Can Pakistan understand China?

Published: July 16, 2011
The writer is a director at the South Asia Free Media Association, Lahore

The writer is a director at the South Asia Free Media Association, Lahore [email protected]

We look at South Asia as a region where we will hold India accountable for its injustices and force it to cede Kashmir to us. We have jihad as our guiding doctrine. Justice demands that we be the agents of instability. We are the revisionists determined to change the status quo.

India is too big, so we think China should do the job of cutting India down to size. India believes this strange figment of our imagination and criticises China for partly giving Pakistan its military muscle, the sort of thing the US used to do in the past. But was the US able to make Pakistan win against India? Was Kashmir ceded to Pakistan by an India felled and writhing on the ground?

Some in the US think of China as a global rival, but eight American presidents one after the other have resisted the old instinct of looking at the world through military goggles and have treated China instead as a ‘strangely behaving’ trading partner. And one person who doesn’t want America to think in terms of military equations is Henry Kissinger.

Henry Kissinger, in his latest book On China (The Penguin Press 2011), tells us things about China that we have ignored in our decades of ‘all-weather’ friendship. He says the Chinese mind hates policies of instability and disharmony. It did not grab Hong Kong but waited for the British lease on it to run out. Seeing Portugal in decline, India didn’t wait in the case of Goa; China waited in the case of Macao.

The presiding philosopher in China is Confucius who, unlike Machiavelli, was concerned more with the cultivation of social harmony than with the machinations of power (p.15). For him, mankind’s central spiritual task was to recreate proper order, already on the verge of being lost. Spiritual fulfilment was a task not so much of revelation as patient recovery of forgotten principles of self-restraint (p.14).

China doesn’t want victory, therefore it doesn’t go to war. The philosopher of China’s realpolitik is Sun Tzu who has written Art of War. According to Kissinger, “A turbulent history has taught Chinese leaders that not every problem has a solution and that too great an emphasis on total mastery over specific events could upset the harmony of the universe. There were too many potential enemies for the empire ever to live in total security. If China’s fate was relative security, it also implied relative insecurity — the need to learn the grammar of over a dozen neighbouring states with significantly different histories and aspirations” (p.23).

On the other hand, the western tradition prizes the decisive clash of forces emphasising feats of heroism. The Chinese ideal stresses subtlety, indirection and the patient accumulation of relative advantage. Writes Kissinger: “Chinese thinkers developed strategic thought that placed a premium on victory through psychological advantage and preached the avoidance of direct conflict” (p.35).

Kissinger gives us another contrast: “Chinese diplomacy has learned from millennia of experience that, in international issues, each apparent solution is generally an admission ticket to a new set of related problems. Hence Chinese diplomats consider continuity of relationships an important task and perhaps more important than formal documents. By comparison, American diplomacy tends to segment issues into self-contained units to be dealt with on their own merits” (p.245).

India is intellectually better placed to understand China than jihad-obsessed, warlike Pakistan. After India lost Aksai Chin to China in 1962, it could have become revisionist like Pakistan and fought losing wars to regain the territory, but it decided that Aksai Chin was strategically ‘unimportant’. Today, it hopes to take its bilateral trade with China to $200 billion while Pakistan languishes at $9 billion.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (45)

  • Jul 16, 2011 - 10:30PM

    Another way to understand China is read its greatest work: Sun Tzu’s Art of War.
    Thomas Huynh, founder

  • faraz
    Jul 16, 2011 - 10:36PM

    Blinded by geostrategic fantasies, we completely ignore the economic cost of this higher than Himalayas friendship. The free trade agreement with China has wiped out our medium and small scale industry; our imports from China are worth 6 billion dollars while exports are just 1.5 billion. Third rate Chinese products have flooded the market and we are paying in foreign exchange for that junk. Chinese are just too wise for our strategic clowns to understand.


