SASNET Brown Bag Lunch Seminar: Tabita Rosendal, "China's Buddhist Strategic Narratives in Sri Lanka"
SASNET invites you to our recurring Brown Bag Lunch Seminar. Simply bring your lunch and join us for an hour long seminar on a specific subject, this time presented by Tabita Rosendal, PhD student at the Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, Lund University.
During this seminar, Tabita Rosendal will share her latest research found in her publication: "China’s Buddhist strategic narratives in Sri Lanka—benefits and Buddhism?"
While the economic impact of China’s ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative (BRI) in Sri Lanka has been closely monitored in recent years, few studies have focused on the role of China’s Buddhist narratives in furthering the countries’ interests. By analyzing the Buddhist strategic narratives used in official Chinese and Sri Lankan statements, this article argues that under the BRI’s ‘people-to-people’ bonds, Chinese and Sri Lankan officials have used the Buddhist history and exchanges between the two nations to advocate for BRI projects, and to strengthen their cultural ties.
This article finds, more narrowly, that China’s Buddhist diplomacy in Sri Lanka has increased since the BRI’s inception, and that it has focused on enhancing bilateral relations and mitigating criticism of projects. China’s strategic narratives have been somewhat successful, but since they are employed alongside economic investments, their precise impact is difficult to measure. More broadly, the CCP is increasingly positioning itself and the BRI through religious strategic narratives to mitigate criticism and further its interests and stature in the international system.
However, while China’s projection of Buddhist strategic narratives, in tandem with infrastructure investments, may ensure the BRI’s continued implementation, this depends on the willingness of host countries of accepting these narratives.