China is set to be the most powerful country on earth in the 21st century. In two generations, from the Maoist Red Guards of the 1960s, through Tiananmen Square, to the Beijing Olympics, those alive in China today have lived through one of the greatest revolutions in the history of the world. From the outside, China appears as a nation reborn.
But what has been the effect on the inner lives of individuals who have seen the worship of a human idol in Mao Zedong, give way to the assertion that to be rich is good, as the most closed society on earth has become manufacturer to the world? A society of peasants and communists has successfully aspired to becoming a nation of capitalists and consumers but, along the way, has sown the seeds for the creation of a supremely selfish society, which is rapidly losing any sense of its Chinese identity. Communist Party internal documents speak of disillusionment and ideological emptiness post the Cultural Revolution. Now the Communist Party itself is turning to religion to fill that vacuum.
In this 3 part series, Tim Gardam, Principal of St Anne’s College, Oxford, travels through this vast nation of 1.4 billion people, to explore the role of “God in China”.
Programme 1: Taoism & Folk Religion, Monday 29 August, BBC Radio 4, 8pm
How Communism is reconnecting with its Chinese heritage through its own indigenous religions
Programme 2: Buddhism & Islam, Monday 5 September, 8pm
The Communist Party’s appropriation of religion into President Hu Jintao’s “harmonious society”
Programme 3: Christianity & Catholicism, Monday 12 September, 8pm
Christianity is changing China. But it is still seen as Western and the authorities are nervous.
The programmes will also be available on the BBC website after transmission.