Changing church–state relations in contemporary China: The case of Wenzhou Diocese

Seguire S H CHAN*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
66 Downloads (Pure)


This article examines the relationship between the state and the Catholic Church in Wenzhou in contemporary China from the perspective of institutional theory. There have been four phases of interaction between the state and the Catholic Church between 1980 and today, namely, religious restoration, tightened control over religion, the management of religion and limiting religious influence. During these phases, the state coerced the Catholic Church to adhere to its policies on religious institutions but also made concessions with the Catholic clergy during negotiations. In response to the state’s institutionalization of religion, the Church engaged in accommodation, negotiation, confrontation and resistance. More recently, the Church has adjusted its political position, moving towards increased resistance against state institutions. The article concludes with a discussion of the political implications of the church–state model in Wenzhou for religious freedom in China, reflecting the usefulness of institutional theory in Chinese society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-507
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Sociology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Catholic Church
  • China
  • church–state relations
  • institutionalization of religion


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