Religion and the cultivation of citizenship in Chinese higher education

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8 Citations (Scopus)


A growing body of research has documented the escalating popularity of religion among student populations in China’s higher education settings. Despite the changes sustained by China’s religious policies throughout the post-Mao era, the state has not abandoned its long-standing approach of cultivating citizenship through Marxist–Leninist-oriented political education. The rising popularity of religion on university campuses thus reflects a complex interplay between religion and the state in the education sector. This study explores the meaning of religion as constructed in this setting by comparing (a) the political education curriculum, (b) the academic discussions of religious issues and the challenges faced by political education scholars and (c) the daily life discourse embedded in the voices of university teachers. The findings suggest that the manipulated meaning of religion in the political education arena accommodates the agenda of building a modern, secular state, but it fails to construct a cohesive and coherent understanding of religion. The state’s interpretation of religion leaves space for curriculum and policy implementers to renegotiate the meaning of religion in practice. Copyright © 2016 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-649
JournalHigher Education
Issue number4
Early online dateOct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017


Zhao, Z. (2017). Religion and the cultivation of citizenship in Chinese higher education. Higher Education, 74(4), 635–649. doi: 10.1007/s10734-016-0069-x


  • University
  • Citizenship
  • Political education
  • Religion
  • Diversity


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