China’s Religious Revival
- Chinese society has changed so much over the past three decades that it has been difficult for peoples’ emotions, spiritual and moral beliefs to keep up. Throughout much of the economic reform period of the late 20th century, the focus was squarely on economic development. Now, as China has reached a milestone of becoming the world’s second largest economy and on its way to becoming the first, a growing number of Chinese are seeking more than just economic advancement.
Spiritual and religious activity is on the rise. This brings up a number of extremely sensitive issues as the Communist Party regards all unofficial religious activity as a direct challenge to its authority. Hundreds of under-ground churches have been closed, dissident priests, imams and all variety of spiritual leaders have been jailed in recent years.
Yet despite the government’s unwavering insistence to assert control over Chinese religious institutions, there has been a surge of interest in recent years, particularly among young people, to engage with different religions. In this week’s edition of the China Talking Points podcast, Eric suggests that the new interest in spirituality, morality and religion may be born from the excesses of materialism that have come to dominate so much of contemporary Chinese popular culture. In fact, Eric contends, that large swathes of Chinese society are encountering something of a “morality crisis.” The basic premise, he explains, is that as the CCP replaced Confucianism (among other beliefs) with Communism in the period from the 1950s to the 1980s, when communism made way for capitalism, there was no spiritual companion. Instead, people began to invest their faith in to money and achievement. The only problem, he argues, is that is ultimately unfulfilling prompting millions to now look to elsewhere for spiritual development.
Michael, in contrast, disagrees with this assessment. In his opinion, Chinese religious beliefs never really disappeared. They may have receded for a period of time but they were always there. Now, we are witnessing a resurgence of those deeply held religious values that have been central to Chinese life for centuries. Michael clearly rejects Eric’s proposition of a morality crisis in China.
Listen to the full podcast!
Eric Olander is the Digital Platforms Editor at France 24 studio, and the co-founder/co-editor of China Talking Points podcast series. See more at his profile.
Michael McCune is Executive Vice President at Transpacific Brands, focused on brand licensing opportunities between Asian and North American markets. See more at his profile.