Pakistan's middle class fixes sights on China

By AFP
Published: March 8, 2013
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Schoolchildren learn Chinese from their teacher Haiwei in the City School in Islamabad. PHOTO: AFP

Schoolchildren learn Chinese from their teacher Haiwei in the City School in Islamabad. PHOTO: AFP

Schoolchildren learn Chinese from their teacher Haiwei in the City School in Islamabad. PHOTO: AFP Students learning Chinese hope to get a job with a Chinese company in Pakistan or go on to further studies in China. PHOTO: WIKIPEDIA

ISLAMABAD: When Misbah Rashid taught Chinese 30 years ago, few signed up. Today her department has more than 200 Pakistani students, increasingly attracted by the prospect of an affordable education and a job.

For decades, a foreign education was the preserve of the richest who could afford the stratospheric expense of sending their progeny to Oxford or Harvard to mingle with an international Westernised elite.

But Rashid’s pupils are mostly middle class. Ambitious and academic, they lack the means to afford an American or British education and so they sign up for Mandarin Chinese at the National University of Modern Languages in Islamabad.

Some of them hope to get a job with a Chinese company in Pakistan. Others will go on to further studies in China, which offers around 500 scholarships a year and cheaper fees.

A course in China costs a few thousand dollars a year, compared with the tens of thousands of dollars US and British universities charge. What is more, some Pakistanis say their great northeastern neighbour makes them feel more welcome.

“Nowadays as Pakistanis, you may not be as welcome in all other countries as we were a few years ago,” says 18-year-old Ali Rafi, who applied to study economics at Shangdon University after visiting last summer.

“But when we went to China, there was one major difference in that we felt at home, the people relations were really, really good. We were always welcomed, honoured and everyone was really pleased when they learnt we were Pakistani.”

He studies at Islamabad’s City School that has started to offer Chinese lessons to children as young as 12, who sing in Mandarin under the watchful eye of their teacher, Zhang Haiwei.

If everything goes well, the classes will be rolled out across the school’s other 200 branches in Pakistan. And other private schools are doing the same.

Pakistanis complain about the difficulty of getting visas and of the suspicion their nationality can arouse among those who associate Pakistan with Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and the Taliban, particularly in Britain and the United States.

The British government says that overall, 20 percent fewer student visas were issued in 2012, compared to the previous year.

The US mission in Pakistan says it supports the world’s largest US government-funded exchange programme, sending over 1,000 Pakistanis on fully funded educational programmes to the United States every year.

The independent Institute of International Education says 5,045 students from Pakistan studied in the United States in 2010-11, but that the number has declined steadily since 2001-02, the academic year of the 9/11 attacks.

There is also considerable resentment of US policy, including the “covert” use of armed drones to carry out attacks in Pakistan on militants.

Whereas Chinese investment, China’s reluctance to admonish Pakistan in public, its rivalry with India and status as an emerging global superpower give it considerable goodwill.

The job market is another consideration.

Pakistan’s main trading partner is still the European Union, but trade with China reached $12 billion last year, up 18 percent from the previous year.

China is also Pakistan’s main arms supplier. Beijing built two nuclear power plants in Pakistan and is contracted to construct two more reactors. There are an estimated 10,000 Chinese living in Pakistan.

Last month, it also took control of strategic port of Gwadar, which through an expanded Karakoram Highway could connect China to the Arabian Sea and Strait of Hormuz, a gateway for a third of the world’s traded oil.

Mushtak Ahmed, 19, has enrolled under Rashid precisely because of the Chinese influx into Gilgit-Baltistan, where China is widening the highway to its border.

“Lots of Chinese people are coming to our area and they just speak Chinese and we cannot understand it… so there is a need for translators,” he said.

According to Pakistan’s embassy in Beijing, around 8,000 Pakistani students are already studying in China and thousands more are preparing to join them.

Former ambassador to Beijing and Washington Riaz Khokar said wealthy Pakistanis tend not to return after studying in the West, but China offers a technical education that will benefit the Pakistani economy.

“The Chinese economic presence in Pakistan is growing so why should there be Chinese managers or Chinese at various levels? The idea was (that) we should train.”

China has accused the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which wants an independent homeland in the western Muslim-majority region of Xinjiang, of training “terrorists” in Pakistan, although experts question how much of a threat they are.

But the relationship has few of the tensions that Pakistan suffers with the United States, which repeatedly presses Pakistan to do more to clamp down on militants who launch attacks on American and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

“I have dealt with their intelligence, I have dealt with their army, I have dealt with everybody at the highest level. They have never told us ‘do this or we will kick you as the US does,” said Khokar.

But if political relations are cosy, then Haiwei says ordinary Chinese professionals are more circumspect.

“In Pakistan we have more than 6,000 Chinese students. However, we have maybe about 50 teachers. We don’t have enough teachers. Some people found it dangerous so they don’t want to work here,” he said.

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Reader Comments (24)

  • Unfortunately Pakistani has realized this very late, but I hope this trend will continue and we’ll gain some knowledge from our friend and super power China.

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  • indian
    Mar 8, 2013 - 12:01PM

    pakistanis should make chinese as their national language.

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  • gp65
    Mar 8, 2013 - 12:17PM

    Ummm… just as there is no language called Indian language or Pakistani language, so also there is no language called Chinese language. These people are probably learning Mandarin. For all the higher/deeper relationship, you still don’t know the languages spoken in your BFF do you?

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  • gp65
    Mar 8, 2013 - 12:21PM

    “Pakistan’s main trading partner is still the European Union, but trade with China reached $12 billion last year, up 18 percent from the previous year.”

    With EU though Pakistan has a trade surplus with China it has a huge trade deficit.

