In this study, Asst Prof Chia aims to examine the role of Buddhism in fostering cultural diplomacy and exchanges in five Asian countries – China, India, Japan, Myanmar, and Singapore – from the second half of the 20th century to the present. Building on his previous research on the role of Buddhism in Singapore-China relations, the project focuses on the collaboration and networks between Buddhists, non-Buddhists, and state actors in the making of Buddhist diplomacy.
Asst Prof Chia will explore Buddhist diplomacy in two East Asian countries (China and Japan) and two Southeast Asian countries (Myanmar and Singapore) with a Buddhist majority population, as well as India, which is home to Buddhist sacred sites. It seeks to offer comparative insights on the use of Buddhism as a soft power tool to promote cultural, economic and social relations in secular Asian countries during the Cold War and the post-Cold War period.
The rationale of this study is to reorient common assumptions that Buddhism is politically inert and, therefore, a quiescent entity in foreign relations. The project aims to uncover why secular countries consider Buddhism as a useful tool in cultural diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region. Turning the attention to the role of religion in international relations can lead to better understanding of how cultural exchanges, interfaith dialogues and regional engagements can be better attained.