Christian aspirations and the everyday doing of business in Shanghai (completed)

Sin Wen Lau

Numerous overseas Chinese moved to China in search of economic opportunities in the aftermath of the 1979 economic liberalization. The bulk of these overseas Chinese were entrepreneurs and executives working for multinational corporations that have invested in China and represented one of the most significant flows of capital and skills into the country. For many of these business people, China was not a permanent home and travel was a constant feature in their lives. Yet, as overseas Chinese, they shared historical, cultural and linguistic linkages with China and her peoples. This was an understanding that has positioned overseas Chinese business people as bridge-builders connecting China to the world in the context of China’s push to modernize.

This project asks how overseas Chinese business people embed, embody and use a Christian view of the world to make meaning in the context of reform era China. Rather than approach practices of faith amongst these business Christians as a patterned whole, I intend to follow the flow of these overseas Chinese and their Christian aspirations in and through the city and pay attention to the contestations and engagements through which Christianity is embodied and used to make meaning in Shanghai. In doing so, I seek to develop a localized understanding of Christianity through a meaning centred analysis of Christian practices amongst overseas Chinese business people. Offering a case study of how a religious faith is made meaningful in a highly regulated urban environment, this study pushes against arguments that suggest a secular modernity.

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