Journal Article

Christian Entrepreneurs and the Post-Mao State: An Ethnographic Account of Church-State Relations in China's Economic Transition*

Nanlai Cao

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 68, issue 1, pages 45-66
Published in print January 2007 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 2007 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/socrel/68.1.45
Christian Entrepreneurs and the Post-Mao State: An Ethnographic Account of Church-State Relations in China's Economic Transition*

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This paper examines the rise of a group of affluent urban Christians in the post-Mao market transition to shed light on China's church-state relations in the reform era. Based on ethnographic data collected in Wenzhou, the most Christianized Chinese city and a pioneer in developing China's current market economy, this study portrays how local believers, many of whom are private entrepreneurs, engage postsocialist state power. It shows that these Christian entrepreneurs actively seek the state's recognition and renegotiate the boundaries of religion and politics in the context of development. They have adopted their modern capitalist cultural logic in the production, management and consumption of religious activities. Adding to the post-Weberian literature on religion and capitalism, this paper argues that regional capitalist development enabled by post-Mao reforms has largely depoliticized and promoted local practices of faith. Challenging the unidirectional view of China's church-state relations that focuses on state dominance and church resistance, this paper also contributes to a reconceptualization of Chinese Christian studies.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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