John Powers

The Buddha Party

How the People's Republic of China Works to Define and Control Tibetan Buddhism

Oxford University Press 2016

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In his recent book, The Buddha Party: How the People’s Republic of China Works to Define and Control Tibetan Buddhism (Oxford University Press, 2016),...

In his recent book, The Buddha Party: How the People’s Republic of China Works to Define and Control Tibetan Buddhism (Oxford University Press, 2016), John Powers presents a comprehensive overview of propaganda employed by the People’s Republic of China related to Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism, showing not only how Han Chinese come to believe it, but also how Tibetans work to resist it.

Drawing on previously untranslated material collected from both inside and outside of Tibet and China, this book outlines the narratives constructed by the PRC in an attempt to inform and control Tibetan Buddhist beliefs and practices. In addition to the well-known “patriotic re-education programs,” Powers also describes a booklet entitled Interpreting Tibetan Buddhist Doctrines, which attempts to re-frame Tibetan Buddhism in Chinese contexts for monks and nuns. The book also highlights the ways in which the PRC attempts to inform people’s views of foreign countries that are perceived as being sympathetic to the Dalai Lama and the so-called “Dalai Clique,” while simultaneously presenting the Dalai Lama as a nefarious, but ultimately ineffectual figure.

In our conversation, Powers argues that the goal of this book is not to persuade readers to believe anything in particular about the effectiveness of Chinese propaganda, but rather to present and contextualize these materials so that readers can draw their own conclusions. This controversial book draws on years of research and personal experiences in the Tibet Autonomous Region and surrounding areas, and is a comprehensive and engaging read.

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