  • Saleem
    Jul 16, 2011 - 10:48PM

    Very true and thought provoking , thanks


  • Max
    Jul 16, 2011 - 11:26PM

    We have a very myopic view of the world. The Khilafat was dying in Anatolia and we were working hard to save/restore its glory. Things did not stop there, we mobilized Khilafat Movement when Turkey itself was calling it foul and utterly corrupt system.
    If someone thinks that China is going to clean Pakistan’s dirty laundry may think again. “My enemy’s enemy” syndrome does not work in international politics. Nations pursue their own foreign policy goals and Chinese are historically known for their business-type attitude. I don’t see anything wrong with that attitude. States are rational actors and market mechanism best describes their behavior.


  • Ashok
    Jul 16, 2011 - 11:40PM

    One thing that Mr. Khaled Ahmed has ignored is that much of (though I’m not sure how much exactly) India’s export to China is in the form of Iron Ore. Iron ore is a bedrock of the nation. In return, I’m not sure what exactly India gets from China – cheaper goods? Cheaper goods can help raise the standard of living in a country, but it can also cause loss of domestic jobs, and result in a trade imbalance that favors the surplus country in monetary and potentially political terms. China-India trade is not altogether a bad thing, as it results in people to people contacts and creates business relationships between the two peoples and nations, but Indians need to carefully understand other dynamics as well. Consider the following scenario, India reduces consumer goods trade with China, resulting in more space for Indian businesses to engage in this area to meet domestic demand. This creates local manufacturing jobs. More domestic business activity means more taxes and more demand for public infrastructure to align supply with demand. This could be met domestically by Indian owned Iron ore companies, and can ultimately pave the way for large scale infrastructure improvements within India.


  • rk
    Jul 16, 2011 - 11:41PM

    “US made pak win against India” ?? When did that happen ?? when did terro beggar Pak WIN against India???? “Kashmir ceded to Pak when India was writhing”??? really??? What planet do u live on?? When was Kashmir ceded to PAkistan?? When was INdia Writhing??? India is neck to neckj with advanced nations like USA nad other major democratic nations. It is a global power. it has immense respect all over the world. Just go and educate yourself and then print. Dont just print nonsense. In any case, no advanced country will take any notice of what you country’s newpaper prints. Because you are not a country but an Islamist military owning a poor illiterate nation.


  • Mir Agha
    Jul 16, 2011 - 11:42PM

    Can the ‘liberal’ secularists understand Pakistan? Case in point one Khaled Ahmed, No.


  • Irshad Khan
    Jul 17, 2011 - 12:06AM

    This is the way of survival and co-existance in this age. We should examine and revise our policies accordingly.


  • Kataria
    Jul 17, 2011 - 12:12AM

    What a propogandist. Contrasting a ‘target’ with current levels of trade. All a futile attempt to make a point where there is none.


  • kailash
    Jul 17, 2011 - 1:37AM

    let’s say its a culture and boldness. Hindus r relatively less aggressive compared to other civilizations. It is abused, tortured, brutalized and ruled for centuries. may be there lies the answer


  • Jul 17, 2011 - 1:40AM

    Sir when will you apply for the post of ISI cheif?


  • Jul 17, 2011 - 2:47AM

    My name is Indian sounding,but I have little in common with Indo/Pak quarrel.I’m more in tune with Kessinger and Khaled Ahmed school.You should not resort to war unless it is survival at stake and you have more than 50% chance of winning and all avenue of diplomacy have failed.China is very smart country and they are not going to act like a bully kid who takes side in pique,and screw up relation with USA,Europe and India and just to please Pakistan,what is in it for them,?all down side,yes they want to keep Pakistan happy so they say nice sounding wards,have they promised to take over aid from USA?no,they have not even given north korea money,just words,and I do not blame them,in fact their diplomacy is far more meanning full then both USA and India.They warned USA about Dalai Lama but I bet my house,they will do nothing to upset the apple-cart of trade with USa,for all the reasons Ahmed penned in the column and Kessinger ‘s reasonning,have they gone to war over Thaiwan?They are very pragamatic nation,Pakistan will wait till the cows come home,and their trade with both India and China will languish in single degit billion.What baffles me that more could have been achieved for Pakistani people if Pakistan had not adopted unremmitting,and uncompermising stand with India,this unrelenting hostility will get Pakistan no-where,but then as Ahmed says this war like jihad obsessed ideology does not allow u-turn and new rethinking,it is shame but one has lie in the bed you make for yourself.Folks like me who have no axe to grind,can not make any headway even on personnel level as there are more stupid folks in world than rational,reasonable and logical folks that is always the case in all through out millennia,ALLWAYS,you can bet your house on this fact!


