China gathered in Suizhou representatives of Zen Buddhism from the various Belt and Road countries—and asked them to study Xi Jinping’s October 18 speech.
by Jiang Tao
The Third Belt and Road Forum, held last week in Beijing, was an exhibition of Chinese hard power, with Xi Jinping and Russia’s President Putin celebrating the economic and military might of their allied countries. However, Belt and Road is also about soft power and subtle propaganda, as demonstrated by an event held in the prefecture-level city of Suizhou, in the Hubei province, known as the supposed birthplace of Yandi, one of the three mythological ancestors of the Chinese nation.
The Dahong Mountain in Suizhou is sacred to Chinese Buddhists, and Abbot Yin Shun, of Dahongshan Ci’en Temple happens to be the Vice President of the China Buddhist Association, the United Front’s tool to organize and control Chinese Buddhism.
Well aware of the popularity of Zen (Ch. Chan) Buddhism throughout the world, the CCP had the idea of mobilizing Zen Buddhists of the Belt and Road countries. “Under the guidance of the United Front,” as it was clearly stated, five hundred delegates from all around the world gathered at the Dahongshan Ci’en Temple on October 19 and 20.
They visited Buddhist centers and held common ceremonies, but they were also asked to study and discuss Xi Jinping’s keynote speech at the Third Belt and Road Summit, pronounced on October 18. In Xi’s lecture, they found an assurance of China’s goodwill towards Belt and Road partners, just as the Chinese “pioneers of the ancient silk routes won their place in history not as conquerors with warships, guns, horses or swords. Rather, they are remembered as friendly emissaries leading camel caravans and sailing ships loaded with goods.”
“Belt and Road cooperation,” Xi said, “is based on the belief that the flame runs high when everyone adds wood to the fire,” a principle opposed to “unilateral sanctions, economic coercion and decoupling and supply chain disruption.” Which country was accused of the latter evil was not difficult to understand even for Zen monks not particularly interested in politics.
The Suizhou gathering was more than folklore. It was part of a global strategy using the government-controlled bodies overseeing the five authorized religions for international propaganda aimed at persuading the world that China guarantees religious liberty and that the representatives of China Buddhist Association and its counterparts for other religious traditions should be recognized as bona fide religious leaders rather than the puppets and Quislings of the CCP they really are. It perfectly combines with Xi’s dreams of global hegemony through the Belt and Road Initiative. And even Zen Buddhism is mobilized for this aim.