Pope Benedict is quite serious about China. Here's his prayer intention for missions this month: "That the Church in China may carry out its evangelizing mission serenely and in full freedom."
In other words, the Holy Father is intervening in China's internal affairs. Obviously, it's not a direct intervention, but it's a very effective one, because what are the Chinese going to do -- object? "No, you can't have your people pray for us. If you don't withdraw your statement, we're going to withdraw our ambassador. Oh, wait...we don't have an ambassador. We're going to arrest and torture more bishops, priests and laity."
That may not be too far off the mark. If that happens and we are praying for China, especially in these last days of Lent, then the blood of the martyrs will bring forth even more fruit there.
Who says prayer doesn't change things? Even the simple act of publicly asking for prayer changes things. That's the wonderful thing about asking publicly for prayer for obstinantly difficult people -- they can't do anything about it. It would be futile for them to object and they know it.
The China Post, a Taiwanese paper, had an editorial asking, "Holy See to convert PRC?" Unfortunately, the secular press don't pay attention to the Pope's prayer intentions, so they didn't see that that is precisely what the Pope hopes to do.