The Upsurge of Religion in China

Issue Date October 2010
Volume 21
Issue 4
Page Numbers 58-71
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Unlike liberal democracies, which generally accord their citizens the right to complete freedom of religious belief and practice, the People’s Republic of China claims that it needs to control religion in order to preserve social harmony and economic modernization. China’s government maintains that religion is destined to recede as modernization continues to proceed. Yet religion is growing rapidly, and has overwhelmed the CCP regime’s systems of surveillance and control. Along with similar religious movements that have challenged the government’s authority, the Falun Gong has been put into the category of “evil cults” that the state strives to crush by mobilizing new forms of police power on a vast scale. There are pragmatic reasons for the Chinese government to worry about the radicalism that might come with a religious revival, but the reaction against it seems so extreme as to be counterproductive.

About the Author

Richard Madsen is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of California, San Diego. His books include Democracy’s Dharma: Religious Renaissance and Political Development in Taiwan (2007), China’s Catholics: Tragedy and Hope in an Emerging Civil Society (1998), and Popular China: Unofficial Culture in a Globalizing Society (coedited with Perry Link and Paul Pickowicz, 2002).

View all work by Richard Madsen