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Spatial Modernity, Party Building, and Local Governance: Putting the Christian Cross-Removal Campaign in Context
Abstract

Abstract:

While Christianity is among the fastest growing religions in the reform era, state-led sporadic demolition campaigns have targeted unauthorized church structures and sites in order to contain massive Christian growth, especially in regions where there is a high concentration of Christian population. Such campaigns often stir heated international concerns about China’s religious freedom violations, naturally making church-state relations the recurring central theme of both public and academic discourses on the church in China. However, a heightened emphasis on church-state tensions and religious persecution may obscure the cultural and spatial dimensions of local church development. Focusing on the case of the recent campaign against rooftop crosses in Wenzhou—the most Christianized Chinese city, I go beyond the one-dimensional framework of church-state relations by offering a multifaceted analysis of the local religious scene in the political economic contexts of contested spatial modernity and of central-local relations amid the party-building process. In so doing, I methodologically place Chinese Christian studies at the center of contemporary China studies.