(K. Brent Tomer),
The Souls of China: The Return of Religion after Mao. By Ian Johnson. Pantheon; 455 pages; $30. Allen Lane; £25.
HISTORICALLY in China, state and religion were always united, forming a spiritual centre of gravity. China was poor but its identity was clear, its vision for the future based upon its knowledge of the past. Communist revolutionaries saw these religious traditions as an impediment to progress and a reason why the country remained poor. So they set about destroying the entwined belief system of Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism, and replaced it with the new trinity of Lenin, Marx and Mao. Only by doing so, they believed, could China be saved.
When Mao died in 1976, belief in communism began to erode. Now, four decades on, his successors have found the absence of a belief system to be a problem. At least in Europe, the ebb of the Christian tide left a deeply rooted rule of law and a compassionate welfare state. Shorn of Dao and Mao, modern China has been left with a corrupt party state and a brutal, wild west capitalism. In a recent poll 88% of people said they believed that there was a moral decay and a lack of trust in…Continue reading