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After decades of restricting religion, the Chinese Communist Party is carefully allowing its revival


The Chinese Communist Party is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding in 1921. For most of those decades, the party sought to restrict or obliterate traditional religious practices, which it considered part of China’s “feudal” past.

But since the late 1970s, the party has slowly permitted a multifaceted and far-reaching revival of religion in China to take place. More recently, current Chinese president and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has endorsed continued party tolerance for religion as filling a moral void that has developed amid China’s fast-paced economic growth.

This support does come with caveats and restrictions, however, including the demand that religious leaders support the Communist Party.

As a scholar of Chinese religions, these considerable changes are of special interest to me.

Revival of religion

Atheism remains the official party ideology, with members banned from professing religious faith. The party’s aggressive efforts to obliterate all religious beliefs and practices reached a high point during the tumultuous decade of the Cultural Revolution, from 1966 to 1976.

All temples and churches were shut down or destroyed. Any form of religious activity was prohibited, even as there was the forceful promotion of the cult of Mao (Zedong), which assumed the role of an officially sanctioned religion.

As part of major reforms and a loosening of social controls, initiated in the late 1970s, the party has slowly accepted a range of…

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