Overseas Chinese Christians in Contemporary China

Religion, Mobility, and Belonging


Overseas Chinese Christians in Contemporary China explores how diasporic Chinese understandings of what it means to be Chinese are changing in post-1978 China. Ethnographically, it focuses on overseas Chinese Christian business people residing in Shanghai. Hyper-mobile, well-educated, and financially secure, these elites adopt a long-term view of their time in the country. This study examines how these elites put Christianity to work, mediating their hopes, fears, and obligations, in order to illuminate the ways in which this overseas Chinese experience departs from existing academic models of diasporic Chinese as either bridge-builders or pragmatic capitalists. By focusing on religion, this study offers novel insights into how overseas Chinese are making a place for themselves in a globalising China.

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Sin Wen Lau, Ph.D. (ANU, Anthropology, 2010), is Senior Lecturer at the University of Otago. She serves on the editorial board of Social Sciences and Missions (Brill) and has published on religion, childhood, and China, including Religion and Mobility in a Globalising Asia (Routledge, 2014, co-editor).
"Lau should be commended for conceiving of a refreshingly unique lens through which to examine the role of Christianity in contemporary China. This volume would also be attractive to those interested in religion and diaspora: although some will undoubtedly disagree, by illustrating a very different way elite diasporan Chinese are reimagining themselves in relation to 'a remembered ancestral homeland and their mainland Chinese counterparts,' Lau has undeniably presented a new perspective of religion and diaspora in China."
– Joseph Chadwin, University of Vienna, in Religious Studies Review (June 2021).
Notes on the Text

 1 Bridge-Builders or Pragmatic Capitalists
 2 Working Religion
 3 Traction
 4 Shanghai: a Globalising Marketplace
 5 Bites of Traction

1 Family
 1 Rhythms of Tension
 2 A Moral Pact
 3 Brother Soh: “We Always Go Back to God for Final Guidance”
 4 Sister Soh: “If God Wants Me to Be Here, This Place Is My Home”
 5 Tsu Min: “If You’re Not Adaptable, You Can’t Stay in a Foreign Place for a Long Time”
 6 Conclusion

2 Place
 1 Moving beyond Native Place
 2 Centring Place
 3 A Home in Mobility Given by and for God
 4 Mediating Global Capitalism by Inscribing a Sacred Frame
 5 Connecting a Christian Territory within State Regulations
 6 Emplacement by Appropriating an Indigenous Christian History
 7 Conclusion

3 Community
 1 Restructuring Community among Other Chinese
 2 Circle of Joy
 3 Maintaining Class
 4 Discordant Politics
 5 Jockeying Around Race
 6 Perpetuating the Circle of Joy
 7 Conclusion

4 Citizenship
 1 Accumulated Experiences of Citizenship
 2 Religious Citizenship as a Mode of Migrant Incorporation
 3 Embarking on a Business Mission Planned by God
 4 Law-Abiding Residents Working with the Chinese State
 5 Reformatting Values and Transforming Business as National Contribution
 6 Conclusion

Students and scholars in the fields of anthropology, overseas Chinese studies, Asian studies, China studies, migration studies, transnational studies, as well as overseas Chinese intellectuals, and Christian intellectuals
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