Lo­tus Tower: China's “Bud­dhist way” to nav­i­gate geopol­i­tics

Sports Page 24 The past as pro­logue in Sino-Sri Lanka in­ter­course

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - COMMENT - By Patrick Mendis

Iwww. sun­day­times. lk ndian Prime Min­is­ter and Hindu na­tion­al­ist Naren­dra Modi was re­cently the chief guest for the cel­e­bra­tions of Ve­sak Day—the birth, en­light­en­ment, and pass­ing of Bud­dha—in the pre­dom­i­nantly Bud­dhist is­land-na­tion of Sri Lanka. Af­ter the May meet­ing with Modi in Colombo, Sri Lankan Prime Min­is­ter Ranil Wick­remesinghe took an un­prece­dented step of re­fus­ing to host a Chi­nese nu­clear sub­ma­rine, and then soon ar­rived in Bei­jing to at­tend the Belt and Road Fo­rum (BRF) with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and 28 other lead­ers. The In­dian premier, who pur­pose­fully skipped the Bei­jing Sum­mit, was con­cerned about the evolv­ing In­dian Ocean mar­itime se­cu­rity pos­ture, as Colombo har­bour is be­ing used for more than 70 per­cent of In­dian trans­ship­ment and trade re­la­tions.

In the mean­time, China and Sri Lanka will, by the end of 2017, cel­e­brate the com­ple­tion of the $100 mil­lion USD plus, all-en­com­pass­ing ‘Lo­tus Tower’ in the heart of Colombo. With a re­volv­ing res­tau­rant at the top of the 350-me­tre high Lo­tus Tower, which was named in def­er­ence to the Bud­dha’s Lo­tus Su­tra, the ris­ing struc­ture clev­erly em­bod­ies a Bud­dhist em­blem of peace and pros­per­ity. The Bud­dhist land­mark, which is 26 me­tres taller than the Eif­fel Tower, harkens back to the an­cient power that once ra­di­ated from the Mid­dle King­dom un­til the ar­rival of European colo­nial rulers in Sri Lanka, In­dia, and China.

The brightly glow­ing phys­i­cal ed­i­fice—giv­ing a new “vis­ual im­pact” in­tended to be seen from In­dia—man­i­fests Chi­nese leader Deng Xiaop­ing’s for­eign pol­icy slo­gan of a ‘Peace­ful Rise,’ with the Lo­tus Tower set to be the tallest struc­ture in South Asia and the nine­teenth tallest build­ing in the world. The iconic build­ing on the Colombo sky­line, with its highly-so­phis­ti­cated in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy and com­mu­ni­ca­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties, has al­ready be­gun to un­set­tle neigh­bour­ing In­dia, as it was al­legedly de­signed to mon­i­tor con­ver­sa­tions in South Asia and the In­dian Ocean re­gion.

For de­fence an­a­lysts, this elab­o­rate com­plex is an elec­tronic sur­veil­lance fa­cil­ity funded by the Chi­nese Ex­port-Im­port Bank. It is be­ing con­structed by the China Na­tional Elec­tron­ics Im­port and Ex­port Cor­po­ra­tion (CEIEC) and the Chi­nese Aerospace Long– March In­ter­na­tional Trade (CALMIT), which are sub­sidiaries of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army of China. Em­pha­sis­ing the three “in­te­gra­tions” strat­egy, the CEIEC is en­gaged in de­fence elec­tron­ics sys­tem in­te­gra­tion, over­seas engi­neer­ing in­te­gra­tion, and business so­lu­tions in­te­gra­tion, among oth­ers. The CALMIT is in­volved in the aerospace in­dus­try, spe­cial­is­ing in the ex­port and im­port of de­fence equip­ment tech­nol­ogy and ser­vices as well as the ex­port of anti-ter­ror­ism, anti-riot tech­nolo­gies and ser­vices, among other ac­tiv­i­ties. Bei­jing, how­ever, main­tains that its pur­pose has al­ways been the nav­i­ga­tion and man­age­ment of China’s mar­itime af­fairs to re­build a com­mer­cial civil­i­sa­tion that had ex­isted prior to colo­nial rule.

