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China’s Crisis of Faith

The notion of social renewal is a common theme among urban church leaders as they consider what it means for the church to take its place on the stage of society. The need for social renewal is linked to the recognition that there is currently no shared belief system among China’s people.

In an article entitled “The Achilles’ Heel of China’s Rise: Belief,” Liu Peng, a researcher in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and founder of a Beijing-based think tank on religious policy, writes that China’s current “crisis of faith” is the result of more than three decades of rapid economic development divorced from any underlying ideology. Absent a common belief system, Deng Xiaoping’s dictum, “To get rich is glorious,” remains the guiding principle in society. Public trust is at an all-time low, scandals are uncovered at increasingly higher levels within the government (leaving the public to speculate on what hasn’t yet been uncovered) and corruption and fraud are rampant across society.

In Liu’s words, “The reason why Chinese society has seen an abundance of outrageous and ridiculous phenomena, with little corresponding uprightness is not because we are short of money.  Rather, it is because we have lost our faith….While the core of the value and belief systems that buoyed the Chinese spirit in the past has been destroyed, we have not yet made the innovations necessary to develop and maintain new core value and belief systems for contemporary Chinese.”[1]

Liu is not necessarily referring to religious faith. Faith, for Liu, is simply a set of beliefs one internalizes, which provides meaning and motivation for life. In the case of a nation, “Faith is necessary to offer a fundamental reason for its existence and development and to motivate its citizens to work together for greater achievements.[2]” This faith is comprised of the common goals of its citizens. The faith of the individual and of the nation are thus connected.

Liu advocates that the Party acknowledge what most people already know to be true, namely, that the Party’s days of telling people what to believe are over.

Instead Liu proposes three levels of faith. Marxism should remain as the leading ideology for the Party, but not for the population at large. Secondly, a broadly accepted common sense of the will of China’s people, representing the nation’s cultural heritage as well as its multi-ethnic character, should serve as a guiding principle for the country. This understanding should be rooted neither in Marxism nor in any one particular religion. Finally, individual religious belief based on one’s own background and preference should be protected by law.[3]

For more on China's crisis of faith, and Liu's proposed solution, see his post on the Pu Shi Institute for Social Sciences website.


[1] Liu Peng, “The Achilles Heel of China’s Rise: Belief,” Pu Shi Institute for Social Sciences

[2] Liu, “Achilles Heel.”

[3] Liu, “Achilles Heel.”

Photo Credit: Joann Pittman

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource. Dr. Fulton served as the first president of ChinaSource until 2019. Prior to his service with ChinaSource, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding …View Full Bio

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