While OBOR is making a buzz it is interesting and relevant to observe how religion, especially Buddhism and Confucianism or Legalism as well as other traditional philosophies are faring in the current dispensation. Are they in favour and if so, to what extent do they have to be contained in order to be of use to the Communist Party? Communism notwithstanding, values and traditions are woven into the society of ancient civilizations such as the Chinese. In spite of Marxist and communist ideologies, regime and political change, tradition, religion and Confucian values in China have remained important albeit often below the surface. It is interesting to observe the evolving socio-political landscape of China juxtaposed with the traditional value systems. After years of very rapid economic growth, China faces multiple pressures and challenges domestically. Beijing has to juggle institutional issues, structural economic issues, social stability issues, ethnic issues, spirituality/religious issues among others.It would be interesting to examine whether the important thing for the government has been the development of Buddhism itself, or also the economic and political benefits that can flow from it. A slogan often quoted in the official discourse is: “Culture builds the stage and the economy performs” (wenhuadatai, jingjichangxi). The material aspect of religion and tradition is among the factors that has since the beginning of this century given Buddhism and other traditions space in which they can develop quite legitimately. Therefore, Buddhism, Confucianism and the Party are today involved in a complex relationship in which all three must acknowledge one another and which requires them to work for their mutual interests, subject to the Party’s supremacy being sustained.
About the Speaker
Poonam Surie is Adjunct fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies and was Visiting Fellow at the Indian Council of World Affairs and Research Associate at the NalandaSriwijaya Centre of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore. She has an MA degree in Economics from the Delhi School of Economics. Her professional experience covers teaching at Delhi University and then subsequently teaching students in schools in Bhutan, New York and Beijing. She has freelanced for a number of newspapers, writing on contemporary issues. As a columnist for the Financial Express she had written a column ‘NY Notes’ in the mid1990s on issues such as gender, art and culture. She has an abiding interest in Chinese studies and has written extensively on Chinese culture, religion and philosophy. She is the author of the books ‘China: A Search for its Soul’ (2009, Konark) and ‘China: Confucius in theShadows’ (2015, Knowledge Word). She has presented academic papers at a number of national and International conferences including twice at the invitation of the Communications University of China, once at Beijing and once at Nanjing, respectively on Gender and Media; she presented a paper on Tagore at a conference at Peking University in October 2010, took part in the Lushan Writer’s Workshop in September 2011 presenting a paper on ‘Humans and Nature’ and in a Conference on Confucius held in Beijing in September 2014 and at the Venice International University in Venice in 2015. She attended seminars in Beijing in 2015 and 2016 where she presented papers on Confucianism and contemporary culture and dialogue among civilizations.
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