David Brophy reviews 'The Souls of China: The return of religion after Mao' by Ian Johnson

In 1989, as the Chinese Communist Party came to terms with the ongoing significance of religion in post-Mao China, they needed a new formula to explain its survival. Religion was, they said, a long-term phenomenon. It had a mass base; it had national dimensions, in that some of China’s nationalities identified strongly with particular religions; but it also had international dimensions – religious ties linked believers to communities outside China. Reaching the end of the list, the bureaucrats seem to have simply thrown up their hands: religion was, they said, complicated.

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Published in December 2017, no. 397