Each major world religion with a significant presence in China troubles the CCP in similar and different ways: Buddhism and Islam are seen as the tools of separatists, while Christianity is more a potential Trojan horse and ideological competition for the “communists.” All three are considered the tool of “hostile foreign forces”.
Here are three interesting and very different takes on the CCP’s recent and on-going struggle to decide what to do with competing worldviews within its domain.
China’s ‘Come to Jesus’ Moment: How Beijing got religion. (Foreign Policy)
Amid growing social tension and an ominous economic outlook, some quarters of the officially atheist Chinese Communist Party seem to be warming to Christianity. [...] The traditional antipathy toward religion in the Communist Party stems from Karl Marx’s idea that it is the “opiate of the masses” that “dulls the pain of oppression” [...]
But recent moves toward religion suggest this ideological aversion is transforming along with China’s socioeconomic situation … Corruption, yawning wealth inequality, environmental degradation, and the threat of a major banking crisis weigh on the Communist Party’s ability to maintain control. The religious opiate could be just what the doctor ordered for a nervous Communist Party.
some liberal Marxists within the party see religion as one way to pacify a public increasingly agitated over inequality. “In general, using and controlling religions is not something new in Chinese history. Almost every emperor knew the power of religion,” says Peng Guoxiang, Peking University professor of Chinese philosophy, intellectual history, and religions. “For classical Marxist ideology, religion is nothing but spiritual opium. But recently, it is very possible that the authorities have started to rethink the function of religion and how to manipulate it skillfully, instead of simply trying to curb or even uproot its development.”
“There’s still quite an ambivalent feeling toward Christianity,” says Wielander. “Both Buddhism and Daoism are fairly otherworldly. They’re more about how to escape from all this chaos and hide from this terrible world, whereas Christianity is very proactive. That can be a good thing for the government provided it manages to channel this energy into projects on the government’s agenda.”
One Christian factory manager in Wenzhou in 2010 told the BBC that he prefers to hire Christian workers. “When they do things wrong, they feel guilty — that’s the difference,” he said.
The Achilles’ Heel of China’s Rise: Belief (Pu Shi Institute for Social Sciences)
the key factor that determines China’s future development lies not in the realm of the material, but in the realm of the spiritual. [...]
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. … When the old faith was destroyed, but a new one not yet built up, the imbalance between the spiritual and the material which is caused by a spiritual emptiness and moral void becomes increasingly salient. [...]
In other words, for China to rise to the status of a great power, she has to answer the following question: What is the spiritual pillar, the core value and belief system for the Chinese people? [...]
If China avoids dealing with the question of faith, she will never become a real power. The question of faith and the future of China are connected. [...]
When the term “loss of faith” is used in China today, it refers to the loss of a system of belief in the state, nation, and society. It does not mean that there is no official belief system; rather the belief system established and advocated by the state has lost its status as the collection and manifestation of individual faiths. In other words, the common ground between individual faith and official faith has disappeared. Both the individual and the state need a “god”to resort to, but as it currently stands the one set up by the authorities and the one worshipped by the common people are not the same. [...]
The harsh reality is that Chinese people (including those in Hong Kong and Macau) accept the leadership of the Communist Party, but the majority does not sincerely believe in it and will not voluntarily make it their spiritual pillar. If someone doesn’t admit this, he is not being honest. The lack of faith in society today is not due to a lack of officially advocated belief, but due to the unwillingness of the people to believe it.
what counts is not the object of faith, but if it performs the function of a belief.
Without a belief system that is unanimously acknowledged as the standard, the national common good cannot be realized, and the Achilles’ heel of China’s rise will not be solved. Practically speaking, upholding the slogan of “harmonious as one”will gain overseas support, since whoever opposes it will be opposing the will of the general public. If we truly adopt the slogan of “harmonious as one,”and strive for harmony between each other, between man and nature, man and the environment, then both the micro- and macro- situations in China will greatly improve.
Although people join the party more for career reasons these days than for ideological ones, it still officially forbids religious belief among its members. In practice, this has for some years been a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. But signs are now growing that the party is about to become tougher on believers within its ranks. And behind it might be Mr Chang’s notion of Christianity as a Trojan horse.