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Xi Jinping says traditional faiths could fill moral void: sources
Critics counter that the idea is a ploy to distract from numerous problems angering ordinary Chinese
Photo by Reuters/Darley Shen
- Benjamin Kang Lim and Ben Blanchard, Beijing
- September 30, 2013
President Xi Jinping believes China is losing its moral compass and he wants the ruling Communist Party to be more tolerant of traditional faiths in the hope these will help fill a vacuum created by the country's breakneck growth and rush to get rich, sources said.
Xi, who grew up in Mao's puritan China, is troubled by what he sees as the country's moral decline and obsession with money, said three independent sources with ties to the leadership.
He hopes China's "traditional cultures" or faiths - Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism - will help fill a void that has allowed corruption to flourish, the sources said.
Skeptics see it as a cynical move to try to curb rising social unrest and perpetuate one-party rule.
During the early years under Communism, China's crime rate was low and corruption rare. By contrast, between 2008 and 2012 about 143,000 government officials – or an average of 78 a day – were convicted of graft or dereliction of duty, according to a Supreme Court report to parliament in March.
Xi intensified an anti-corruption campaign when he became party and military chief in November, but experts say only deep and difficult political reforms will make a difference.
Meanwhile, barely a day goes by without soul-searching on the Internet over what some see as a moral numbness in China – whether it's over graft, the rampant sale of adulterated food or incidents such as when a woman gouged out the eyes of her six-year-old nephew this month for unknown reasons.
"Xi understands that the anti-corruption [drive] can only cure symptoms and that reform of the political system and faiths are needed to cure the disease of corruption," one of the sources told Reuters, requesting anonymity to avoid repercussions for discussing elite politics.
Government agencies would moderate policies towards Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism in the hope these faiths would also help placate the disaffected who cannot afford homes, education and medical treatment, the sources said.
"The influence of religions will expand, albeit subtly," a second source said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
"Traditional cultures will not be comprehensively popularized, but attacks on them will be avoided."
Skeptics described such tactics as a ploy to divert blame away from the party for the many problems that anger ordinary Chinese, from corruption to land grabs.
"Buddhists accept their destiny and blame their predicament on the bad deeds they did in their previous lives," said Hu Jia, an AIDS activist and Buddhist who has been intermittently under house arrest since his release in 2011 after serving 42 months in prison for subversion.
Religious freedom is enshrined in the constitution but the officially atheist Communist Party has no qualms about crushing those who challenge its rule. The party is paranoid and would remain vigilant against cults and feudal superstition, the sources added.