The Chinese and Russian Communists, as Marxist-Leninists, are fundamentally hostile towards religion, and are committed to its ultimate eradication. Although their attitudes towards religion are similar, their prescriptions for dealing with it are different. In essence, this difference arises from two divergent conceptions, one optimistic, the other pessimistic, regarding the progress of religion towards oblivion in a situation where the Communist Party has assumed leadership and where the “social” roots of religion have supposedly disappeared. The Chinese hold the optimistic view, a position which may be explained in part by the fact that institutional religion has traditionally been weak in China. I quote here C. K. Yang's description of institutional religion in China as it emerged in the modern period:
As an organised body, modern institutional religion had a very small priesthood, divided into minute units of two or three priests each, largely unconnected with each other. It had barely enough financial resources for subsistence for this scanty personnel. It was deprived of the support of an organised laity. … It did not participate in various organised aspects of community life such as charity, education, and the enforcement of moral discipline. There was no powerful centralised priesthood to dominate religious life or to direct operation of the secular social institutions.