In a very positive move, China, namely President Xi Jinping, has banned the commercial ivory trade which could dramatically diminish illegal elephant poaching in Africa. Apart from illustrating the environmental awareness of China, it helps eliminate corruption as ivory was often used to bribe Chinese government officials. Moreover, the action builds credibility with African countries where China is attempting to strengthen their resource control of oil and minerals.
The Chinese demand for ivory has been staggering. In broad terms, China represented some 70% of the worldwide illegal ivory trade; has an existing stockpile of "legal" ivory valued at $150 million while an estimated 100,000 African elephants have been killed over the past ten years. Therefore, China was the driver of putting the African elephant population well on the road to extinction.
Unfortunately, there remains a high demand to display carved ivory figures in one's home as a symbol of wealth in some Asian countries. The danger is that, as China enforces its ban on ivory imports, other Asian countries such as Vietnam and Myanmar move into the market given their developing economies. On the other hand, there are radical differences in the size of their respective populations.
Nonetheless, one positive move in Chinese checkers does not necessarily indicate a trend. Recently, the Tibetan Dalai Lama visited Mongolia to the chagrin of Chinese President Xi. As Mongolia is suffering a severe economic downturn due to radical populist economic policies by a previous administration, coupled with a dramatic drop in minerals commodity prices, Mongolia has been looking to their big neighbor though longtime nemesis, China, for economic assistance.
Accordingly, when big brother China asked the newly elected Mongolian People's Party (MPP) about this affront to the Chinese sovereignty of Tibet and ownership of Tibetan Buddhism, the Foreign Minister of Mongolia held a press conference and said it was the last visit of the Dalai Lama to Mongolia during the future four-year term of the MPP.
The author has been active in Mongolia since 1992 as the country began to emerge from the yoke of Russian domination. The concept of Buddhism had been suppressed by the Stalinist stooge Choibalsan in the 1930's who killed some 30,000 Buddhist monks and burned monasteries and temples. In the early days of their newly-found democracy following the peaceful revolution in 1991, the Mongolian people began to display long-hidden Buddhist relics, re-build monasteries and construct massive Buddhist images.
Emerging young monks following the democratic revolution are shown below on the steps of the Gandan monastery which is across the street from the condo the author and Joey have in Ulaan Baatar. If there is sufficient write-in demand, perhaps the condo could be put on Airbnb so those less fortunate can share the experience, though you should know that a vegetarian would starve to death in Mongolia. The Mongolian adage is "animals eat vegetables, we eat animals."
In the early nineties, the author had the privilege of meeting the sculptor of what would become one of the largest Buddha images in the world as it was being created.
So how does all of this relate to Chinese checkers? In the early 1900's period, as the Qing dynasty died, Mongolia and Tibet each declared their respective independence from China. The Mongolians were militarily assisted in their efforts by some Russian rogues and ultimately succumbed to communist Russia which established sovereignty over Mongolia as a vassal state to create a buffer with China. In 1912, the 13th Dalai Lama of Tibet declared he would govern Tibet as an independent entity and Tibet went their own Buddhist self-reliant way in a vacuum.
Mongolia was eventually recognized as a sovereign country by the United Nations but remote Tibet never got the memo. The Tibetans were overrun by the Maoist Chinese in 1951, despite the efforts of the U.S. CIA-backed Tibetan freedom fighters trained in Montana. The result was a never-ending level of ill feeling by the Chinese communists toward the Tibetan Dalai Lama Buddhist leader of the world as he fled to India at the time.
Now, here comes a turn for the worse in the Mongolian economy and a recent visit of the Dalai Lama to Mongolia. In fact, the term Dalai is a Mongolian word meaning "Ocean" that was given to the spiritual leader of the Buddhist faith by Altan Khan, a descendant of Genghis Khan in the 1500's to designate the "ocean of wisdom" of the Buddhist leader. Accordingly, there is now no visa available for the Dalai Lama to return to Mongolia for the next four years or as long as the Peoples Party is in power.
Therefore, while we know where the government of Mongolia has gone for the moment, there was a very recent immolation by a Buddhist monk in Tibet making his final personal statement.
Everyone should take note, as we have learned in the past, suicide is painless and Buddhist activism can lead to many changes.