As the 19th Party Congress gets under way on October 18th, we look back at one of the most under-recognized elements of Xi Jinping’s first five years in office: his enthusiastic support of traditional religions and values. Since taking office in 2012, Mr Xi has strongly backed Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism and folk religions. At the same time, he has been visibly more skeptical of Christianity and Islam.
What lies behind the seeming paradox of a Communist government embracing some religious beliefs? Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Ian Johnson takes us behind the scenes of government policy, giving us the benefit of his 16 years in China and insight from his latest book, The Souls of China: The Return of Religion after Mao.
We invite Ian Johnson, Pulizer Prize-winning author and journalist to discuss.
Ian Johnson is a Pulitzer-Prize winning writer focusing on society, religion, and history. He works out of Beijing, where he also teaches and advises academic journals and think tanks.
Johnson has spent over half of the past thirty years in the Greater China region, first as a student in Beijing from 1984 to 1985, and then in Taipei from 1986 to 1988. He later worked as a newspaper correspondent in China, from 1994 to 1996 with Baltimore’s The Sun, and from 1997 to 2001 with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered macro economics, China’s WTO accession and social issues.
In 2009, Johnson returned to China, where he writes features and essays for The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, as well as other publications, such as The New Yorker and National Geographic. He teaches undergraduates at The Beijing Center for Chinese Studies, where he also runs a fellowship program. In addition, he formally advises a variety of academic journals and think tanks on China, such as the Journal of Asian Studies, the Berlin-based think tank Merics, and New York University’s Center for Religion and Media.
He was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and won in 2001 for his coverage of China. He also won two awards from the Overseas Press Club, and an award from the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2017, he won Stanford University’s Shorenstein Journalism Awardfor his body of work covering Asia.
In 2006-07 he spent a year as a Nieman fellow at Harvard, and later received research and writing grants from the Open Society Foundation, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and the Alicia Patterson Foundation.
(Photo credit: Sim Chi Yin/VII Photo)