Con­nec­tiv­ity for pros­per­ity

Sri Lanka—known as the “Crown Pearl” of China’s multi­bil­lion dol­lar New Silk Road plan, which con­nects Hong Kong and the rest of the Pearl River delta in China’s Guang­dong prov­ince through the In­dian Ocean to the “Pearl Square” of Bahrain in the Per­sian Gulf—is be­ing viewed as Bei­jing’s grand strat­egy to dom­i­nate the In­dian Ocean re­gion and be­yond. Orig­i­nally known as the String of Pearls mil­i­tary strat­egy, these un­der­tak­ings have trig­gered le­git­i­mate fear of Bei­jing. China is es­sen­tially en­cir­cling In­dia with its “con­cir­cling” (con­tain­ing and cir­cling) strat­egy of var­i­ous in­fra­struc­ture and devel­op­ment projects in Bangladesh, Myan­mar, Nepal, and Pak­istan for the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive (BRI) of the “con­nec­tiv­ity for pros­per­ity” plan. Dur­ing his his­toric visit to Sri Lanka in Septem­ber 2014, Pres­i­dent Xi de­scribed the is­land as a “splen­did pearl” while the two coun­tries signed over twenty bi­lat­eral agree­ments in Colombo.

Strate­gi­cally lo­cated at the south­ern tip of In­dia, the cen­turies-old mar­itime is­land has con­sciously tried to fur­ther de­velop its friendly re­la­tions with In­dia while the Colombo govern­ment has now be­gun talk­ing about con­clud­ing a Free Trade Agree­ment with China by De­cem­ber 2017. Of the 20 mil­lion peo­ple on the is­land, over 70 per­cent of the Bud­dhist ma­jor­ity has a kin­dred spir­i­tual con­nec­tion with China as op­posed to a punc­tu­ated his­tory of eth­nic, re­li­gious, and an­cient war­fare with its north­ern neigh­bour, In­dia.

Prime Min­is­ter Modi, dur­ing his visit, re­minded the Sri Lankan peo­ple that In­dia has had a more en­dur­ing “shared her­itage of Bud­dhism” than that of the newly as­sertive China with its re­cent Bud­dhist diplo­macy. The in­sight­ful Xi—whose youth­ful en­counter with Bud­dhism in con­trast to other Chi­nese lead­ers in­clud­ing Chair­man Mao Ze­dong—ap­pears to have en­gi­neered a re­mark­able facelift for the 87-mil­lion-strong Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party with his re­ju­ve­na­tion of China’s “spir­i­tual life” through an em­brace of Chi­nese re­li­gious her­itage for gov­er­nance. Sim­i­lar to for­mer non-eth­nic Han Chi­nese em­per­ors like in the Yuan and Qing dy­nas­ties, the prag­ma­tist Xi was drawn to Bud­dhism dur­ing his early ca­reer and had a “seem­ing be­lief in su­per­nat­u­ral forces” even say­ing that “if the peo­ple have faith, the na­tion has hope, and the coun­try has strength.” In light of slow­ing eco­nomic growth and mount­ing so­cial ten­sions, Pres­i­dent Xi—China’s most pow­er­ful leader since Chair­man Mao—has ev­i­dently re­turned to the spir­i­tual re­vival of the uni­fy­ing forces of Daoist, Con­fu­cius, and Bud­dhist tra­di­tions.

Bud­dhism as a ve­hi­cle

Even though Bud­dhism was “im­ported” into China from In­dia and Sri Lanka by pur­pose-driven itin­er­ant monks, mer­chants, and im­pe­rial emis­saries of the Mid­dle King­dom, the amal­ga­ma­tion of these spir­i­tual and eth­i­cal tra­di­tions has de­vel­oped into a so-called Chan Bud­dhism. Thus, the uni­fy­ing na­ture of these moral and re­li­gious forces has long been as­so­ci­ated with po­lit­i­cal power and cul­tural au­thor­ity. As Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s new for­eign pol­icy is an­chored in “Bud­dhist diplo- macy,” he also ac­knowl­edged the in­her­ent power of China’s Bud­dhist diplo­macy that is il­lus­trated by its re­li­gious and an­cient links to Sri Lanka. That shared her­itage had in­deed laid the foun­da­tion for the mu­tual affin­ity and friend­ship be­tween the two coun­tries. For the Sri Lankan Bud­dhists as well as the mi­nor­ity In­dian Bud­dhists which make up less than one per­cent of the In­dian pop­u­la­tion, Modi—a de­vout Hindu, whose philo­soph­i­cal bedrock is de­rived from his rul­ing Bharatiya Janata Party—be­came a fright­en­ing prospect for Bud­dhists, Mus­lims, and other re­li­gious and eth­nic groups in In­dia, es­pe­cially given the re­cent rise of more deadly and vi­o­lent Hindu na­tion­al­ism.

