Yiran Zhou

Date of Graduation

Spring 2011


Master of Global Studies



Committee Chair

Dennis Hickey


China, religion, post-Mao, policy, co-existence of atheists and theists

Subject Categories

International and Area Studies


Resurgence in religious activity has accompanied China's astounding progress in economic development and social pluralism. Promoting and maintaining the harmony of state and religion, however, poses a major political challenge for the Party state. What core factors explain the formation of the current Chinese state-religion relationship? How did Chinese religious policy evolve in the post-Mao period? And how will the policy develop in the future? This paper analyzes the historical and cultural reasons behind the divergence of Chinese and Western understandings of religions, and explores how the state and religion have interacted in contemporary China by examining the evolution of Chinese religious policy in the post-Mao period—specifically in the three eras of Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao. Further, by looking into the issues involved in Tibetan Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity, it illustrates that the state's religious regime must continue to adjust to the development of religions and improve in order to maintain harmonious state-religion relations. Finally, the paper forecasts that the government will adopt differentiated policies toward individual religions, based on their contributions to social harmony and their adaptation to the state. The mainstream trend of Chinese state-religion relations will move toward mutual adaptation and accommodation in the context of an increasingly open, modernized society. However, conflicts between state and religion will emerge sporadically due to an inherent incompatibility between Marxism and religious idealism.


© Yiran Zhou

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