Pakistan in the past 5 decades has greatly benefited from the astronomical rise of China’s re-entry in the corridors of world power. China has proven to be Pakistan’s time-tested friend and the two countries’ enjoy time-tested brotherly relations. Pakistan and China must focus on developing their relations to the next logical level. Currently, Sino-Pakistani coordination is mostly limited to national security issues such as development of military applications at cost-effective prices and a sprinkle of Chinese investment in Pakistan’s private sector for the development Pakistani industry. Both countries have time and time again identified the need to make their close relations be reflected by increased commerce and trade however this has been limited due to several structural and stability issues on the Pakistani front. Pakistan should focus on ways to fasten regulation and increase incentives for enhanced Chinese investment in Pakistan’s national economy. Cooperation between China and our country – and the ability of Pakistan to take not just from China’s tangible wealth but also to learn how they produced this wealth and regained their greatness can serve the interests of the rising aspirations of the Pakistani people.
Deng Xiaopeng, chairman of the Communist Party of China remarked that it is ‘glorious to get wealthy’. His remark set in motion the events of 1978, when China took steps to de-regulate its command-style economy and the restructuring that resulted in the conversion of the sleepy town of Shenzhen with a population of 5000 people in 1978 to a major world city with a per capita gross domestic product within the city that would compete with Western standards. Shenzhen was the first site of the Chinese experiment with a new form of Chinese communism – one which took some of the tenets of Marxist-Lennism, blended it with Chairman Mao’s desire for self-efficiency, self-reliance and ‘collectivization’, recognized the basic attributes of 5000 years of Chinese culture and psychology, and gave birth to ‘Communism with Chinese characteristics’.
From 1978 onwards, China has liberated over a three hundred million people out of poverty in mainland China. A Chinese middle class has emerged which makes Western multinationals envy the depth of the Chinese consumer’s pocket. While China may have abandoned collective industrial units of Mao or the collective farming societies, China has created a new form of collectivization. Whether this is inadvertent or not is simply not known, but the Chinese Nation thinks with one heart beat when it comes to perceive dangers to Chinese national interest. For example, the typically holier-than-thou patronizing behaviour of the French towards China annoyed the people of China to such an extent that they collectively used the depth and strength of their pockets to ignore French products. This resulted in a downward spiral of profits which were previously being enjoyed by French multinationals in China. At one point, France used to be the #1 destination for Chinese tourists. After the debacle in Paris when the French hosted that imposter the Dalai Lama and dared to intervene in Chinese internal affairs, France’s popularity dropped dramatically amongst the Chinese. The Chinese stood up for their country. France this summer was holding the rotating presidency of the European Union. The Chinese premier rightfully snubbed Sarkozy by calling the E.U-China summit off. President Zardari was able to ‘snub’ Gordon Brown over the illegal Pakistani student arrest issue by refusing to have a joint press conference only to honour Brown’s presence in Islamabad by having our Prime Minister shake hands appear with Gordon Brown in the press conference and Mr.Brown showed neither remorse nor pain for the emotional horror he caused to the families of those ten innocent Pakistani students – a national disgrace for our pride.
Pakistan is not as weak as her civilian leaders make it seem. In the 1970’s, China was surrounded by hostile states. The U.S was considering the possibility of diplomatic relations with the Revolutionary Republic but it remained hostile to China. The Soviet Union and China were increasingly in an estranged relationship and there was a massive military mobilization on their mutual borders and as a consequence there was a genuine split between both countries. China and its neighbour Vietnam were having tensions, while China’s friction with Japan and South Korea remained hot due to both countries hosting American military bases and the conflict in the two Koreas. In between all of this, there was a recalcitrant India under the leadership of Indira Gandhi who had just defeated China’s principal ally Pakistan and she showed signs of wanting to pick a fight with China to avenge the 1962 national humiliation the Chinese delivered to their largest South Asian neighbour in a brief but bitter war. Yet no one could challenge China. China focused on internal development and decided to make itself internally strong.
What began in 1978 transformed the imagination of the Chinese people. In little over a decade, China marched straight to economic progress and technical recovery. By the turn of the millennium, China’s share in global trade took an increasingly upward trend. China averted a South East Asian recession in 2000 when the tech bubble burst in America caused American demand of products from Japan, South Korea, Philippines and Malaysia to decrease significantly. China however in less than 30 years had managed to build up the required capacity to consume those products and hence cushioned the effects of the tech bubble crisis spilling over to South East Asia. Trade and commerce are not just activities for generating employment but should also be used as instruments of foreign policy.
China’s grand stock of over $1.5 trillion in foreign reserves makes it one of the most powerful countries in the world today. While on news we read about Obama announcing stimulus packages, the Chinese are out there too announcing $600billion stimulus packages for their own national economy. While the principal pillar of growth in China since 1978 has been foreign direct investment, in the year 2008 domestic consumption overtook foreign direct investment in size and its totality.
