A flagship of China’s massive One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is driven in part by Beijing’s desire to build additional routes for its energy imports from the Middle East and to lessen its dependence on sea routes. For Pakistan, CPEC is an extremely cohesive project, a game changer not only for Pakistan but for the entire region and beyond. The corridor has been welcomed across the region with optimism that can only accelerate with the passage of time. Unfortunately, there are detractors to this vital project, India’s blatantly hostile stance is supported by some leaders of a few nationalist parties, political workers, intellectuals and even a few analysts. A sustained campaign has been launched to create an impression that Pakistan will lose more than it will gain. The barrage of criticism spread across a platform of lies and falsehood must be debunked and the actual facts explained.
One myth is that China is an imperialist power bent on exploiting “our natural resources for the gargantuan appetite of economic growth”, the fact is that China is blessed with huge deposits of natural resources, including some rare earth elements. A wrong perception being spread is that Chinese labour and workers (mainly Chinese prisoners) will replace Pakistani workers rendering them jobless, whereas the fact is there is more than plenty of work in China. For security reasons the 10,000 Chinese nationals living in several camps will go back when projects are completed. That Chinese military bases are planned in the coastal belt and Gwadar Port is another wrong opinion. The actual fact is that CPEC is a 100% economic project aimed at linking the region with economic opportunities with no military designs. Apart from this, there is another false perception that anti-state sentiment in Xinjiang will only exacerbate the likelihood for militant ideologies to connect across CPEC, the fact is that this socio-economic project will bring in prosperity and peace in the region, particularly in the less-developed areas. Youth will get job opportunities reducing their vulnerability to terrorist teaching.
The belief that Pakistan’s rising trade deficit with China ($6.2 billion) will harm Pakistan is not Pakistan-specific. India’s trade deficit with China is 47 billion dollars and that of the US is 347 billion dollars. There is a false notion prevalent that Pakistan is being dictated terms by China, the provinces are not being consulted whereas the fact is that all four provinces are consulted and invited to every meeting Pakistan and abroad. In May 2017, all chief ministers attended the OBOR Summit in China with former PM Nawaz Sharif. That CPEC will harm local businesses is another wrong idea, the fact is that by providing quality products, CPEC will increase competitiveness of goods in local markets. Pakistan not being able to provide security to Chinese here, especially in Balochistan, due to the law and order situation isn’t a reality either. The fact is two Special Security Divisions (SSD) have been mobilised by the army, consisting of 15,000 personnel providing security to CPEC projects/personnel. It is not true that air pollution caused by coal-fired power plants is harmful. Plants in Pakistan are all new, thus there is no question about air pollution. Over 1,000 similar plants are already operational in China.
Another wrong perception is that CPEC is not going to bring about any positive change for Pakistan but the fact is that to even claim the massive investment of over $70 billion in Pakistan, over $600 billion in Russia and more than $200 billion in Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan will not bring any change is unrealistic and absurd. The notion that resources will be exploited with projects being undertaken against the will of locals, resulting in demographic change is false as the fact is that Balochistan’s growth is more than guaranteed; CPEC investment will create more job opportunities bringing about change for the better for locals. Pakistan becoming a Chinese colony is far from being a possibility as the actual fact is that history has proven that colonialism and imperialism are legacies of countries of the global West. China (and the US) are industrial powers with global clout that have never tried to colonise any country. High insurance, high loan interest and high return on equity is also a myth whereas the fact is that most loans are of low interest, in projects investment is guaranteed with 17% return per annum on equity.
The deliberate attempts by anti-Pakistan lobbies and detractors to sabotage CPEC are because they know it will bring progress and prosperity in Pakistan. By creating doubts and sowing fear and misconceptions, a lot of traction has also been gained by the cynics of CPEC reporting factually incorrect information. The government’s efforts to debunk misconceptions have fallen woefully short, the electronic and print media must get into the act to educate the masses and launch a campaign about the actual benefits to Pakistan from this mega project. What must be hammered home is that China is a friend which has put their money where their mouth is by actually bringing sizable investment into Pakistan when no other country was willing to do so, rhetoric has been replaced by substance. The level of economic engagement China is undertaking with Pakistan is unprecedented and will go a long way in improving our economy and bringing about a more stable political situation in the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2018.