Bud­dhism had de­parted from its birth­place in In­dia af­ter the golden pe­riod of the Mau­ryan Em­peror Ashoka the Great (from 304 to 232 BCE). The vi­sion­ary Bud­dhist em­peror sent his son Mahinda and daugh­ter Sang­hamitta to Sri Lanka as emis­saries to prop­a­gate the teach­ings of Bud­dha. Af­ter­ward, the is­land na­tion proudly be­came the de­fender of the faith and pro­moter of Bud­dha’s orig­i­nal teach­ings and a renowned an­cient epi­cen­ter of Bud­dhist learn­ing for both the Ma­hayana (“the greater ve­hi­cle”) and the Ther­avada (“school of the el­ders”) tra­di­tions in the cap­i­tal city of Anu­rad­ha­pura from 500 BC to 993 AD.

Of the 20 mil­lion peo­ple on the is­land, over 70 per­cent of the Bud­dhist ma­jor­ity has a kin­dred spir­i­tual con­nec­tion with China as op­posed to a punc­tu­ated his­tory of eth­nic, re­li­gious, and an­cient war­fare with its north­ern neigh­bor, In­dia

With the pa­tron­age of mem­bers of the rul­ing dy­nas­ties, monks, and mer­chants, the mil­len­nia-old har­mo­nious metropo­lis be­came the ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal home to three mas­sive monas­tic com­plexes of the Ma­hav­i­hara, Ab­haya­giri, and Je­ta­vana. Con­tin­u­ing the an­cient prac­tice of the rul­ing dy­nasty, the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Repub­lic of Sri Lanka gives Bud­dhism “the fore­most place” and the state has as­sumed the duty to pro­tect and fos­ter the Bud­dha Sasana (the Bud­dhist doc­trine or or­der) with its cab­i­net-level govern­ment Min­istry of Bud­dha Sasana and Re­li­gious Af­fairs. Un­like the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state in the United States, the pre­vail­ing po­lit­i­cal pow­ers in China, In­dia, and Sri Lanka have for the most part used re­li­gion as a source of in­spi­ra­tion, unity, and au­thor­ity for gov­er­nance and eco­nomic pros­per­ity.

Monks and mer­chants

A deeply re­li­gious and com­mer­cial na­tion for mil­len­nia, Sri Lanka has al­ways acted as a mag­ni­fy­ing con­duit to dif­fuse Bud­dha’s no­ble Dharmic teach­ings around the world and at­tracted Bud­dhist schol­ars like the fa­mous Chi­nese Monk Fa-Hsien (399 to 414 CE) dur­ing the East­ern Jin dy­nasty. He later adopted the spir­i­tual name Fax­ian: the “Splen­dour of Dharma” or the teach­ings of Bud­dha.

An­other leg­endary Chi­nese monk-scholar Xuan­zang (602 to 664 CE) in the Bud­dhist Golden Age of the Tang dy­nasty was in­spired by Fa-Hsien’s travel but the Tang en­voy was not able to visit Sri Lanka. Dur­ing his 15-year study tour in In­dia, Xuan­zang, who is cred­ited with spread­ing Bud­dhist teach­ings in China, learned about Sri Lanka. De­scrib­ing the “Sor­row­less King­dom” of Sri Lanka in his Bud­dhist Records of the Western World, Xuan­zang wrote, “By the side of the king’s palace is the vi­hara [tem­ple] of the Bud­dha’s tooth, . . . bril­liant with jew­els and or­na­mented with rare gems. Above the Vi­hara is placed an up­right pole on which is fixed a great Padma raja (ruby) jewel. This gem con­stantly sheds a bril­liant light, which is vis­i­ble night and day for a long dis­tance, and from afar ap­pears like a bright star.”

