According to a 2006 survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, 31% of the Chinese public considers religion to be very or somewhat important in their lives, compared with only 11% who say religion is not at all important. When asked a somewhat different question in a 2005 Pew Research poll, an even greater percentage of the Chinese public (56%) considered religion to be very or somewhat important in their lives. Other survey data, as well as Chinese government reports, have also shown that relatively large numbers of the Chinese public consider religion to be important in their lives. This is somewhat surprising given that China has strictly adhered to a secular and even atheistic national philosophy for nearly six decades. As events unfold leading up to and following the Olympics, many people inside and outside China will be interested to see whether Chinese communism will adjust to religious market forces just as it has to economic market forces. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.