restricted access Engaging and Evading the Party-State: Unofficial Chinese Protestant Groups in China’s Reform Era

Drawing on new data, this article examines the challenges and open spaces for unofficial Protestant groups in China’s Reform era. Findings show that four important factors have influenced the ability of unofficial Protestant leaders and groups to practise and grow within China’s post-Mao political environment: (i) the behaviour of Protestant groups in the face of official rules and restrictions; (ii) the geographic location of Protestant groups; (iii) the extent and type of their personal connections (guanxi) with Party-state authorities; and (iv) political and material pressures on the local authorities with whom Protestants interact. Along with providing explanation for the great variation in relations between unofficial Protestant groups and the Chinese Party-state, the article suggests avenues towards more conciliatory church-state relations — despite the likely persistence of some tensions.