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'love Transcends Borders' or 'blood is Thicker than Water'? The Charity Work of the Compassion Relief Foundation in the People's Republic of China

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This paper looks at the Compassion Relief Foundation, a charity organisation originating from Taiwan, and tries to understand how it has managed to provide relief to victims of natural disasters for more than ten years in nineteen provinces, autonomous regions, and special municipalities of the People's Republic of China, despite the vicissitudes of cross-Straits relations and amidst recent bouts of religious persecution. The essay starts with an introduction to Compassion Relief: it presents its history as a charity organization, and then situates its activities in the PRC within the context of tense relations between China and Taiwan, as well as economic reforms in the PRC. The paper then questions three hypotheses advanced to explain the acceptance of Compassion Relief 's activities by the Chinese government. It discusses the view that such approval results from political calculations directed at Taiwanese; the argument that it heralds change in the Chinese state's approach towards the social role of religion; and the claim that it signals the emergence of an autonomous civil society free of government interference. The essay expresses reservations about these views and concludes that the activities of Compassion Relief in the PRC rather suggests the existence of a symbiotic relationship between society and state officials at the local level.


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