Santa Clara University


Maoist Marxism

See also China.

1. Brief Introduction
2. Religion and Politics Sections
3. A Short Introductory Course
4. Other Resource Materials
5. Recent Articles

1. Brief Introduction:

Communism came to China from Russia and attracted particular notice after the Soviet triumph in the October Revolution of 1917. The Chinese Communist Party was founded in Shanghai in 1921, two years after the May Fourth Movement that began modern Chinese nationalism. Marxism, with its emphasis on the urban proletariat, did not immediately fit Chinese agrarian society. Mao “discovered” the peasantry in the Hunan Peasant Uprising of 1926, but he did not gain control of the party until January 1935 on the Long March. Throughout his life Mao sought to integrate Chinese and Marxist insights into a truly national Communism.

With the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Maoist Marxism took on even more specifically religious characteristics. In the fall of 1966 more than eleven million youth met in Tiananmen Square liturgies that glorified the godlike Chairman Mao before they spread out all over the country to attack “the four olds” of bourgeois culture. State radio broadcast new Communist-style weddings and funerals. A seder-like sixtieth birthday celebration recalled the bitter days before the “salvation” of Mao’s triumph. C.K. Yang calls this Maoist movement “a nontheistic faith” for its ultimate concern, experiences of conversion, and ideological certitude. The death of Mao’s “Closest Comrade in Arms,” and then traitor Lin Biao in 1971 led to widespread disillusionment in such belief. The Cultural Revolution had proved a disaster, and Deng Xiaoping reversed the country ideologically in the late 1970s. The waning of popular belief has left a tremendous ideological vacuum than has been filled by many other beliefs, from traditional local temple sects to house Protestantism to the Falun Gong.

2. Religion and PoliticsSections:

“China and Japan: Confucianism, Buddhism, and Maoism” (pp. 111-19)

“VI. East Asia: Modernization and Ideology” (pp. 164-97)

3. A Short Introductory Course:

Schram provides the classic examination of Mao’s political thought as the peasant leader sought to articulate a true Chinese Marxism. Chen Village and Morality and Power in a Chinese Village are superb sociological-political studies of a small village in Guangdong Province. The first narrates the story of this village under Mao and Deng. The second features the sociological reflections of Madsen “as Maoism exploded into absurdity.” In 2003, the premier social science journal, The China Quarterly, published an entire edition on the current state of religion in China.

Schram, Stuart. The Political Thought of Mao Tse-tung, rev. ed. (New York: Praeger, 1969).

Chan, Anita, Madsen, Richard, and Unger, Jonathan. Chen Village: Revolution to Globalization, 3rd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009).

Madsen, Richard. Morality and Power in a Chinese Village (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).

The China Quarterly 174 (June 2003), Special issue on “Religion in China Today.”    

4. Other Resource Materials:

Baker, Don, “World Religions and National States: Competing Claims in East Asia,” Rudolph, Susanne Hoeber, and Piscatori, James, Transnational Religion and Fading States. (Boulder, Co.: Westview Press, 1997), 144-72.

Chen, Nancy N., “Healing Sects and Anti-Cult Campaigns,” in The China Quarterly (2003).

Dean, Kenneth, “Local Communal Religion in Contemporary South-east China,” in The China Quarterly (2003).

Gilley, Bruce. China’s Democratic Future: How It Will Happen and Where It Will Lead (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).

Gries, Peter Hays. China’s New Nationalism: Pride, Politics, and Diplomacy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004).

Hanson, Eric O. Catholic Politics in China and Korea (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1980).

Johnson, Ian. Wild Grass: Three Stories of Change in Modern China (New York: Pantheon Books, 2004).

Kristoff, Nicholas, “A Little Leap Forward,” New York Review of Books (June 24, 2004).

Kurlantzick, Joshua, “Move Over, Confucius,” The New Republic (September 6, 2004).

MacInnis, Donald E. Religion in China Today: Policy and Practice (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1989).

Madsen, Richard, “Understanding Falun Gong,” Current History (September 2000): 243-47.

Nathan, Andrew J. “Tiananmen and the Cosmos: What Chinese democrats mean by democracy,” The New Republic (July 29, 1991): 31-36.

Nathan, Andrew J., and Gilley, Bruce. China’s New Rulers: The Secret Files (New York: New York Review of Books, 2002).

Nathan, Andrew J., and Link, Perry, eds. The Tiananmen Papers, paperback edition with new preface (New York: Public Affairs, 2002).

Potter, Pitman B., “Belief in Control: Regulation of Religion in China,” in The China Quarterly (June 2003).

Wei Jingsheng, The Courage to Stand Alone: Letters from Prison and Other Writings (New York: Viking Penguin, 1997).

Weller, Robert P. Alternate Civilities: Democracy and Culture in China and Taiwan (Boulder, Co.: Westview Press, 1999).

Wright, Teresa. The Perils of Protest: State Repression and Student Activism in China and Taiwan. (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001).
Yang, C.K. Religion in Chinese Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961). 

5. Recent Articles:

See also China.

List of other Religions

October 16, 2009.