Chinese investment in Pakistan's infrastructure and energy sector under the CPEC banner is a blessing and opportunity
In the 70s era, the then president Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto facilitated the Sino-US diplomatic efforts that eventually ended in US-China rapprochement. The successful backdoor diplomacy opened China diplomatically to the external world accompanied by the veto power status in the United Nation Security Council (UNSC).
The intimate relations between Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Chairman Mao Zedong marked the beginning of a new phase in Sino-Pak relations. The new phase was emotionally charged, politically cooperative, and strategically harmonised. Following Indian orchestrated “Fall of Dhaka”, Pakistan found a strong and reliable friend in the years of despairs against a determined adversary, India. The deeper relations were expressed by the ever lived catchy slogan “Pak-China friendship is higher than Himalaya, deeper than ocean, sweeter than honey and stronger than steel”.
From then onwards, China has supported Pakistan during every thick and thin situation and at one particular occasion clearly conveyed to India that any aggression against Pakistan will be taken as aggression against China.
Recently, I had an opportunity to attend the seminar ‘1st The Belt and Road (BRI) of Shanghai Forum 2018’. In connection with the Belt and Road initiative-CPEC is one of the six BRI land-based economic corridors. This was a bestowed opportunity to visit and observe the rising China first hand.
However; before the visit, I had a rudimentary but rough sketch about China through different western inspired literature and day-to-day discussions with people from different walks of life. Contrary to my shaped perception, I set a step in a different China, a society of Pakistan-loving people, with soft attitude and hardworking individuals.
Their social structure stands on five principles: mutual caring, one family world, self-examination, convenient suitable, and being connected to everyone. The five principles lead them towards a humble and hardworking life.
“China concentrates only on economic development, nothing else because only economic development can solve all other problems”
Apart from many good traits, the instinct of indifference to show off makes the society more cooperative and pleasant. They live very austere, satisfied lives and a larger chunk is spared from negative competition based on conspiracy, at least within. The Chinese devotedly and wholeheartedly adhere to its cultural characteristic, adorn its history, and respect its values
Similar principles are also embedded in our societal structure but Pakistani society has almost forgotten its norms, history, and rich cultural heritage.
From an administrative aspect, the Chinese are a great nation from an individual level to national leaders. They keep their streets, houses, shopping malls, and thoroughfares clean, decorated by plants, follow punctuality in traffic flow, and living in a peaceful society based on justice. Also, they pay extraordinary attention to nature. They think of themselves as the children of nature and the massive plantation all-around the country projects their true love for nature.
One of the fascinating things is the constructive role of women in the country’s development. Women work in shopping malls, hotels, in fields, as commercial drivers and running small businesses. But it does not mean that they do not have a personal life and compromise their families. After school, most children can be seen having lunch with their mothers and completing their homework.
In the People’s Republic of China, the interests of the political elites, business tycoons, and other factions of the country are in-line with the national interests. The Communist Party of China considers their country as a home and its citizens as family members. One unified aim is to work day and night to achieve the highest economic growth in terms of GDP per capita and lead China to become a superpower in terms of economic progress.
During an interesting discussion with Dr Patrick Dai, general manager of Nanning Good Fortune Heavy Industry Group, he summarized China’s national interest and mystery of its success in one sentence “China concentrates only on economic development, nothing else because only economic development can solve all other problems”.
In Pakistan, a sundry perceptive has been taking root in many minds. Even one school of thought compares the Chinese investment in CPEC with the East Indian Company’s imperialist agenda. The soft image once China used to hold in the minds of Pakistanis has started to erode through misguided and maligned social media propagandas. The propaganda to malign China’s fruitful presence in Pakistan has been grasping more and more attention through social media.
Beyond any doubts and suspicions, Chinese investment in Pakistan’s infrastructure and energy sector under the CPEC banner is a blessing as an opportunity. Especially, in such circumstances, when Pakistan’s infrastructure received a hit of 120 billion dollars being frontline ally in Global War on Terrorism and in absence of any foreign investment.
Domestically, corruption and lack of any prudent policy to produce coherent blueprints for overcoming energy crisis, industrial and agriculture development across the country had further aggravated Pakistan’s dilemma. In the midst of such turmoil, CPEC became a ray of hope and reinvigorated nation’s enthusiasm.
Being on the other side of the table for a while, let’s assume that the attachment of misdiagnosed concept of the East India company with CPEC investment has a kind of even remote reality then the problem exists in Pakistan’s part. Because China is not threatening Pakistan using military force for signing such agreements. Moreover, China does not have the history of using the “carrot and stick policy”, specifically towards its “Iron brother”, Pakistan. Nor China is practising ‘Gun Boat’ diplomacy in which its aircraft carriers have blockaded Pakistan and if Pakistan does not comply with China’s terms it will not perish Pakistan from the world map. It is a mutually agreed and cherished agreement. Nevertheless, some regulatory policies need to be placed to balance the dividend between both states. Pakistan’s dwindling stature is signalling that problems emanate from within. Pakistan had been at bad terms with Russia until recently, has never been able to win US trust, and now China’s soft image in public eyes, and Beijing’s trust on Islamabad on the other hand, have been vacillating.
All the third world states have one feature in common: the corrupt political elites and military’s dominant role in domestic politics. In such states, corrupt political elites and politically ambitious military always prioritise their own interests over national interests. They never take any responsibility for pathetic economic, political stagnation and degenerating social ambience due to their transgressions. Such elements always move around the blame game and pinning their failure on others. Unluckily, Pakistan has been getting through this dilemma for decades.
The writer is analyst power politics, security studies & foreign policies of global powers National Defence University, Islamabad
Published in Daily Times, June 1st 2018.