Which Religions Get to Survive in China?

By: Will Rau

April 20, 2020

Virtual Spring 2020 REWA Student Symposium

My research examines stark differences in religious freedom among worshipping communities in China. While some faiths worship in peace, ethnic unrest in Xinjiang and Tibet has drawn international attention to China’s repression of religious minority groups. What entitles a group to religious freedom? This project uncovers a complex process through which a religious group’s reception (or rejection) of the Chinese state’s “first response” mechanism ultimately determines the group’s vitality. Drawing on the philosophies of Hobbes and ancient Chinese linguists, I argue that religious groups who enter a “social contract” with the government survive, while those who reject state influence perish.


“The Battle for China’s Spirit: Religious Revival, Repression, and Resistance Under Xi Jinping,” Freedom House, February 2017. 

Hannah Beech, “If China is Anti-Islam, Why Are These Chinese Muslims Enjoying a Faith Revival?” TIME Magazine, August 12, 2014. 

Michael Clarke, “China's Internal Security Dilemma and the ‘Great Western Development’:The Dynamics of Integration, Ethnic Nationalism and Terrorism in Xinjiang,” Asian Studies Review 31 (2007). 

“Hobbes’ Moral and Political Philosophy,” Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2002). 

John Lagerway, China: A Religious State (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010).

“The Politburo’s Predicament: Confronting the Limitations of Chinese Communist Party Repression,” Freedom House, January 2015.

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