China (Includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)
Section I. Religious Demography
The U.S. government estimates the total population at 1.4 billion (July 2016 estimate). According to the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), there are more than 200 million religious believers in the country. Many experts, however, believe that official estimates underestimate the total number of religious adherents. The U.S. government estimates that there are 657 million religious believers in the country, including 250 million Buddhists, 70 million Christians, 25 million Muslims, 301 million observers of folk religions, and 10 million observers of other faiths, including Taoism (July 2010 estimate). According to 2014 data from the Jewish Virtual Library, the country’s Jewish population is 2,500.
The 2014 Blue Book of Religions, produced by the Institute of World Religions at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a research institution directly under the State Council, reported the number of Protestants to be between 23 and 40 million. A June 2010 SARA report estimated there are 16 million Protestants affiliated with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the state-sanctioned umbrella organization for all officially recognized Protestant churches. According to SARA more than 5.5 million Catholics worship in sites registered by the Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), the state-sanctioned organization for all officially recognized Catholic churches. According to the most recent outside surveys by Pew in 2010 and 2012, respectively, there are nine million Catholics and 68 million Protestants, of which 5.7 million Catholics and 23 million Protestants are affiliated with state-sanctioned umbrella organizations. Accurate estimates are difficult to make, however, because many adherents practice exclusively at home.
According to SARA, there are more than 21 million Muslims in the country, with 10 ethnic minorities practicing Islam. Hui Muslims are concentrated primarily in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Qinghai, Gansu, and Yunnan provinces. Uighur Muslims live primarily in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. The State Council’s 2015 White Paper on Xinjiang reports Hui, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Uighur, and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities constitute 14.63 million residents in Xinjiang, or 63 percent of the total population.
Prior to the government’s 1999 ban on Falun Gong, the government estimated that there were 70 million adherents. Falun Gong sources estimate that tens of millions continue to practice privately.
Some ethnic minorities retain traditional religions, such as Dongba among the Naxi people in Yunnan Province and Buluotuo among the Zhuang in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Media sources report Tibetan Buddhism is growing in popularity among the Han Chinese population.