Religion, State, and Society in China

April 3, 2023
3:15 p.m. - 4:15 p.m. EDT
Location: Berkley Center 3rd Floor Conference Room & Zoom Webinar Map

Religious groups in China are subject to restrictions and, at times, severe oppression, as witnessed in the treatment of the Muslims of Xinjiang. Less severe forms of repression include controls over authorized religious activities and restrictions on leaders among groups as diverse as the Falun Gong and the Catholic Church. Can these actions be attributed to the proclaimed atheism of the Chinese regime, or are there more complex factors in the religious and political history of China that have contributed to this trend?

This panel discussion featured three scholars reflecting on this question. Based on her recent research on religion and the nation, Berkley Center Senior Fellow Jocelyne Cesari argued that the current situation is the outcome of the specific status of religion in the nation-building of China: Since the early twentieth century, the state has taken control of religious institutions and required allegiance to the Chinese nation over religious loyalty. James Millward, professor at the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service, discussed the importance of the Chinese state’s colonial and ethnic policies and their overlap with religion in Xinjiang. Haiyung Ma (G’07), associate professor of history at Frostburg State University, addressed the “de-Arabization” campaign of the Chinese state as well as the international repercussions of Chinese religious policies.

This event was co-sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues at Georgetown University.

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