ChinaJuly 29 2022, 15:22 pm

Study Says China Uses Buddhism to Spread Global Influence, Identifies Australian Buddhist Groups Tied to CCP

Sinopo­sis, a Czech web­site cov­er­ing Chi­nese for­eign pol­i­cy, has pub­lished a detailed study exam­in­ing how Chi­na’s Com­mu­nist Par­ty (CCP) uses Bud­dhism to spread its glob­al influ­ence. The study says Bud­dhis­m’s minor­i­ty sta­tus in the West allows CCP-linked Bud­dhist groups “to reach main­stream pol­i­tics by sup­ply­ing [West­ern, ed.] offi­cials with an easy short­cut to an image of mul­ti­cul­tur­al engage­ment.” Accord­ing to the study’s abstract:

July 18, 2022 The involve­ment of agen­cies across the PRC par­ty-state in the cul­ti­va­tion of reli­gious fig­ures abroad points to the impor­tance the CCP attach­es to reli­gion as a ves­sel of polit­i­cal influ­ence. Unit­ed front organs such as the Bud­dhist Asso­ci­a­tion of Chi­na have tar­get­ed for­eign reli­gion since the Mao era, nat­u­ral­ly extend­ing a core domes­tic con­stituen­cy. Beyond unit­ed front work, agen­cies from the CCP for­eign affairs sys­tem and mil­i­tary intel­li­gence also engage in reli­gious influ­ence abroad. The party’s influ­ence agen­cies wear dif­fer­ent robes to their engage­ment with reli­gion in dif­fer­ent for­eign locales. This note sam­ples this ver­sa­til­i­ty of CCP influ­ence work by review­ing three loci of the party’s exploita­tion of Bud­dhism. In Mon­go­lia, the par­ty embraces the Qing empire’s lega­cy, resum­ing a role as patron of Tibetan-trans­mit­ted Bud­dhism and over­seer of rein­car­na­tion process­es to counter the Dalai Lama’s influ­ence. These impe­r­i­al robes are, in fact, only recy­cled from what the par­ty donned in Japan already under Mao: Bud­dhist exchanges as tokens of “peace” and “friend­ship” tran­scend­ing pol­i­tics helped build polit­i­cal ties that remain active today. In a West­ern coun­try like Aus­tralia, Buddhism’s minor­i­ty sta­tus allows CCP-linked Bud­dhist groups to reach main­stream pol­i­tics by sup­ply­ing offi­cials with an easy short­cut to an image of mul­ti­cul­tur­al engage­ment. Rein­car­na­tion, anti-mil­i­tarism and mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, we final­ly observe, are con­cepts the par­ty wears but does not gen­uine­ly espouse. Reli­gion, we con­clude, helps elu­ci­date ideology’s role in influ­ence work: for­eign élites are as eas­i­ly won by a Lenin­ist party’s promis­es to “reform” or freely trade as an abbot might be by its dona­tion of a mon­u­men­tal statue.

Read the full study here.

The Sinop­sis study iden­ti­fies the Aus­tralia Chi­na Bud­dhist Coun­cil (ACBC) and the Tas­man­ian Chi­nese Bud­dhist Acad­e­my of Aus­tralia (led by Xinde Wang) as being linked to the Unit­ed Front Work Depart­ment, say­ing both orga­ni­za­tions “have proved use­ful plat­forms for CCP offi­cials to engage with Aus­tralian politi­cians and offi­cials.” The report fur­ther crit­i­cizes Aus­tralian politi­cians as “eager” for pho­to oppor­tu­ni­ties with the ACBC and Wand Xinde with­out scru­ti­niz­ing his pro-CCP views.

The Unit­ed Front Work Depart­ment is a lit­tle-known Bei­jing-based agency with branch­es around the world that seeks to imple­ment the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty’s (CCP) plans to set up and con­nect an exten­sive net­work of asso­ci­a­tions, busi­ness groups, friend­ship soci­eties, or cul­tur­al groups sup­port­ive of the CCP and to ensure that its over­seas cit­i­zens, and oth­ers of eth­nic Chi­nese descent, stay loy­al. Accord­ing to a US gov­ern­ment report, Unit­ed Front work pro­motes Bei­jing’s pre­ferred glob­al nar­ra­tive, pres­sures indi­vid­u­als liv­ing in free and open soci­eties to self-cen­sor and avoid dis­cussing issues unfa­vor­able to the CCP, and harass­es or under­mines groups crit­i­cal of Bei­jing’s policies.


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