Based on recent research on contemporary Chinese Christianity, this talk puts the role Christian thought and belief plays in China's social and political transformation into critical perspective. It acknowledges the important role Christian individuals have played in embedding key concepts like 'constitutionalism' and 'conscience' in the wider discourse of political process and negotiation. Pioneered by Christian human rights lawyers and other Christians close to Liu Xiaobo, the importance of the full implementation of China’s constitution has become a common denominator in China's political reform discourse as a result.
But this talk also points to other trends in contemporary Chinese Christianity, which are less transformative and more socially and politically conservative. They include the widely accepted complementarian view of gender roles, which means that patriarchy and traditional gender roles are replicated and reinforced in contemporary churches to a considerable degree. It is also evident that Christian belief does not raise the individual above the sociological determinant of suzhi. Common suzhi demarcations are reciprocated among Christians, while Christian belief itself seems to be associated with considerable aspirational suzhi. This in turn relates to a significant overlap between the Christian agenda and the state agenda in contemporary China.
Finally, the talk addresses Wielander’s experience of researching Christianity, which has led to interesting insights into the assumptions we make regarding a researcher's relation to his/her subject matter. What role do concepts like projection and transference – normally confined to the field of psychology and interpersonal relationships – play in our relation with research topics and subjects?
Gerda Wielander is Principal Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Westminster, London, and researcher at the university’s Contemporary China Centre. Her book Christian Values in Communist China will be published as part of Routledge’s Contemporary China Series later this year.
To allow for informal discussion, the seminar will be followed by drinks at the Fellows Bar at University House and a dinner beginning at 6:30pm with the guest speaker at the Red Chilli Restaurant. All are welcome, though due to budget limitations, participants will need to pay for their own drinks and food.
As reservations must be made at the restaurant, please RSVP by noon on the day before the seminar to Jasmine firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in attending dinner. There is no need to RSVP for drinks.