China struggles with religion and identity

In a mandate released on 15 July in the Qiushi Journal belonging to the Party’s Central Committee, the State Administration for Religious Affairs issued fresh directives to all Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members to adhere to Marxist atheism and stick to the Party’s faith that does not allow seeking value and belief in religion. By making this pronouncement, China has ended up exposing its prolonged struggle and contradictions with religion and religious identity.

Instructions have been passed on to nearly 89 million members of the Communist Party to “guide religious groups and individuals with socialist core values”, renounce personal religious beliefs and refuse support to any religious activities, whatever the reason may be. Further, the Chinese government has been asked to continue to “maintain its tight grip on religious groups…” In all, it’s a loud and clear warning that holding on to any religious belief shall be considered a red line for the cadres the Party. They have no option but to denounce religion, or else, face censure.

There has been a view among many state officials in China, including Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs that “non-local” and “foreign religions such as Christianity and Islam” have been used to spread “political beliefs” within China. Following the release of the above mandate, another commentary published by Chinese state media exactly four days later, on 19 July titled “Hindu nationalism risks pushing India into war with China” said that India’s present political dispensation took “advantage of rising Hindu nationalism to come to power…and made India more subject to the influence of conservatives”. Chinese domestic politics, including pressure on the Central government to craft a strong Chinese national identity, is among the main drivers behind China’s manipulation of historical consciousness to glorify the Party, re-establish its legitimacy, and…

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