Like English, the Chinese word for “faith” or “belief” （信仰） doesn’t necessarily have spiritual，religious, or metaphysical meaning. I most often encounter this word in two ways. First, from random men like taxi drivers and people on the bus who give a thumbs up and say, “Religious belief is good!” in response to finding out what I think about certain things. They almost always don’t have any 信仰 themselves, but nonetheless have the general impression that believing in some religion – whatever religion – is a good thing.
The second way I often see this word is on the propaganda posters like the one above, which increasingly saturate public spaces from sidewalk vendors’ booths to hospital waiting rooms:
Socialism Core Values
When the People have belief, then the nation has strength.
The Core Values get laid out in three categories: *国家 Nation, **社会 Society, ***公民 Citizens:
Although using 信仰 this was might not be an explicitly religious reference, it does seem that the government sees its package of traditional Chinese culture, ethics (most emphasized: filial piety) and patriotism as direct competition for the spot formal or informal religions/ideologies/worldviews (including “Western values”) would occupy in the hearts and lives of the People.
In a similar but more eye-popping line of posters, the Chinese literally reads: “[Insert Core Value here] is a belief.” To read more about how the government uses “belief/faith” you can click that link, and also see Joann Pittman’s, In Democracy We Trust..