Xi Jinping’s Zongjiao Zhongguohua (Chinazation of Religion) and the Christian Idea of Inculturation

Zbigniew Wesolowski SVD

In this article, the author endeavours to compare Xi Jinping’s religious policy of zongjiao Zhongguohua (Chinazation of religion) with the Christian idea of inculturation. For this goal, he first provides some terminological explanations and then shows the core statements of Xi Jinping concerning his religious policy. Afterwards, he points to a possible origin of Chinazation of religions in the present-day atheist Communist China. Subsequently, he explains a Christian idea of inculturation. Finally, he compares Xi Jinping’s religious policy of zongjiao Zhongguohua with the Christian idea of inculturation in three points: the difference in the source of authority; the difference in the way of implementation of the Christian idea of inculturation and Xi Jinping’s policy of Chinazation; and finally in their ultimate objectives.

Introduction: From Terminology to the Present-day Political Situation of China

I have chosen the unusual – and even for me as a foreigner – somewhat awkward English translation “Chinazation of Religion” for the Chinese expression zongjiao Zhongguohua 宗教中国化 in order to stress its difference with another English word “sinicization” (American English; British English: sinicisation) – here “sinicization of religions” which is normally used in this context. I have also come across the wording “Sinolization of Christianity.” Actually, there is yet another word like “sinification,” which I came across in the context of Buddhism. In “Wikipedia” I have found also “sinofication” and “sinonization.” All these words consist of the prefix “sino-” which means “Chinese” or “relating to China.” They all describe a process in which “non-Chinese societies come under the influence of Chinese culture, particularly the culture, language, societal norms, and ethnic identity of the Han people – the largest ethnic group of China.” Chinese words for this process were traditionally Hanhua 漢化 or Huahua 華化. For me, they are suitable to be used for the cultural influence of China towards its neighboring countries in its history before the rise of the Republic of China in 1912 and the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. In order to stress the specificity of Zhongguohua of religion in Xi Jingping’s new era socialism with Chinese characteristics, I translate zongjiao Zhongguohua in English as “Chinazation of religion(s).”

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