To ascertain the economic and security implications inherent in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which the Chinese call “One Belt One Road”, a Chinese delegation comprising the Chairman of the China Group Companies Association (CGCA) Dr Zhang Chongqing, along with security experts from one of the leading Chinese security companies, CSS, are visiting Pakistan. A quick trip through three cities, Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore, saw them meet a large number of Pakistani entrepreneurs, academics, think tanks as well as cross-section of civil society.
Established in 1987 as a national social group, CGCA has over 200 enterprises as members. This include IT and construction companies as well as commercial entities in the financial industry, aerospace, agriculture, security services, etc. Among CGCA’s national activities is to provide policy guidelines to its member enterprises to support their effort to go global.
Addressing widely attended Breakfast Meetings in Islamabad and Karachi, followed by a working lunch in Lahore, Chairman CGCA said Pakistan and China are the best of friends, having similar aims and objectives of addressing the poverty of the common man, moreover our economic ambitions as well as our economies are complementary to each other. He said we have a lot to learn from each other and at the same time, provide such support and services that not only facilitate trade but enhance it. Reciprocating the sentiments of a number of Pakistani entrepreneurs, Dr Chongqing called the CPEC an economic game-changer for Pakistan as well as a force-multiplier having enormous geo-political consequences. Speaking in his native Chinese language, Dr Chongqing said that China’s investment in Pakistan would help in boosting the country’s economy, besides strengthening ties between the two countries, “we see a lot of potential in Pakistani people. We want to work with you as sky is the limit”. He exhorted Pakistanis to use this unique opportunity to good advantage for all
While appreciating the resolve of Pakistanis to fight terrorism and extremism, he suggested Pakistani regulatory authorities should learn from their counterparts in China and implement their rules and regulations to get taxes and other duties from companies and private businesses. Dr. Chongqing vowed to work with Pakistani officials and private companies on the CPEC and answered some tough questions asked by the participants.
Senator Mushahid Hussain, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on CPEC said that China’s spectacular uplift of its population out of poverty is unmatched. Within 25 years 500 million people, almost half the population, have been brought from poverty into the middle class. “Smooth political succession after every 10 years is also a positive political sign and Pakistan should learn from the experience,” he said. The New Silk Road will connect 25 countries, the flagship project linking all these countries via Kashgar and Gwadar. China’s economic progress has been attained through hard work, instead of bullying its neighbors or grabbing resources of other countries. “China has become a leading political contender in the global system in a short span of time and all credit goes to its hard working people and honest leadership”.
Besides helping build rail and road linkages among the neighbors like Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asian States, Senator Mushahid maintained that greater South Asia is emerging fast with commencement of the CPEC, “The CPEC is a vote of confidence for prosperous future of Pakistan and the potential present for it among the general public needs to be realized at the policy level. The 15 years US$ 46 billion project will bring national unity in Pakistan and is not linked to any one govt.” With respect to India’s vehement opposition to CPEC, he said it was ill-conceived, motivated and without any basis. Mushahid said that Pakistan has a history of overcoming external pressures and conspiracies when it comes to its core national interests. He was of the firm belief that Pakistan will not compromise on this future-shaping project.
At the Breakfast Meeting in Karachi, Dr Ishrat Hussain, Dean of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi, and former Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), remarked that the CPEC was indeed a game-changer in both the geo-political and geo-economic spectrums. As “Head of Asia” in the World Bank he had been an eye witness to the extraordinary achievements of the Chinese wherein they had taken their per capita income from US$ 150 about 25 years ago, comparable than to India and Pakistan, to over US$ 5000 today whereas India was about US$ 1500 as compared to US$ 1350 for Pakistan. He said Chinese had achieved in 7 years what the US had done in a 100 years, doubling the per capita income during three successive 7-8 periods. By achieving such spectacular results, China had made the greatest contribution to the “Millennium Development” goals. The former Chairman of the Civil Services Reforms Commission suggested we need to come out of the straitjacket of suffocating bureaucracy and in essence “let a hundred flowers bloom”.
The CGCA Chairman expressed his resolve to open a representative office in Pakistan within the shortest possible time. He said this would be symbolic of China’s resolve to put maximum effort in the “One Belt One Road” concept. Dr. Chongqing has coincidentally an emotional interest in the great leap that China is making to open up another route for trade and commerce. The great Chinese traveler Xuanzang was from Henan Province. Born around 602 AD in Chenhe village, he was a Chinese Buddhist monk and scholar who later moved to a village in Chenggu County in Shaanxi Province, next to where Dr. Chongqing was born and brought up. Xuanzang became famous for his 17 year overland journey on foot to India in which he spent a great amount of time in Taxila. According to the Chinese Philosopher Confucius, “whosesoever you go, go with all your heart”. What a coincidence that the Chairman CGCA is traversing the path of his ancestor, a symbolic age-old commitment of the Chinese people to open this age-old route to economic prosperity.
Prof Chongqing closing remarks spelt out the tone and tenor of the close and cordial relations between Pakistan and China, of utmost importance for each other these are based on deep-rooted mutual national interests. Pointing to the great investment made by “China Mobile” in Pakistan, over US$ 3 billion, easily the most by any single corporate entity, he said it encapsulates China’s commitment to the future of the “One Belt One Road” concept symbolizing cooperation and understanding of the two countries in economic and other vital areas. The China-Pakistan cooperation will only deepen and expand further with the passage of time.
The writer is a leading defense and political analyst of Pakistan. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org