Chinese Communist Party Vows to ‘Sinicize Religions’ in China

Remarks at the Congress continue last year’s campaign to force religions to adapt to “socialist society.”

Zhang said that the CCP has adhered to the goal of “sinicizing religions” in China and has made “socialist core values” play a leading role in the religious community. In the next step, Zhang added, China will keep cracking down on acts such as “taking advantage of religion to harm national security,” “promoting extremism for terrorist activities,” and “endangering national unity.”

 

Chinese President Xi Jinping has launched a campaign to tighten China’s grip on the religious community since 2016. Against that backdrop, the United Front Work Department (UFWD) — the agency within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that oversees China’s religious affairs, among others — vowed to  “sinicize religions” in China.

On the sidelines of the CCP’s 19th National Party Congress on October 20, Zhang Yijiong, the executive deputy head of the UFWD, elaborated on the CCP’s policy on religious affairs since the 18th Party Congress in 2012.

Zhang said that the CCP has adhered to the goal of “sinicizing religions” in China and has made “socialist core values” play a leading role in the religious community. In the next step, Zhang added, China will keep cracking down on acts such as “taking advantage of religion to harm national security,” “promoting extremism for terrorist activities,” and “endangering national unity.”

Academia, in the past, tended to use the term “sinicization” to describe local adoption of religions imported from foreign regions. Buddhism in particular gradually integrated into the Chinese culture through a long history and finally been accepted as a Chinese religion.

Yet the term gained a new political meaning in 2016. In late April, 2016, Xi presided over a working conference on national religious affairs, making him the first Chinese president to do so in over ten years. The last time a president personally attended such a conference was in 2001, when then-President Jiang Zemin decided to crack down on “cults” after the Tiananmen Square self-immolation incident related to Fanlun Gong. Xi’s attendance at the conference significantly raised the importance of religious affairs on the CCP’s agenda. During the conference, Xi demanded that China should “actively guide religions to adapt to the socialist society.”

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