Interview with Rodney Stark, Part VI

VI.  Ongoing China Research


… We also love bringing over six or seven post-docs a year from China to study at Baylor – a couple of them senior, the rest of them junior. And now I'm an honorary professor of social science at Beijing University. We've got all this stuff going on with China – it's marvelous. 


China's my primary field, so that's very interesting to me. 


Now we're trying to figure out how to correct it for the number of Christians. The problem is, there's a big bias in surveys in China. A lot of people won't be interviewed. The Christians are, we believe, among the most likely to refuse, and the most likely to not admit it if they do take part in the thing. 


The difficulty is getting people in the countryside .


It's true, but it's also the case that smart people don't tell strangers that they're Christians! 


Well, maybe it depends on how you approach it .


Yeah, but if you're a stranger who comes in, they don't know if you're government ….


When I've taken surveys there, I've found people pretty up-front .


Yeah, but this isn't some kind of national poll, it's much more informal and you've got a relationship with them. 


What we’re doing right now is, we have obtained names of people who belong to a house church. And we are mixing them in with a random sample of their community. And we're sending the interviewers – the interviewers have no idea that anything like this is going on, they're just going out, doing an interview – seeing whether the people we know to be Christians – what's the bias, how much less likely they are to take part, and how much less likely, how many of them don't fess up to being Christians.  That way we can do a correction. 


What are you finding? 


I don't have any idea; it's just starting. It'll be crude, but at least it'll be a lot better ….  One thing that's very clear, is that party members are much less likely than non-party members to have faith in communism. (Laughter)  Isn’t that funny? 


Well, I imagine that people who have just graduated from college or in college would tend to say they believe in communism more than people . [5]


The more educated you are, the less likely you are to believe in communism. The belief isn't really widespread. 


I wouldn’t think so. But I asked people, who do you think is going to be helpful for the future development of China, then I give a few names, including Karl Marx. And so far, students have tended to check that one off .


Well, sure! But there is some suggestion that campuses are more Christian than anywhere else in the country.[6] The proportion of Christians at Beijing University is enormous. 




[5] It was foolish of me to include graduates in this question; I know better. Stark was incorrect, however, in surmising that I had any relationship with the people I surveyed. 

[6] It’ll be interesting to see survey results; I am skeptical of this claim. About 20% of residents of Wenzhou claim to be Christian in some sense; I doubt that so high a percent of university students believe at any major university in China.