Dur­ing the reign of King Parakram­abahu the Great (1153-86) of Sri Lanka, for ex­am­ple, the pros­per­ous King­dom of Polon­naruwa—with its Bud­dhist mon­u­ments, hos­pi­tals, ir­ri­gated rice fields, and a net­work of reser­voirs and nav­i­ga­ble canals—main­tained ex­ten­sive trad­ing re­la­tions with many South­east Asian and Mid­dle East coun­tries as well as In­dia and China. A cen­tury later in the reign of King Parakram­abahu III (1287-93), Sri Lanka im­ported “swords and mu­si­cal in­stru- ments” from China and Chi­nese sol­diers “served” in the king’s army to pro­tect trad­ing ships from Burmese piracy in the Bay of Ben­gal.

Bud­dha’s tooth: Marco Polo and Zheng He

The Chi­nese im­pe­rial in­ter­est in Sri Lanka goes back to the Great Em­peror Kublai Khan in the 13th cen­tury who be­lieved in Bud­dhist trea­sures—es­pe­cially the Bud­dha’s tooth relic—as mag­net for uni­fy­ing the cul­tur­ally, re­li­giously, and lin­guis­ti­cally di­verse Chi­nese na­tion. The Mon­go­lian founder of the Yuan dy­nasty sent the leg­endary rep­re­sen­ta­tive Marco Polo twice in 1284 and 1293 to Sri Lanka with the in­tent of tak­ing the sa­cred tooth relics of Bud­dha back to China. The eye­wit­ness records of Fa-Hsien’s trav­el­ogue— writ­ten in the fifth-cen­tury—de­scribed the Bud­dhist trea­sures in Sri Lanka, and his Chi­nese trans­la­tion of Pali and San­skrit Bud­dhist texts was widely known since the be­gin­ning of the Yuan dy­nasty in ad­di­tion to the writ­ings of Xuan­zang.

In the be­gin­ning of the fif­teenth cen­tury, the Ming em­peror’s Mus­lim en­voy Ad­mi­ral Zheng He (1371–1435) em­barked on ex­ten­sive trea­sure voyages to the In­dian Ocean and first vis­ited Sri Lanka in 1405. In tra­di­tional Con­fu­cian man­ner, the ad­mi­ral de­manded that the Sin­halese king pay trib­ute and obe­di­ence to the Yon­gle Em­peror, the Son of Heaven. The Ming vis­i­tor also re­port­edly wanted to take back the sa­cred bowl, hair, and tooth relics of the Bud­dha— the is­land’s spir­i­tual trea­sures for more than a mil­len­nium.

The Ming ad­mi­ral’s sec­ond visit in 1410 led to a mil­i­tary con­flict be­tween the ex­pe­di­tionary forces of the Ming dy­nasty and the Sin­halese Kotte king­dom on the Bud­dhist is­land. The Ming-Kotte War os­ten­si­bly aimed to stop piracy and lo­cal hos­til­i­ties that threat­ened the Chi­nese trea­sure fleets as well as to ac­quire the tooth relic. Nat­u­rally, the rul­ing King Alakesh­vara— the guardian of Bud­dha’s relics—was un­sure of the hid­den in­ten­tions of the for­eign vis­i­tor as Ro­man, Greek, Jewish, Per­sian, Arab mer­chants had landed on the is­land to ob­tain trea­sures in the past. When the king re­fused Ad­mi­ral Zheng’s re­quest to erect a trilin­gual tablet (from the Ming cap­i­tal of Nan­jing) and pay trib­ute to the Ming em­peror—think­ing it was a sym­bol of sur­ren­der to Chi­nese sovereignty—, the dis­ap­pointed en­voy re­turned to the is­land af­ter vis­it­ing In­dia.

With two thou­sand sailors, the ad­mi­ral laid siege to Kotte and cap­tured the Sin­halese King Alakesh­vara, his queen, and other no­ta­bles. Ad­mi­ral Zheng took these pris­on­ers to China to apol­o­gize to the Ming em­peror for their mis­deeds, who in­stead par­doned the king for his “ig­no­rance” in 1411. When the cap­tors re­turned with the em­peror’s nom­i­nee to the is­land’s throne in 1414, the pow­er­ful new King Parakram­abahu VI of Kotte—in­stated in the ab­sence of the cap­tured king—quickly re­jected the ar­riv­ing Chi­nese emis­sary. This was his­tor­i­cally a very rare in­ci­dent to what were oth­er­wise rel­a­tively peace­ful seven voyages of the Ming ad­mi­ral be­tween 1405 and 1433 to over 30 coun­tries in the In­dian Ocean.

