China must lead the Buddhist World
Posted on October 30th, 2014

by Senaka Weeraratna

In as much as two global religions Christianity and Islam are today given leadership by powerful countries based in the West and Middle East respectively, the time has come for the oldest of the three global religions namely Buddhism to be backed by a powerhouse to dispel the widely circulated myth that it is a weak religion sustained by relatively weaker countries in Asia despite Buddhism’s unmatched contributions to the sustaining of world peace, unqualified respect for the natural environment including reverence for the lives of all living beings and promotion of Ahimsa and non – violence as the basis of resolution of conflict.

No other country today fits the description of a powerhouse with a close association with Buddhism lasting for more than two millennia than China.  It has re-discovered the priceless value of Buddhism and the role it must play in the dissemination of Buddhism worldwide.

The 27th General Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists that was held in Baoji, Shaanxi Province, China recently i.e. from the 16th – 18th October , 2014, being the first occasion a WFB Conference was held in mainland China, was a clear indication of the   new role that China has embarked upon. It was meant to send a strong message to the rest of the world that the China of the future will not only be a supplier of goods and services but also a source of enlightened thinking based on Buddhism.

Though there have been major upheavals from time to time in Chinese history e.g. the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution ( 1966 – 1969), there is no gain saying that Buddhism is deeply rooted in China and is very much a part of the Chinese culture and civilization. Chinese Buddhism together with Confucius values will be a major export in the very near future. Using the country’s spectacular advancements in science and technology, Chinese Buddhism can be expected to  blend with modern technology and re- focus on social engagement within China leading to its emergence as a major force in China with the support of both Provincial Governments and local government i.e. Municipal authorities.

China’s new leadership is no longer doctrinaire Communist.   China’s President Xi Jinping has been quoted in the world press as saying that he believed China was losing its moral compass and he wanted the ruling Communist Party to be more tolerant of traditional faiths in the hope these will help fill a vacuum created by the country’s breakneck growth and rush to get rich.

Xi, who was raised in Chairman Mao Tse Tung’s puritan China, is dismayed by what he sees as the country’s moral decline and growing obsession with money. Xi has expressed the hope that China’s “traditional cultures” or faiths – Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism – will help fill a spiritual void that has allowed corruption to flourish.

The WFB Conference held this month in Baoji, Shaanxi Province and for the first time in mainland China, may well be considered as a  new starting point for both Provincial Governments and the Central Government of China to foster Buddhism and it will not be a surprise if the world were to see Buddhist missionaries from China emerging very soon to spread the teachings of the Buddha all over the world in a manner similar but more ethical than Christian evangelists from USA and other western countries engaged in spreading Christianity in former colonies.

China must claim the leadership of the Buddhist world to better project its image and Chinese culture, which is rooted in Buddhism, and in addition to effectively counter aggressive foreign religious evangelism in many parts of the world.

Furthermore If there is any cultural and spiritual base that can unite Asia that is Buddhism primarily because the other two great Asian nations namely India (birthplace of Buddhism) and Japan are heirs of a great Buddhist civilization that spread to the far corners of Asia long before the entry of foreign political and religious influences from the west.


On the day of the inauguration of the WFB Conference at the magnificent Famen Temple in Shaanxi Province i.e. October 16, 2014, China’s major television network CCTV broadcast a news item worldwide showing the grand opening ceremony and an interview with a Sri Lankan appealing to China to lead the Buddhist world and then quoting him as saying that if that were to happen Sri Lanka will fully support such a claim by China.

Please click on the web link below to watch the interview ( in English) at the tail end of this short news item broadcast in Chinese.

Duration: 2.05 minutes

Senaka Weeraratna

6 Responses to “China must lead the Buddhist World”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    I disagree. SL should lead the Buddhist world.

    IF China leads it, politicization is inevitable. China DOES NOT recognize Buddhism in its constitution or policies. China is using Buddhism only to advance its SOFT POWER in Buddhist countries.

    After the GENOCIDE of Buddhists in Tibet, China has no right to lead the Buddhist world.

    There are VERY GOOD things about China but Buddhism cannot be handed to China’s leadership.

  2. Senevirath Says:

    it is better if it is sri lanka if not Myanmar-Burma—.they will even die to save Buddha dhamma.

  3. Nimal Says:

    Unlike us in SL,China is not interested in religious affairs but one day lead the world in economy.

  4. AnuD Says:

    Lorenzo should not be concerned about this.

    Chinese Chen Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism are different the way it is practised. Chen Buddhism and Taoism go hand in hand.

    Sri lanka also can play a major role. that won’t be a big issue.

    China has a different form of Capitalism. If china is to succeed for a long term, china has to progress in a completely different way from the western world. That is what they are trying to do I think.

  5. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    I address this part of the article and I quote “….. to dispel the widely circulated myth that it is a weak religion sustained by relatively weaker countries in Asia despite Buddhism’s unmatched contributions to the sustaining of world peace”

    I do not know how that conclusion can come about. Japan is a Buddhist nation by any definition of that word. Bodhidarma an Indian monk brought Zen Buddhism to Japan via China. Japanese Zen Buddhism then grew to a sophisticated form in that nation. It alone has had a profound effect on the Western world.

    Vajrayana Buddhism as practiced in Tibet would have stayed in Tibet and the surrounding area of Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim if not for the annexation of Tibet by China and the ensuing displacement of the Tibetan government into India. Due to this act Vajrayana Buddhism as practiced by the Dalai Lama has chapters in every continent of the world (with the exception of the Arctic and the Antarctic). It too has become a world wide phenomena.

    In India the effects of the British Empire in reviving the Buddhist faith in the 19th century resulted in a renaissance of Buddhism in India. Every holy site of that faith is now on the world map for tourists and pilgrims alike. Sites such as Sarnarth, Bodh Gaya, Sanchi, Lumbini (birth place of the Buddha) to Kushinagar are some of the places the world is becoming well aware. Sri Lanka now having emerged from 30 years of horror is gaining world attention as the oldest unbroken Buddhist nation in the world.

    The actions of Dr. Ambedkar in India have converted millions of Indians to that faith. New monuments to Buddhism and to the Buddha are now present from the Western world to Asia to Africa and South America. Buddhism is one of the fastest growing faiths not only in China but across the world.

    Monuments long forgotten to the world ranging from the Ajanta caves, to Borobudur to Sigirya are on the world heritage list. My comment is to supplement the article and not take away from its point that further advancement of this faith should be encouraged. Nalanda one of the oldest universities of any civilization has been reborn. One could conclude that Buddhism gave the world higher education. It may have occurred in other civilizations but not to the extent or age as seen in Buddhism.

  6. aloy Says:

    The topic is “China should lead the Buddhist world”. Are there any spiritual leaders in China?. I haven’t heard of any. In their absence who is going to lead?. Chinese generally are very corrupt. Look where the corruption is anywhere in the world, they are there. They will sell any poison to any body, including to their own children. How can they lead?. Part of our own problem is Chinese, in terms of bad behaviour.
    So Senaka, look elsewhere for the leadership of Buddhism.

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