
Opponents such as Cardinal Zen have questioned whether it's possible to have genuine dialogue with the Chinese government, and whether Beijing will in fact allow Catholics to have a longer leash should a deal come to fruition.
However, others, such as Cardinal Tong, have argued that China is a large country where incidents of arrests or imprisonments are largely isolated to certain areas.
Cardinal Zen has often said that "no deal is better than a bad deal," and in a recent blog-post called the proposal an act of "suicide" and a "shameless surrender" to the communist government.
On the other hand, in an interview with CNA last week, Cardinal Tong said opposing the deal was "unreasonable." He argued that the Chinese government has generally become more tolerant, and called the deal "far-sighted," saying that at times, sacrifice is necessary in order for Catholics to become "members of one family."
Compounding the debate is yesterday's arrest of Bishop Vincent Guo Xijin of Mindong, who is recognized by the Vatican but not the government, and who was taken into custody by police alongside the diocesan chancellor. He was held overnight but was later released, and was barred from celebrating any Mass as a bishop, including Holy Week liturgies.
According to Asia News, Guo was detained for refusing to concelebrate this week's Chrism Mass with Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu, one of seven illicit bishops backed by the Chinese government.
Asia News reports that after refusing to concelebrate the Chrism Mass with Zhan, Guo organized a separate, earlier Chrism Mass for the "underground" faithful in Mindong, who form the majority of the local Church, and was seized in order to prevent him from moving forward with the liturgy.
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In January, Asia News reported that a Vatican delegation asked Bishop Guo voluntarily to accept a position as auxiliary bishop, serving under Bishop Zhan. The request was made as one of the conditions of an eventual agreement between the Vatican and the Chinese government.
Details or an official timeline for a deal in China have not been made public, and no declaration has been made on the seven illicit bishop, meaning that for the moment, they are still excommunicated. Under the terms of the proposed deal, the Vatican would reportedly regularize each of the seven illicit bishops, bringing them into communion with Rome.
Though it is unknown what impact, if any, Guo's overnight detainment will have on an agreement between China and the Vatican, many who are close to the situation, including Cardinal Parolin, have in recent weeks said things are moving forward, and it may only be a matter of months before a deal is made.
Cardinal Zen recently met with Pope Francis during a last-minute trip to Rome in January, after Guo and another bishop were asked to step down in favor of bishops backed by the Chinese government.
Francis' willingness to meet with Cardinal Zen, just as he met with many Colombian prelates ahead of the 2016 peace deal, some of whom shared reservations, indicates that he is willing to hear out other perspectives on these matters, and talk things through, even if he chooses to move forward anyway.
So while a deal with China, if it is made, will certainly be met with mixed reactions, one thing is certain: there is likely not much that will stop Francis from going after it, so long as he sees the potential of real change for the better.