Liu, Jifeng, and Chris White. “Old Pastor and local bureaucrats: recasting church-state relations in contemporary China.” Modern China (2019). Online first. DOI: 10.1177/0097700418816020 [Link]

  • In examining the relationships between a state-recognized Protestant pastor and local bureaucrats, this article argues that church leaders in contemporary China are strategic in enhancing interactions with the local state as a way to produce greater space for religious activities. In contrast to the idea that the Three-Self church structure simply functions as a state-governing apparatus, this study suggests that closer connection to the state can, at times, result in less official oversight. State approval of Three-Self churches offers legitimacy to registered congregations and their leaders, but equally important is that by endorsing such groups, the state is encouraging dialogue, even negotiations between authorities and the church at local levels.

Liu, Jifeng, and Chris White. “Consuming missionary legacies in contemporary China: Eric Liddell and evolving interpretations of Chinese Christian history.” China Information 33, no.1 (2019): 46-65.  [Link]

  • As a significant theme running through China’s modern history, Christianity’s inglorious role has helped redefine the Chinese Communist Party’s self-proclaimed role as the liberator of the long-suffering nation from imperialist forces. The association between missionaries and Western imperialism has predominated the Chinese Communist historiography. Nevertheless, recent years have witnessed a burgeoning movement to reinvent China’s Christian past and reconstruct historical memories of stigmatized missionaries. This article suggests that local governments in China are increasingly recognizing value in the history of Chinese-missionary encounters. This is evident in how local authorities have organized and promoted commemorative activities for Scottish missionary and Olympic champion Eric Liddell (1902-45). In presenting the case of Liddell, this article reveals how the Chinese government takes the initiative in consuming historical memories of Western missionaries, and finds instrumental value in the legacy of such figures despite their religious connections.

Liu, Jifeng. “The passing of glory: urban development, local politics and Christianity on Gulangyu.” In Protestantism in Xiamen: Then and Now, edited by Chris White, 77-101. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019. [Link]

  • In the wake of the First Opium War, Christianity entered Xiamen and thereafter played a major role in the modernization of Gulangyu Island. Trinity Church, built in 1934, was a witness to the prosperity of Christianity on this island. Despite the harsh repression during Mao’s political campaigns, Trinity Church survived and revived after its reopening in the late 1970s. However, the church was doomed to decline because of the state-led commercialization driven by the development of tourism on the island. As Gulangyu experienced rapid social, cultural, and demographic changes, Christianity on the island in general and Trinity Church in particular were inevitably affected. This chapter, based on an ethnographic research of Trinity Church, reveals the fate of Christianity on the changing island.

Liu, Jifeng. “Reconstructing missionary history in China today: cultural heritage, local politics and Christianity in Xiamen.” The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 18, no.1 (2017): 54-72.  [Link]

  • This article examines a memorial service held in Xiamen in 2010 for an American missionary who died and was buried there in 1910. The missionary, accused of association with imperialism under Mao, had been largely forgotten by the locals until this event. During the ceremony, all charges against the missionary were unofficially dropped and his service was highly commended. By attempting to explain what sociocultural mechanisms enabled Xiamen citizens to counter official amnesia and demolish the states domination of discourse on missionaries, I argue that the official manipulation of missionary discourse is not always effective; the reconstruction of missionary history in todays China is an ongoing, dynamic process of negotiation in which all parties involved remake the past to suit their own interests.