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  • hassan
    Mar 8, 2013 - 12:24PM

    @indian

    as india has made english their first language ?

    Recommend

  • S
    Mar 8, 2013 - 12:31PM

    And India should make English as their national language.

    Ignoring the comments by Indians, it’s certainly good, better than youth going to west as the article states.

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  • Pakistan first
    Mar 8, 2013 - 12:39PM

    Learning chinease not way forward. China has got man power of its own. I have worked in a chinease company and my experience is that whereever these companies go they take their own resources from homeland china.

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  • Muhammad
    Mar 8, 2013 - 1:08PM

    look east and prosper, been look at the butt of west for far too long.

    Pakistan fail ho jaega…. but look what happened due the crooks in

    Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Italy, US.

    Mortgage, Housing Financn, Banking, and Future Trading. All got big wide holes.!

    Recommend

  • Rizwan
    Mar 8, 2013 - 1:26PM

    I think it’s an excellent Idea to learn chimes as they are the global business Hub.It will be difficult to get jobs in china or in Chinese companies as they them self have population mass of 1.2 billion their priority will be to accommodate them first.

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  • Raza Khan
    Mar 8, 2013 - 1:45PM

    We surely are very niave people who are ready to bank on China which has kept trillions of dollars in US bonds but not giving any substantial aid to its best friend whereas the country which we hate is giving us billions of dollars every year in fact since the inception of Pakistan.

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  • Imdad Ali Shah Bukhari Dubai
    Mar 8, 2013 - 2:12PM

    Already made compulsory in primary education by SIndh government. Cadet College Petaro has already started teaching last year.!

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  • rehmat
    Mar 8, 2013 - 2:21PM

    “But when we went to China, there was one major difference in that we felt at home, the people relations were really, really good. We were always welcomed, honoured and everyone was really pleased when they learnt we were Pakistani.””

    That is because Chinese people are not direct. You perhaps did not pick up the non verbal cues. HEre is what they really think about you “Almost half the population of China (47 per cent) had a mainly negative view of Pakistan’s influence on the world while 37 per cent clung on to a positive assessment. Seems more like ‘deeper than the oceans’ rather than ‘higher than the Himalayas’ at the moment”. http://dawn.com/2011/03/16/pakistans-image-problem/

    Even if you look at thie present article, the one area where the true feelings of China are expressed are is this para “But if political relations are cosy, then Haiwei says ordinary Chinese professionals are more circumspect.
    “In Pakistan we have more than 6,000 Chinese students. However, we have maybe about 50 teachers. We don’t have enough teachers. Some people found it dangerous so they don’t want to work here,” he said”.

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  • Ahmed
    Mar 8, 2013 - 2:28PM

    Sindh Education Board has already made Chinese mandatory and it came in effect in 2013. In a globalized world, you can’t rely on English alone, we are increasingly required to be tri-lingual and quad-lingual. Learning more languages is a good thing regardless.

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  • Mustafa alvi
    Mar 8, 2013 - 2:52PM

    Its not chinese its mandarin

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  • Zubair
    Mar 8, 2013 - 2:52PM

    @indian: I can smell something burning :))

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  • Pakistani
    Mar 8, 2013 - 3:17PM

    Indian:

    pakistanis should make chinese as their national language.

    Why don’t you tell us when is Indian declaring Russian their official language? :D

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  • @Pakistan first:
    Zong telecom has so many Pakistanis, and their goods being sold by Pakistanis in Pakistan

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  • Prakash
    Mar 8, 2013 - 5:06PM

    It makes sense for pakistan to learn Mandarin. China is the probably the closest trade and strategic partner for Pakistan.

    Here in Shanghai, I know several pakistanis who came here long back and now living a good life and making decent money. I know pakistanis who used to earn upto 5000 dollars a day by just acting a mediators between Chinese and the Arab businessman.

    Now, due to One Child Policy, China is becoming old and the average age of population in China 35+. In Shanghai, the average age of the population is 49 years. China’s growth in coming year would be slowed down as the working population would start decreasing. This is where Pakistan can supplement by providing young manpower due to its fertile growth rate which would be beneficial both for China and Pakistan. Atleast here, they are not as dirt like the gulf countries.

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  • qsdcv
    Mar 8, 2013 - 7:38PM

    @hassan:
    English is international language, and India has more than 20 official languges, so English taken as official, because of the oppurtunity in throughout India and worldwide.

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  • 1984
    Mar 8, 2013 - 9:49PM

    @Pakistani:
    Why don’t you tell us when is Indian declaring Russian their official language? :D

    That will happen when India gifts away part of its occupied land to Russia and gives a dedicated port to Russia,Aka,Will never happen….

    BTW,your joke reached its expiry date 23 years ago as Cold war is long over…

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  • ozz
    Mar 10, 2013 - 9:45AM

    @1984:

    that was a real nice rebuttal. thoroughly enjoyed it.

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  • Wasim
    Mar 10, 2013 - 11:22AM

    China is future..

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  • Cheung
    Mar 10, 2013 - 7:58PM

    I’m a Chinese and I wish Pakistan and its people for the best. We know how hard it takes because China was near bankrupt in 1950s and had to build up from there. We are, in parts, helped by the capital inflow from wealthy overseas Chinese businesses in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Though China still has many problems that are yet to be solved but we will try to share our economic successes with you. Hopefully those investments will help jump-start Pakistan’s economy.

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  • Javelin
    Mar 26, 2013 - 6:45PM

    @hassan:
    “has made english their first language ?” It ipso facto is the language most universally spoken in India besides Hindi and unites the country. As the Indian economy grows, it will spread far and wide. We don’t write from right to left in all native Indian languages which are based on Sanskrit the Mother language. No Arab influence – thank God!

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