Apart from re­li­gious and po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tives in Sri Lanka, the Chi­nese ex­pe­di­tions in gen­eral were com­mer­cially mo­ti­vated. The arche­o­log­i­cal stele, dis­cov­ered in 1911 at the south­ern port city of Galle, dated to 1409, has a trilin­gual in­scrip­tion—in Chi­nese, Per­sian, and Tamil—in­di­cat­ing that the pur­pose of Ad­mi­ral Zheng’s visit was to an­nounce the man­date of the Ming em­peror to recog­nise his le­git­i­macy among for­eign rulers. Ac­cord­ing to the in­scrip­tion on the stele, the Ming di­plo­mat of­fered valu­able gifts like gold, sil­ver, and silk to a lo­cal Bud­dhist tem­ple on Adam’s Peak (or Sri Pada, the “great foot­print” of Bud­dha) moun­tain. The Tamil script praised the god Vishnu; the Per­sian text in­voked Al­lah. The in­scrip­tion had a clear uni­fy­ing mes­sage to the world in­vok­ing “the bless­ings of the Hindu deities here for a peace­ful world built on trade.” As in Chan Bud­dhism, it was the un­der­ly­ing tran­scen­den­tal idea of Tianxia in an­cient China that “all un­der Heaven” are broth­ers and sis­ters.

As such, com­mer­cial and peo­ple-to-peo­ple cul­tural diplo­macy re­mained one of the most en­dur­ing as­pects of Sino-Sri Lanka re­la­tions since the Ming trea­sure fleets ar­rived in the is­land. In 1459, for in­stance, a royal mis­sion from the King­dom of Kotte ended in ship­wreck, leav­ing the prince—an adopted son of King Parakram­abahu VI—in the coastal city of Quanzhou in Fu­jian prov­ince. The Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties dis­cov­ered Xushi Yin’e—one of the nine­teenth-gen­er­a­tion descen­dants of the fif­teenth cen­tury Sri Lankan prince—pop­u­larly known as “the Cey­lon princes in Quanzhou”—who be­came a his­toric tes­ta­ment to peace­ful in­ter­ac­tions be­tween the two na­tions.

A sleep­ing gi­ant -- friend in need

Due to colo­nial­ism, Sino-Sri Lanka re­la­tions were dor­mant for al­most 500 years un­til Sri Lanka gained its in­de­pen­dence from the Por­tuguese, the Dutch, and lastly from the Bri­tish in 1948. The newly in­de­pen­dent is­land es­tab­lished its first bi­lat­eral agree­ment on the rub­ber and rice trade with the newly founded Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China in 1952. For­mal diplo­matic re­la­tions be­gan to ex­pand af­ter 1957; the com­ple­tion of the mas­sive Ban­daranaike Me­mo­rial In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence Hall (BMICH) in 1973 was a land­mark of friend­ship. The fifth Non-aligned Sum­mit in 1976—chaired by Prime Min­is­ter Sir­i­mavo Ban­daranaike—was held at BMICH, host­ing over 80 heads of state.

With this brief post-colo­nial his­tor­i­cal back­drop, Sri Lanka re-es­tab­lished close re­la­tions with China more re­cently as Bei­jing pro­vided mil­i­tary, fi­nan­cial, and diplo­matic sup­port for Sri Lanka to end the more than quar­ter cen­tury old Ee­lam War in May 2009. With In­dia (and the United States) de­clin­ing to of­fer mil­i­tary as­sis­tance dur­ing the war, Sri Lanka has nat­u­rally been drawn into the Chi­nese model of com­mer­cial en­gage­ment rooted in his­tor­i­cal links.

As a strate­gi­cally lo­cated is­land—with a highly-ed­u­cated and en­tre­pre­neur­ial pop­u­la­tion—Sri Lanka has re­gained its promi­nence in travel and com­merce in the In­dian Ocean. Af­ter the war, China be­gan to mod­ernise the is­land’s in­fra­struc­ture with a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar Chi­nese in­vest­ment in the newly built deep-sea Ham­ban­tota Port, the Mat­tala In­ter­na­tional Air­port, the Colombo Port City, the Colombo-Galle high­speed mo­tor­way, among other devel­op­ment projects. These gi­gan­tic projects were, how­ever, de­signed to serve Chi­nese com­mer­cial needs and ac­cess to ex­port mar­kets in Africa, the Mid­dle East, and Europe than to ben­e­fit the or­di­nary is­lan­ders.

