This article examines how the policy of “religious freedom” has been used to enable the CCP to retain institutional and ideological control over the religious sector of Chinese society. In particular, it looks at how the clash between religious and communist ideologies has evolved, first in the Maoist period and then in the context of reform and openness with the attendant growth of materialism and social change since 1978. A softening in the control of religion to encourage national reconstruction and foreign investment led to a proliferation of religious activity that alarmed Party leaders and triggered a tightening of ideological control and important changes in religious policy. The new policy of “accommodation” and emphasis on “legality” became the watchwords of the Jiang Zemin era. With further development they remain important in the new regime of Hu Jintao.
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