ChinaSource Blog PostsChurch and State

Old Rhetoric, New Normal


Much has been written lately about the Chinese government’s stated desire for religion in China to serve the needs of the state by supporting socialism. These are often highlighted in conversations and writing about the “new normal” in China. In fact, we have done so here on this blog.

But is this rhetoric really new?

President Jiang Zemin, in a speech in 2001 said this (emphasis added):

Trying to adapt religion to a socialist society does not involve a demand that religious professionals and believers give up their faith. But it does demand of them to love for the country, support for the socialist system, and abide by laws and regulations. It requires that they engage in religious practices in accordance with and in service to the highest interests of the state and the overall interests of the nation; that they interpret religious doctrines for social development; that they, working together with all ethnic groups, oppose illegal activities using religion as a tool to jeopardize interests of our socialist motherland; and that they contribute to cohesion among ethnic groups, social development and national reunification. We encourage and support religious groups to keep their good traditions of being loyal to the country and their religions, making joint efforts for development, and serving the society. We hope that religious groups can adapt well to a socialist society.

In 2002, Jia Qinglin, Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference said the following in a speech:

I hope that every religious group sturdily establishes a sense of calling, responsibility and urgency for promoting harmony [hexie] as the important content in the work of religious groups, and that it is merged organically with the adaptation of religion to socialist society, one step further exploring the ways and means that religion can serve society and the masses, and that in the process of serving the promotion of social harmony also will promote other aspects of harmony in religion and society. Serving development should be made the important task in the work of religious groups, from beginning to end consciously merging one’s own work closely with the general situation of national economic development, maximally uniting the great believing masses and within one’s power share the burdens of the nation, going all out to exert oneself for development.

So the rhetoric isn’t really that new; we’ve heard this stuff before.

What does seem to be new are the efforts at implementation and enforcement. That is what makes the current situation in China a “new normal.”

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University... View Full Bio


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