Original Research - Special Collection: Engaging Development

Faith-based organisations between service delivery and social change in contemporary China: The experience of Amity Foundation

Theresa C. Carino
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 4 | a3504 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i4.3504 | © 2016 Theresa C. Carino | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 May 2016 | Published: 31 October 2016

About the author(s)

Theresa C. Carino, Amity Foundation, University of South Africa, South Africa; Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa, South Africa, South Africa

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China has undergone a profound paradigm shift in its approach to economic development since its policy of ‘opening and reform’ was first implemented in 1978. It has shifted rapidly from a centrally planned economy to a market-oriented one, speeding up its economic development through foreign investment, a more open market, access to advanced technologies and management experience. It is notable that its economic growth, marked by annual doubledigit rises in GDP over two decades, has lifted more than 400 million people out of extreme poverty. Today, the number of Chinese billionaires has ballooned, but so has the rich–poor gap. China’s ‘development’ has to address this urgent issue.

This article examines, based on the experience of Amity Foundation, one of China’s largest faith-based organisations (FBOs), how religious organisations are being harnessed by the state to redress the wealth gap arising from ‘development’. The process of social engagement has empowered FBOs, made their presence more accepted and appreciated in Chinese society and contributed to the creation of more social and political space for a nascent civil society. The author argues that FBOs must provide visible, viable and replicable alternatives in their social practices that are firmly rooted in their faith, if they are to make any sustainable impact on the development debate.


Development; religion; faith-based organisations; poverty; inequality


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