This chapter compares the Christian Church, both Catholic and Protestant, in the four regions of Greater China to see the extent to which it is a civil society organization (CSO) as well as what roles it plays. The Church on the mainland faces many more difficulties in serving as a CSO than in other places, especially in the Xi Jinping era with frequent crackdowns. All things considered, as a CSO, the Church appears to be the strongest in Hong Kong, followed by Taiwan and Macau, with mainland China trailing behind. I support my view using indicators from the Civil Society Index, measuring the strengths, challenges, potential, and needs of civil society in a country.
The campaign of church demolitions and cross removals in Zhejiang from 2013 to 2016 has revealed some uneasiness in the religion-state relationship in China. The party-state has had a policy of “mutual accommodation” since the 1990s, and the official churches are good examples of such accommodation. But the demolition of Sanjiang Church shows the limits of the policy. In this case study, we argue that mutual accommodation between the two sides is still possible but constrained by two factors: the broad political and policy structure, and the individuals involved in the interaction between church and state. This case study helps to shed some light on an issue that has a far-reaching effect on sociopolitical change in China.
The levels of civic engagement in terms of social services and civic activism in the Catholic churches of Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei, and Shanghai are very different. While the former three churches have a higher level of social services, Shanghai does not. Hong Kong has a higher level of civic activism than the other three dioceses. This paper explains the similarities and differences among these cities by using an analytical model of political, cultural, and individual opportunity structures. Our findings and analysis are derived from a collaborative research project on the Catholic Church’s civic engagement in the four cities using both quantitative and qualitative research methods. In a time of rapid political, economic, and social transformation in China, religion is beginning to play an increasingly important role. Our study sheds light on what roles Catholicism or other religions might play in this process, and it has important implications for church-state relations in greater China.