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Susan K. McCarthy

Religion has long inspired resistance to Chinese regimes, from the imperial era to the present. Practitioners of religious charity, however, typically regard their endeavors as expressions of patriotism and devotion to the nation-state. Nonetheless, their activities can constitute a form of resistance insofar as they push back against restrictions on religious practice, expression, and community. Through charity, adherents engage in religious “repurposing,” an unobtrusive and non-confrontational mode of resistance by which the secular activities and sites of charity are sacralized, that is, transformed into modes and venues of religious practice. Officials may even facilitate this repurposing, in part because the spiritual dimensions of faith-based charity escape comprehension by party-state agents steeped in the atheism and materialism of China’s Marxist regime. In other instances officials willingly support or turn a blind eye to repurposing because of the benefits faith-based charity provides. In exploring these issues, the chapter draws on recent research on Buddhist, Muslim, Catholic, and Evangelical Protestant charities. The findings of this research underscore the complicated relationship between compliance and resistance, and between loyalty and dissent, in contemporary China.