Religion Encountering the Leader’s Personality Cult in China Today: A Policy Perspective

Dr. Yaoping Liu
Keywords: China’s Religious Policy, Personality Cult of XJP, Impact, and Religious Institutions ,


China under the officially atheist Chinese Communist Party (hereafter the CCP) since 1949 has formally upheld an oppressive policy toward religion. Not with standing that, the party-state has often tolerated and selectively supported certain religious practices such as Buddhism and Chinese folk religions that deemed useful for its social, economic, and even diplomatic objectives. However, no religious institution permitted to acquire enough social influence to challenge the Party’s ultimate authority. Further, since Xi Jinping (hereafter XJP) took office as CCP leader in 2012, China has seen the emergence of a Mao-style personality cult centered on him. Up to now, scholarship has been largely preoccupied with the impact of XJP personality cult on China’s political ecology. While relatively, little attention has given to its substantial impact on religious activity in this party-state. Therefore, besides reviewing the CCP’s religious policies over the past more than 70 years, this paper will investigate the causes and manifestations of XJP personality cult, particularly in so far as it has affected Chinese religions. Based on the author’s direct observations of religious communities in China, especially Buddhist institutions, this paper argues that the intensification of XJP’s personality cult in recent years has ushered in a nationwide Sinicization of religion. This has amounted to the harassment of Islam and Christianity. They both regarded as foreign religions, while Buddhists, the largest population of believers in China, tolerated if they stay obedient to the CCP. As a result, Buddhism’s institutions have effectively become “paralyzed” in as much as they cannot act freely, instead serving the CCP’s ideological propaganda to avoid persecution.