  • Babloo
    Jul 17, 2011 - 3:16AM

    Is the writer aware of the cultural genocide of the Tibetans by the han chinese occupiers and total subjugation of the Tibetan identity by settlers from mainland China over forcibly annexed Tibet ? What China and what policy is he talking about ?


  • mkd
    Jul 17, 2011 - 4:11AM

    Offcourse it can. Don’t we know that “My enemy’s enemy is my friend”.


  • Anwar M.
    Jul 17, 2011 - 4:31AM

    Pakistan can cut the nails from the claws of the dragon, if it partners with India. India will surely take a go at its ‘rightful place’ (however and whatever that may be in the imagination of the Indians, but there is no denying that they are and will be an immense factor to reckon with. and the Chinese, the pragmatic Chinese, are quick to recognise that.). The factor here is not Pakistan+China or China+India. But the factor is South Asia versus China because we are ultimately in competition of resources. Now. is the time for us to be pragmatic. Pakistan, India and Bangladesh (BIP) primarily must shed their historical baggage and create an economic sphere. This is all the more achievable because we share a cultural sphere. What we don’t share yet, is a common political sphere of secular democracies. Patience, with time, we may even get there. But economics is the law hanging fruit. A South Asian economic platform, will give Pakistan great clout on the negotiation table vis-a-vis China. It will win it a lot more trust than it ever has with India. It will also negate the Pakistani Army’s anti-India stance. It will heal or at least begin to heal the wounds of partition and start the process of reconciliation. Realise, that the Japanese Imperial Army did far, far worse deeds to the Chinese in their long history of antagonism. Not a percent of that has happened between the Pakistanis and Indians and the Pakistanis and Bangladeshis; or for that matter between the Hindus and Muslims. Yet, they are still being able to forge a degree of patient relationship building. The lesson to be learnt from China is pragmatism. And when we come to the table with pragmatism to India’s table, Indians will trust us for that. Because, our emotional brothers, are being driven by pragmatism too.


  • Akthar
    Jul 17, 2011 - 5:53AM

    “It did not grab Hong Kong but waited for the British lease on it to run out”
    Nice take. Point to ponder. I have never thought about this though i have read enough times. Hope the generals read this article.


  • Amir
    Jul 17, 2011 - 6:58AM

    No one can help Pakistan. Only Pakistanis can help Pakistan. And please dont compare Chinese-Pakistani relations to American-Pakistani relations. China never harmed a single Pakistani person and never bombed our territory. Maybe China can not help us get Kashmir, but we have more in common with China’s strategic interests than America’s strategic interests today in 2011.


  • R
    Jul 17, 2011 - 7:28AM

    Pakistan is unable to understand any relationship – with outsiders or insiders, with friends or enemies. The reason is that it sees itself priamarily through the prism of being anti-India. Anything that fuels that sentiment is autimatically justified. Today it should have mastered two key relationships – one with USA and the other with China. One the dominant power since 1945 and the other the emerging super power. With both it has worked closely on issues of geo-strategic importance. Yet, it has failed to translate that into long term benefits for itself. It sought disadvantage for India but nothing of value for its itself. It has used foreign policy as a blunt instrument of physical force. Its political culture loathes, nuance, responsibility and patience.


  • BruteForce
    Jul 17, 2011 - 7:54AM

    China is not that complicated as you make out to be.

    That is the Communist system at work. Its leaders have learned from the collapse of the USSR and have come to realize the folly of engaging Countries like India actively.

    India too has been very patient with Pakistan and China, although with Pakistan the patience seems never ending!


