Books. Because of its scope and sensitivity, religion in China is one of the most complex subjects to discuss. Two perfectly complementary books published these days take up the challenge, each in its own way.
In The resounding spiritual renewal in China, Claude Meyer shows that despite the repression of which religion is the object, the number of believers continues to increase in the Middle Kingdom. The author estimates them at around 350 million. An estimate he recognizes, both because this number incorporates Confucianism, which is not a religion strictly speaking, because many Chinese practice a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism and popular religions, but also because many Christian churches are underground.
Nonetheless, according to the author, the religious revival is evident – even the authorities agree – and the fastest growing religion is Protestantism. “By 2030, Communist China will probably be the first Christian country in the world. ”
Religious affairs under the control of the CCP
For all those who are interested in the history of religions, but also in the fate that Xi Jinping’s China has in store for them, Claude Meyer’s book is precious. It describes very precisely the texts which frame religious practices and the constraints to which believers are subjected. “The Constitution guarantees freedom of belief but not freedom of worship and religious practice, a distinction contrary to the very principle of full religious freedom”, he notes. In this area, as in so many others, Xi Jinping is more repressive than his predecessors. Significantly, the government-dependent Bureau of Religious Affairs came under the direct control of the Communist Party in 2018.
Former Jesuit seminarian, Claude Meyer returns to the agreement concluded that year between the Vatican and Beijing, which was supposed to put an end to the conflict of legitimacy over the appointment of bishops. According to him, this agreement is undoubtedly more advantageous for Beijing than for Rome because it risks increasing repression on underground Catholics. “One can wonder if some in the Vatican do not show angelism”, notes the author who, himself, was deported from China to Paris in the fall of 2019, when he was preparing to continue his investigation in Hong Kong.
A story from half the world
If Claude Meyer is interested in Islam, this is obviously not the heart of his remarks. The repression of the Uighurs in Xinjiang is only dealt with in a ten-page annex. Hence the interest of the second book, China and lands of Islam by Emmanuel Lincot. This global history essay is ambitious. Its subtitle is nothing less than “A Millennium of Geopolitics”. And since China (1.4 billion people) and the Muslim world (1.8 billion) represent almost half of humanity, the sociologist quite simply offers a story of half the world.
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