Secularization without Secularism: The Political-Religious Configuration of Post-1989 China
Although atheist secularism is generally considered to be an uncontested characteristic of Communism, the contemporary revival of religion in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) leads us to question that assumption. Since the beginning of the 1980s, religions, both traditional ones and new movements, have progressively reappeared and have even thrived in China. During the past two decades, thousands of temples, monasteries, and churches have been rebuilt or reopened; millions of people have gathered together in religious sites for various festivals; and religious symbols and references have become omnipresent in social and cultural life, from Internet to cinema. In 1997, the Chinese government (Information Office of the State Council of the PRC, 1997) recognized that there are over 100 million followers and more than 85,000 authorized religious sites of the five legal religions (Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism). Some recent non-official surveys showed that there could be up to 300 million religious believers in China, accounting for more than 31 percent of the adult population, in both urban and rural areas.1 The accuracy of these statistics may be contested, since the religious identity of the Chinese is far from exclusive, and all existing surveys tend to be regional. However, no one can deny the increasingly religious nature of communist China at the beginning of the 21st century.
KeywordsChinese Government Chinese Communist Party Religious Freedom Official Discourse Religious Revival
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