Richard Madsen: The "Chinese dream" of Xi Jinping passes through control over religions - Part Five
The nationalist idea of Xi Jinping is close to that of Donald Trump ( "make a great new China", "make America great again"). The faithful of the religions have an opportunity to change society, but beginning from their personal environments. Chinese nationalism clashes with globalization and international relations.
San Diego (AsiaNews) - The wave of nationalism that Xi Jinping favors, leads to greater control over "foreign" religions - such as Christianity and Islam - and to an exaltation of the Han culture. All in order to "make a great new China". From this point of view the "Chinese dream" of Xi Jinping resembles that of Donald Trump ("make America great again"). In this situation the faithful of different religions have the opportunity to transform their environments, although a social revolution is unthinkable. These are the last considerations that arise in the conversation that Prof.. Richard Madsen held with Samuel Tsoi, published as a podcast (http://china.ucsd.edu/media-center/podcast.html). Prof. Madsen is a sociologist of religions at the University of San Diego (California) and is involved in a partnership with Fudan University in Shanghai and with the "China in the 21st Century" Center in San Diego. Editing by AsiaNews. Part V concludes the serial publication of the interview.
Maybe we can go back to the notion of concern and anxiety mentioned earlier, the fact that although people have in general become more prosperous, they feel the need to relate to something more transcendent. Even in Western societies the people predicted that perhaps religion would become irrelevant, as society prospered and science continued to progress. But in recent years we see that religion is becoming a very important element in the global context. One of the participants at the conference this July here on campus came from a new office for religions and global affairs. That person represented the State Department and described their efforts in understanding the religious dynamics in the context of globalization, and how these religious traditions interact with different cultures and societies. So in addition to protecting religious freedom in the world as they are doing the United States, this new diplomatic office is the first type of institution that engages in contact with religious communities, diplomacy and development. Given that religious activities in China continue to be controlled by the state, what potential do you see in religious agents of change in China and how should the commitment of believers in other parts of the world be, recognizing that religion is an important part of the process of globalization?
Well I think they certainly have the ability to make real social change. There are many types of religions and religious personalities in China, so I do not see the possibility of a real coordinated movement for social change, but in individual situations, the subjective interests, are pushing in different directions and are sure to change society. Now, in terms of global issues, the government is trying to control this situation, and one thing that is trying to control are the religious relations with other countries (cross-border). An interesting fact of the conference, is that, as you said, there was this person from the State Department, which is part of this new global office for religious affairs. Some people in China are disgruntled about this because what they see is that the State Department is contacting religious actors in the world and is doing it because it wants to be helped in diplomatic areas, with migrant flows, in national development etc . But this "contacting people" without going through the local government - since this office is independent - is wrong from the Chinese point of view! It is an attack on the sovereignty of the state, that is, religious groups must have contact / dialogue with the central government. This is the Chinese position ... We see these relationships between religious actors as an expression of globalized civil society, who just want to stay in touch with each other, but do not seek to undermine the government. They see it as a violation of the sovereignty of the state and in this their nationalist thrust, they feel the need to control the borders and perhaps even expand them (just look at certain scenarios)! This is part of a new nationalism: the Chinese see it as part of their hard work accomplished in the last 150-200 years in rechecking borders. From this point of view, Xi Jinping is the protagonist of a great new "Chinese dream" model that proposes a "rejuvenation" of the Chinese nation. In essence they are "making China great again " (a slogan similar to Trumps!). And part of this is done with the control of the borders, keeping the country under control, celebrating the glory, having at least a particular preference for Han Chinese culture, and this makes a great new China! I think this fanaticism-nationalism is not present only in China, but around the world. Even in the US.