God and Caesar in China: Policy Implications of Church-State Tensions

By Cao, Nanlai | The China Journal, January 2005 | Go to article overview

God and Caesar in China: Policy Implications of Church-State Tensions


Cao, Nanlai, The China Journal


God and Caesar in China: Policy Implications of Church-State Tensions, edited by Jason Kindopp and Carol Lee Hamrin. Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2004. viii + 200 pp. US$49.95/£36.50 (hardcover), US$19.95/£14.50 (paperback).

Since the economic and social reforms began in the 1980s there has been a dramatic revival of religion in China. A number of published studies have addressed this trend. However, God and Caesar in China is the first that systematically explores the policy implications of the church-state tensions that have emerged alongside the revival. The book's editors and contributing scholars are from various disciplines including history, religion, political science, sociology and anthropology. This fosters interdisciplinary inquiry into the vicissitudes of the Christian experience in Chinese society.

The book investigates the complex relationship between church and state in an historical context, and the political economy of China through the lens of the Christian experience. It is the product of a conference sponsored by the Brookings Institution to initiate a dialogue on how to advance religious freedom in China. Jason Kindopp's introduction delineates the nature and challenge of church-state tensions and sets a strong political tone for the book by calling for political change to protect religion's expression and civic institutions in China. The following nine chapters are divided into three sections covering the state's policies towards religion, church-state interactions, and the place of religion in US-China relations.

Daniel Bays' chapter is among the best in the book. He describes the historical pattern of Chinese state-religion relations and reveals that the registering and monitoring of grassroots religion can be traced back to the Tang dynasty more than a thousand years ago. Thus state dominance is not a modern Chinese Communist invention but an ancient requirement of the Chinese political system. The presence of a strong central state power and its unchanging demand for loyalty portends a rather pessimistic future for religious freedom in China. In an overview of the institutional framework of religious control and containment in the reform era, Mickey Spiegel discusses relevant state policies, methods and control apparatus. Kim-Kwong Chan's chapter envisions official policy changes on the governance of religion and a shift in church-state relations as China increasingly integrates into the global economy and international community.

Jean-Paul Wiest begins the second section by exploring the ups and downs of the relationship between the Catholic Church and China before the Communist accession to power in 1949. Richard Madsen follows with the post-1949 developments. Madsen notes both the church-state conflict and the recent common ground for cooperation and finds that in response to repression most Catholics have become concerned more with personal faith issues than with state politics and tend to direct their anger towards fellow church members whom they perceive not to be devout. Yihua Xu provides a detailed view of the origin and institutionalization of the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the official church, and the Three-Self movement's transformation of the landscape of Chinese Protestantism. …

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