Beijing’s Buddhist diplomacy depends on controlling the Tibetan leader’s next reincarnation

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Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

By Krithika Varagur

China’s brutal crackdown on its Muslims has attracted a global outcry and shows no signs of slowing in 2019. This extends to other faiths: Chinese Christians, Taoists, and Buddhists are also facing a new wave of repression. But while China is backtracking its accommodation of religious citizens within its borders, it’s doing the opposite outside them.

With an energetic, multibillion-dollar, transnational campaign, China wants to harness Buddhism for soft power across Asia. It calls Buddhism an “ancient Chinese religion” and has spent $3 billion to revive the birthplace of the Buddha, the Nepalese town of Lumbini. It has been holding World Buddhist Forums since 2006 with monks from all over the world. It is pouring in money to revive the Gandhara trail of Buddhist sites in Pakistan, linking heritage revival to its Belt and Road Initiative. …

Erik Prince has moved beyond mercenary armies. His next project is mining minerals in Congo and Afghanistan to help power electric cars. It’s unlikely to help conflict-ridden countries — and could harm them.

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A Congolese man digs through mine waste searching for left over cobalt. May 31, 2015. Photo: Federico Scoppa/AFP/Getty Images

By Antony Loewenstein

The founder of the military contractor Blackwater, Erik Prince, has a new project. He’s aiming to raise $500 million to invest in the discovery, exploitation, and delivery of resources required to produce electric car batteries. Minerals such as cobalt, lithium, and copper are mostly found in conflict zones such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Afghanistan.

Speaking recently to CNBC, Prince said that he aimed to end cobalt’s status as a “conflict mineral” in Congo, and his plans included regular jobs and incomes for artisanal miners who toil in in horrific conditions, in “loincloth,” according to Prince. The Congolese Chamber of Mines estimated in 2015 that there may be 2 million artisanal miners in the country digging for gold, diamonds, and minerals such as cobalt. Prince told CNBC that he wanted to create an “ethical mine” so businesses invested in his project could trace the source of the cobalt and know that it was coming from a location without any abuses. …

Can the mighty Communist Party win the hearts of China’s youth, or will the 2D world lure them into Japan’s clutches?

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Visitors line up in front of billboards showing anime characters during the 14th Ani-Com and Games exhibition in Hong Kong on July 27, 2012. Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

By Tanner Greer

Japanese anime has conquered China. In Chinese, the term “2D culture” (erciyuan wenhua) describes both the television shows, video games, anime (cartoons), manga (comic books), music, and movies inspired by Japanese pop culture and the millions of Chinese who consume these products every week. This “second dimension” is one of the fastest-growing industries in China — with more than 200 million consumers, the market is projected to reach more than $30 billion by 2020.

But the runaway success of Japanese pop culture among China’s youth has caused confusion, shock, and anger in a country still bitter over historical grievances. …

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Foreign Policy

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