In the over­all trade ledger of Sri Lanka, the Sino-Sri Lanka trade is one-sided with hardly any sig­nif­i­cant ex­ports to China.

To boost the im­port rev­enues of Sri Lanka, there are a slowly in­creas­ing num­ber of Chi­nese tourists who have be­come fre­quent vis­i­tors to en­joy the sandy beaches and the nat­u­ral won­ders of the is­land. But more im­por­tantly, they are call­ing upon the places of Bud­dhist wor­ship—in­clud­ing the renowned Bud­dhist Tem­ple of Sa­cred Tooth Relic of the “Dal­ada Mali­gawa” in Kandy and the leg­endary Pahiyan­gala or Fa-Hsien Rock Cave in Ka­lu­tara—and other an­cient sites of cul­tural and his­toric in­ter­est.

The debt trap and fear of dom­i­nance

Amid all this, the Colombo govern­ment now owes China over $8 bil­lion USD in devel­op­ment project loans. More re­cently, in­flu­en­tial pol­i­cy­mak­ers, na­tion­al­ists, and Bud­dhist monks have op­posed the Chi­ne­se­built port city of Ham­ban­tota (and the pro­posed industrial zone) for grant­ing a 80 per­cent of stake of a 99-year lease to a sta­te­owned Chi­nese com­pany as part of a debtswap scheme. The Ham­ban­tota har­bour, the port city of Colombo, and other colos­sal “ele­phant projects” in the “con­nec­tiv­ity for pros­per­ity” plan have hardly ben­e­fited the com­mon peo­ple. In­deed, the al­leged ben­e­fi­cia­ries of these mas­sive projects have been the sud­denly en­riched fam­ily mem­bers and the in­ner cir­cle of of­fi­cials of the Mahinda Ra­japaksa pres­i­dency. To ben­e­fit the av­er­age Sri Lankan, how­ever, the mul­ti­tude of monks, mer­chants, and other stake­hold­ers must also be in­cluded, as they have been in the past spir­i­tual and com­mer­cial in­ter­ac­tions.

Even though the emerg­ing Sino-Sri Lankan re­la­tion­ship could be her­alded as mo­men­tous in their post-Ee­lam War, and cul­tural and eco­nomic col­lab­o­ra­tion is widely viewed as mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial for the two na­tions, Bud­dhist ac­tivism and na­tion­al­ism in a par­lia­men­tary democ­racy could in­voke fear and dan­ger for the sus­tain­abil­ity of its his­toric re­la­tion­ship with China.

Sub­tly, there ex­ists a grow­ing na­tional con­scious­ness of the Ming-Kotte War and its con­se­quence of re­ported in­ten­tion of putting the is­land na­tion un­der Chi­nese sovereignty—as a trib­u­tary state of Bei­jing.

Nev­er­the­less, Pres­i­dent Xi at the Belt and Road Sum­mit in May re­minded that China “will not in­ter­fere in other coun­tries’ in­ter­nal af­fairs. [China] will not ex­port our sys­tem of so­ci­ety and devel­op­ment model, and even more will not im­pose our views on oth­ers.” This may be a justifiably ac­cu­rate nar­ra­tive of the Chi­nese of­fi­cial­dom. For many ob­servers, how­ever, the port vis­its of naval ships and nu­clear sub­marines in Colombo have chal­lenged Bei­jing’s pub­lic state­ments and its in­ten­tions.

With the Lo­tus Tower ris­ing from the water­front of the pic­turesque Beira Lake in the com­mer­cial dis­trict, the prospect of re­viv­ing the Amer­i­can glory of “trade-for­peace” idea through the BRI must in­clude the as­pi­ra­tions of or­di­nary peo­ple—as well as the monks and mer­chants.

Lo­tus Tower em­bod­ies a Bud­dhist em­blem of peace and pros­per­ity.

Push­ing for Bud­dhist glob­al­i­sa­tion: Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi at the Da­cien Bud­dhist Tem­ple in Xi’an, Shaanxi prov­ince, China, May 14, 2015. Reuters

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