March-April 2012, Vol. 46, No.2
Religious practices and spirituality among the Chinese may get a boost, thanks to forthcoming mandatory changes in China’s central government when the 18th Congress of the Communist Party meets later in 2012.
Bans on certain religions and strict regulations of those that are allowed (Buddhism, Catholicism, Taoism, Islam, and Protestantism) have resulted in the creation of black and gray “markets” to fill spiritual needs illegally, such as practicing qigong (breathing techniques and exercises) or holding Sunday school classes for Christian children. An estimated 85% of Chinese citizens engage in supernatural beliefs or practices.
As different local officials enforce the laws differently, spiritual life in China has become more ambiguous, according to Purdue University sociologist Fenggang Yang. “Ironically, the more restrictive and suppressive the country’s religious regulations, the larger the gray market grows,” he notes.
China may be viewed as a bellwether for shifts in other countries where Communism has historically encouraged atheism and suppressed religion, says Yang. Moreover, such shifts are likely to have long-term effects. “This is not really merely about China anymore, because what China becomes will affect the world in many spheres, such as economy, politics, and culture,” he concludes.
Source: Purdue University, www.purdue.edu. Fenggang Yang, professor of sociology, is author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival Under Communist Rule (Oxford University Press, 2011).