Pakistan needs to learn from China. We cannot just go with a beggars bowl and ask for $500 million every now and then from Beijing. They are our friends and they care for us because they realize the importance Pakistan can play in the emerging world order. But we cannot be part of the new world order that is coming if we remain addicted to peanuts and crumbs because this is making our decadent political elite even more decadent while Pakistanis are unable to realize the Pakistan Ideal.
Pakistan must learn from China. We must focus on developing a holistic trade policy with China. Chinese investment in Pakistan is critical. The technicalities of what China should or should not invest in are a totally different topic, but the main areas need to be mentioned. The need for
- a fibre optic cable connecting Pakistan and China,
- building consumer and cargo railways along the Karakoram Highway,
- enhanced technical partnership,
- enhanced educational partnership,
- and enhanced energy,
- water security, and
- crop production coordination are the areas
- besides defence where China can play an instrumental role.
This will bold well for our national security and help connect Islamabad into a closer orbit with Beijing. The need to promote Mandarin in Pakistan is also needed. While China has instructed many of its institutions to dedicate a certain portion of their staff to learn Urdu (or any other language that would help China), Pakistan has failed to do this. Pakistani officials can sometimes be so insensitive to China that while the Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan was gifting medals and presents to special Pakistani participants in the Special Peoples’ Olympics, Pakistani officials were busy asking Chinese journalists to sit in the back so that foreign (read European and American journalists) could sit in the front while Zardari would unleash the inimitable light he withholds within and which no one can sense or feel at a press conference few months ago. This is not just comical but it is also painful. Get over the hangover that the white man is the master. He is not. We are the masters of our own destiny, as China has demonstrated.
Pakistan is today surrounded by hostile states with the exception of China and the on-again, off-again double-mindedness of Iran. Even though most of us believe the current rounds of tensions with India began after the Mumbai tensions and allegations, this is not true – they merely came to the surface.
- Indo-Pak tensions have been building since 2004 when India unilaterally began constructing dams in Indian-occupied Kashmir, unilaterally violating the Indus Water Treaty and as a consequence severely cutting the water flow of Pakistani rivers and effecting our food security, energy security, and water security.
- Our tensions have also been rising because of Pakistani support to Sri Lanka’s War Agaisnt Terrorism. Our neighbour has been very unhappy of Pakistani assistance in training the Sri Lankan Air Force in precision guided aerial-bombing which has in fact been instrumental in the current success of Sri Lanka in stamping out the Tamil Tiger Threat.
We must not waiver in our conviction that we have the sovereign right to manage our relations bilaterally with who ever we chose to do so and however we choose to do so. We also must have the conviction in ourselves that we have the right to choose how we wish to perceive any 2nd country and for that matter President Obama should kindly focus on the appalling failure of the U.S in Afghanistan and not focus in Pakistan bashing.
However, the emerging dente in America is to de-hyphenate the Western World’s relationship with India and disregard Pakistani and Kashmiri sensitivity with regard to the ongoing occupation in Indian-occupied Kashmir. This emerging dente is the most dramatic change in the South Asia power equation since decades. The only other changes which occurred were the dismemberment of East Pakistan in 1971 and the creation of a Pakistani atomic weapon which had such a profound implication on the regional security of Pakistan. Who does Washington think it is to firstly decide for the entire Western World and also to stab Pakistan in the back once again? Washington is strong in international affairs, but not as strong as it used to be. This creates a creative dynamic in the corridors of world power and Pakistan can manoeuvre smartly if we took the right steps.
What does Pakistan do in the face of a rising pro-India sentiment in Washington? When in doubt, look to Beijing. While we look to Beijing, we should not expect that the Chinese will always be there. Hence we must introspect. While we introspect, we should take Chinese ideas on the sort of actionable change they were able to bring and then we would make the defence of Pakistan impregnable. For now, Pakistan must deeply search its soul and we must all collectively ask ourselves why our parliamentary democracy has failed in living up to the expectations and zeal of the Pakistan Movement. The answer to this is the ‘FM’ word, and feudalism is bad. But the feudal mentality of Pakistan’s decadent political elite reeks of backwardness and is not going anywhere soon. They would rather meet foreign politicians, foreign leaders, and foreign envoys while compete against other feudal-minded personalities’ on how much they are willing to sell our dignity and our sovereignty for a wink (read chance) to sit in the seat of power in Islamabad and the four provinces. Pakistan is in need of a Pakistani Deng Xiaopeng. A man or woman who will display the courage, the audacity, the credentials, and the eloquence needed to march Pakistan to the path of technical capacity, economic prosperity, and intellectual wealth. This will also ensure that a strong sovereign Pakistan emerges which is capable of standing up for its strategic interests externally in this region and beyond. If Pakistan could banish forever the corruption of the feudal mentality, provide some semblance of stability, and adopt ‘Deng Xiaopeng Thought’, then we could really ensure that rooti, kapra, makan would be more than just rhetoric and make it a reality. We could then also aspire for Gari, tahleem, and an avaaz. This voice would be strong and would reflect the imagination of the Pakistani people. Even the moon would be within our reach – as China has demonstrated.