In a recent policy brief on "The Chinese State's Global Promotion of Buddhism," Professors Yoshiko Ashiwa of Hitotsubashi University and David L. Wank of Sophia University discuss China's use of soft power—in this case, the incorporation of Buddhism into foreign policy—to promote the political and economic rise of China. The report is part of the Geopolitics of Religious Soft Power project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, a cross-disciplinary study of the use of religion in foreign affairs.
In this policy brief, Yoshiko Ashiwa and David Wank argue that the global promotion of Buddhism as a form of soft power by the Chinese state is unprecedented in the modern world. Recent efforts to incorporate Buddhism into Chinese foreign policy build on decades of collaboration between the Communist Party of China and Buddhist clerics through the state religious system. Under current President Xi Jinping, the Chinese state is directing more resources for Buddhism to serve the political and economic rise of China through religion and culture. Projecting Chinese Buddhism as soft and sharp—that is, state-controlled and targeted—power ultimately seeks to influence the societies and politics of Buddhist-majority countries, Western states, and Asian competitors to China.