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The Politicization of Religion by the CCP: A Selective Retrieval

André Laliberté

Abstract

This essays looks at the diversity of approaches used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in its politicization of religions. It first provides an overview of continuity with past practices by the Chinese state in the imperial and republican eras to stress the undetermined nature of ideological change in China. Then, it looks at the mechanisms by which the CCP makes religion a political issue and a matter of public concern within broader agendas. It stresses that this politicization of religions has unfolded in two different ways since 1949: besides the negative and coercive approach of the authorities, positive and cooperative strategy are also implemented. The regime hopes religions will be active politically to promote its objectives, such as projecting abroad an image of China’s soft power, raising funds for philanthropic activities within China, or supporting the state ‘patriotic’ agenda. The actions by the CCP suggest that it does not look at all religions as equally valuable to serve its political objectives, as it still maintains a distinction between official and banned religions. The article documents that the state’s encouragement to the revival of some religious activities is selective but on the other hand that CCP views are more nuanced than outsiders assume.

Acknowledgements

I would like to express my gratitude to two external reviewers for their very helpful comments on a previous version of this essay. All remaining mistakes are mine. I would also like to thank the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada for its financial support.

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Published Online: 2015-3-31
Published in Print: 2015-4-30

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