July 05, 2007

Buddhism Caught up in India-China Rhetoric, and Boom Goes the Baht

More on China and India's tug-of-war over Buddhism here. I don't know why I find China's rhetoric on this issue interesting / amusing. Am I alone on this? The article says China is trying to project a Buddhist-friendly image because of Tibet:

"Having destroyed Tibetan Buddhism and put in its place a state-sanctioned version of Buddhism, Beijing is making grand gestures to shore up its Buddhist credentials. It wants to soften its image for East and Southeast Asia but, more importantly, Tibet," said the official. "Hence Beijing's bonding with Buddhism."

The official mentioned is Indian, so the rhetoric goes both ways. I don't know what the slant of the paper is, but the Wikipedia entry on Asia Times Online says:

Historically, in publication policy and editorial outlook, Asia Times Online is the successor to Asia Times, a Hong Kong/Bangkok-based daily print newspaper founded in 1995, which ceased publication on June 26, 1997, a week before the devaluation of Thailand's baht kicked off the Asian financial crisis.

Hunh! Yes, I read Wikipedia a lot. They record all sorts of info no one else thinks worthwhile (except Google, which records everything, including, starting in 2009, your thoughts.) But if I were a teacher grading papers I would probably be suspicious of Wikipedia too. One more quote from this ATO article then I'll open my hands and let it go and move onto the baht:

The dispute between India and China over territory and their race for military and economic supremacy are a familiar tale to the outside world. The outcome of these contests will determine who will dominate Asia - if not the world - in the coming decades. Less visible but equally important is their tussle over ownership of Buddhism. This keenly fought contest will determine which of the two is Asia's "mother civilization".

So does "owning" Buddhism give you the world? Sounds like there's a negative lesson there.

baht.jpgThailand's new constitutional committee voted against making Buddhism the national religion. I think Thailand's had about a dozen constitutions in the past century, so it's not such a big deal the new military junta is drafting one now. Apparently the protests (in favor of making Buddhism the national religion) were organized by the former Prime Minister (this guy, Thaksin -- he started out as a cop, I think. What kind of cop gets rich?) who doesn't like the current regime. So I wouldn't exactly look at this a victory for secular values or a defeat of Buddhist values, but rather as just another political tug-of-war. Meanwhile Thailand's south is being ripped apart by a Muslim separatist insurgency, but that hasn't scared investors. The baht is booming. In currency terms I guess it's the world's biggest mover, but that's measured against the plummeting dollar, so don't rush out and start buying bahts. Or do. It's a very handsome-looking currency.

And to wrap things up on a positive note, here's a bit of ecumenism from Bihar.

- Philip Ryan, Webmaster

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