Politics of Faith: Christian Activism and the Maoist State in South China

  • Joseph Tse-Hei Lee


The response of Chinese Christians to the socialist state after the Communist Revolution of 1949 reveals the complexity of church and state relations in Maoist China (1949–1976). This chapter looks at the experience of Christian communities in the Chaozhou-speaking region of northeastern Guangdong province. Because these communities constituted an integral part of the local political, social, and economic power structure before the Communist takeover of South China, they refused to be subject to the control of the Maoist state. They did not subscribe to the highly politicized anti-imperialist rhetoric of the state-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement (sanzi aiguo yundong): self-rule autonomous from foreign missionary and imperialist control, financial self-support without any foreign donations, and self-preaching independent of any missionary influences. As the overarching organization of the one-party state, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement sought to ensure that all Chinese Protestant congregations would submit to the socialist ideology.


Communist Party Church Leader United Front Christian Community Communist State 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aikman, David. 2003. Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power. Washington, DC: Regnery.Google Scholar
  2. Carbonneau, Robert E. 2006. “Resurrecting the Dead: Memorial Gravesites and Faith Stories of Twentieth-Century Catholic Missionaries and Laity in Western Hunan, China.” U.S. Catholic Historian 24 (Summer): 19–37.Google Scholar
  3. Chan, Kim-Kwong, and Alan Hunter. 1991. Prayers and Thought of Chinese Christians. Boston, MA: Cowley.Google Scholar
  4. Chau, Adam Yuet. 2006. Miraculous Response: Doing Popular Religion in Contemporary China. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Cohen, Paul A. 1974. “Littoral and Hinterland in Nineteenth Century China: The Christian Reformers.” In John King Fairbank, ed. The Missionary Enterprise in China and America, 197–225. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Deng, Zhaoming. 1997. The Vicissitudes of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in the 1950s and its Predicament Today. Hong Kong: Christian Study Centre on Chinese Religion and Culture.Google Scholar
  7. Deng, Zhaoming. 2001. “Indigenous Chinese Pentecostal Denominations.” China Study Journal 16, no. 3 (December): 5–22.Google Scholar
  8. Duara, Prasenjit. 1988. Culture, Power, and the State: Rural North China, 1900–1942. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Dubois, Thomas David. 2005. The Sacred Village: Social Change and Religious Life in Rural North China. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press.Google Scholar
  10. Gibson, John Campbell. 1901. Mission Problems and Mission Methods in South China. Edinburgh and London: Oliphant, Anderson and Ferrier.Google Scholar
  11. Gu, Changsheng. 1984. Yesu kuliao: Gu changsheng huiyiiu, 1945–1984 (Jesus wept: Memoir of Gu Changsheng, 1945–1984). Yale Divinity School Library, China Records Project Miscellaneous Personal Papers Collections, Record Group Number 8, Box 244.Google Scholar
  12. Hsű, Immanuel C. Y. 2000. The Rise of Modern China. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Kindopp, Jason, and Carol Lee Hamrin, eds. 2004. God and Caesar in China: Policy Implications of Church-State Tensions. Washington, DC: Brookings.Google Scholar
  14. Lee, Joseph Tse-Hei. 2003. The Bible and the Gun: Christianity in South China, 1860–1900. New York: RoutledgeGoogle Scholar
  15. Lee, Joseph Tse-Hei. 2007. “Christianity and Chinese Diaspora in the Nineteenth Century.” In Leo Suryadinata, ed. Chinese Diaspora since Admiral Zheng He: With Special Reference to Maritime Asia, 247–266. Singapore: Chinese Heritage Centre.Google Scholar
  16. Leung, Beatrice. 2005. “China’s Religious Freedom Policy: The Art of Managing Religious Activity.” China Quarterly 184 (December): 894–913.Google Scholar
  17. Ling, Oi-Ki. 1999. The Changing Role of the British Protestant Missionaries in China. London: Associated University Presses.Google Scholar
  18. Madsen, Richard. 2004. “Catholic Conflict and Cooperation in the People’s Republic of China.” In Kindopp and Hamrin, eds. God and Caesar in China, 77–106.Google Scholar
  19. Scott, James C. 1985. Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Ideological Struggle. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Shantou Municipal Archive. 1957. Archives of the Shantou Bureau of Religious Affairs and Archives of the Shantou Bureau of the United Front.Google Scholar
  21. Smith, Steve A. 2006. “Talking Toads and Chinless Ghosts: The Politics of’ superstitious’ Rumors in the People’s Republic of China, 1961–1965.” American Historical Review 111, no. 2 (April): 405–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Wagner, Vivian. 2002. “Class Struggle and Commerce: Utilizing the Archival Heritage of the PRC.” Paper presented at the XIV European Association of Chinese Studies Conference in Moscow, Russia (August 26–28).Google Scholar
  23. Wang, Cheng-Chih. 2002. Words Kill: Calling for the Destruction of “Class Enemies” in China, 1949–1953. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Wickeri, Philip L. 1988. Seeking the Common Ground: Protestant Christianity, the Three-Self Movement and China’s United Front. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.Google Scholar
  25. Wickeri, Philip L. 2007. Reconstructing Christianity in China: K. H. Ting and the Chinese Church. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.Google Scholar
  26. Wou, Odoric Y. K. 1994. Mobilizing the Masses: Building Revolution in Henan. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Yang, C. K. 1967. Religion in Chinese Society: A Study of Contemporary Social Functions of Religion and Some of Their Historical Factors. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  28. Yu, Anthony C. 2003. “On State and Religion in China: A Brief Historical Reflection.” Religion East and West 3: 1–20.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Siu-Keung Cheung, Joseph Tse-Hei Lee, and Lida V. Nedilsky 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph Tse-Hei Lee

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations