Paternalism, national citizenship, and religiosity in Chinese state legitimation discourse

Gregory Paul FAIRBROTHER, Zhenzhou ZHAO

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Recent discussions on the nature and problems of Chinese state legitimacy have drawn attention to the multidimensionality of contributing factors and threats to this legitimacy. This article shifts the focus of the discussion on legitimacy to the process of Chinese state legitimation and develops answers to the question of how state legitimation strategies from the late-Qing period through the early 21st century handled an adherence both to traditional Chinese political-cultural rules of paternalistic governance and legitimation claims grounded in Western concepts of the nation-state and citizenship. The article focuses on and draws upon discussions of national citizenship, religion, and superstition in state policy directives on moral-political education from the Qing period to the Hu Jintao administration to elaborate on the ways concepts of citizenship and religiosity have been integrated with state concern for people’s spiritual livelihood, fidelity to orthodoxies of good governance, concern for people’s material livelihood, attentiveness to people’s views, and encouragement of people fulfilling their responsibilities. It finds that religiosity is closely linked with conceptions of orthodoxy and heterodoxy and that these links create contradictions with the relationship between religiosity, national development, and citizenship rights. The article concludes by suggesting that the existence of these contradictions is assuaged by the perspective that states’ legitimation objectives are met by continually adhering to the broader character of paternalism. Copyright © 2016 Journal of Chinese Political Science/Association of Chinese Political Studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-434
JournalJournal of Chinese Political Science
Issue number4
Early online dateOct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


Fairbrother, G. P., & Zhao, Z. (2016). Paternalism, national citizenship, and religiosity in Chinese state legitimation discourse. Journal of Chinese Political Science, 21(4), 417-434.


  • Legitimation
  • Moral-Political Education
  • Paternalism
  • Religiosity
  • China


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