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Asiatische Studien - Études Asiatiques

Zeitschrift der Schweizerischen Asiengesellschaft - Revue de la Société Suisse-Asie

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The Politicization of Religion by the CCP: A Selective Retrieval

André Laliberté
  • School of Political Studies / Ecole d’études politiques, Social Science Building / Pavillon des sciences sociales, University of Ottawa / Université d’Ottawa, 120 rue Université FSS 7075/ 120 University Private FSS 7075, Ottawa, ON, K1N 6N5, Canada.
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Published Online: 2015-03-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/asia-2015-0010


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.

Keywords: state administration of religious affairs in China; Chinese Communist Party religious work


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Published Online: 2015-03-31

Published in Print: 2015-04-30

Citation Information: Asiatische Studien - Études Asiatiques, Volume 69, Issue 1, Pages 185–211, ISSN (Online) 2235-5871, ISSN (Print) 0004-4717, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/asia-2015-0010.

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