  • Adil
    Jul 17, 2011 - 9:04AM


    In any case, no advanced country will take any notice of what you country’s newpaper prints. Because you are not a country but an Islamist military owning a poor illiterate nation.

    Oh yeah, then how come citizen of a strong economic nation and a superpower in the nearfuture have enough time to come and read newspapers of an illiterate nation,plus enough time to post their opinions…and regarding media and newspapers, go and check what analysts like Noam Chomsky say while comparing media of India and Pakistan,and then talk…No matter what’s the condition of our country but atleast our media is way more mature than yours. If you’ve got enough gutts then check the comments section of this website and that of Times of India,and see by yourself where abusives languages and names etc…are used more frequently,at least Express Tribune has got a strict and strong moderation policy,which TOI and Express India lack.


  • Sajida
    Jul 17, 2011 - 10:14AM

    If India really understood China it would improve its local system. China used integrated governance to build its economy. The first example of integrated governance in Asia was the system implemented by Ripon in the British Indian colony. The difference was it was a rural formula;whereas China has used an urban formula.
    In China these systems are preprogammed for massive migration; whereas in India they are trying to drive growing numbers of migrants away from 19th century cities.
    Please see:


  • mine
    Jul 17, 2011 - 10:19AM

    India can never be a friend of Pakistan. They do not have friendly relationship with any of their neighbours. So the only option left with Pakistan is to set its own house in order and develop strategic, political and economic relations with countries like China, Iran and other neutral (towards Pakistan) countries.


  • harkol
    Jul 17, 2011 - 10:40AM

    India’s patience is not because it reads China properly. It is because it doesn’t have an militaristic frame of mind. When Chinese troops moved into territory India considered its own, it did fight a war and lost. So, should something similar happen again, where India controlled territory is seized by a foreign force, India is most likely to go to war again.

    But, India certainly won’t follow the path of Pakistan and host a cancer within its body with the hope that one day it will consume its neighbor. India hosts Dalai Lama, but on the condition that he wouldn’t do any anti-china activities from India. While China doesn’t like Dalai Lama, as he is the representative of once independent Tibet, it isn’t upset with India either. Because India never challenged the integrity of China nor does any terror/extremist activity taking place within China due to support by India.

    In otherwords, India is a status quoist nation, which doesn’t go to war unless extremely provoked.

    @rk: Please read the entire article & its context before commenting.


  • Rock
    Jul 17, 2011 - 10:56AM

    What’s your take on Tibet and Inner mongolia? Ofcourse you won’t comment om china’s internal issue..right?


  • Frank
    Jul 17, 2011 - 11:42AM

    India is intellectually better placed
    to understand China than
    jihad-obsessed, warlike Pakistan.

    India has stationed nearly 700 000 troops in the Vale to subjugate a nation of only 5 miliion. One Indian jackboot for every nine members of a nation that is not likely to ever accept the Indian prescence in their land. There is nothing – absolutely nothing whatsoever- ‘intellectual’ or ‘unwarlike’ about this.

    After India lost Aksai Chin to China
    in 1962, it could have become
    revisionist like Pakistan and fought
    losing wars to regain the territory,
    but it decided that Aksai Chin was
    strategically ‘unimportant’

    India could not fight back in Aksai Chin in the same way Pakistan has in Kashmir by virtue of the simple fact that the population of Aksai Chin consists entirely of Yaks and mountain goats who find wielding a Kalashnikov a bit difficult. Recommend

  • Frank
    Jul 17, 2011 - 12:05PM

    Khalid Ahmed

    It did not grab Hong Kong but waited
    for the British lease on it to run
    out. Seeing Portugal in decline, India
    didn’t wait in the case of Goa;

    India didn’t wait for Goa because Goa was not a part of British India and would therefore still be an independent even today if it were not forcibly annexed by India. Hong Kong was Chinese territory leased to the British. It was bound to return to China after the lease had expired. There is no logic at all in ‘grabbing’ a territory that is going to come back to you anyway. Recommend

  • Abhi
    Jul 17, 2011 - 1:41PM

    Some points are indded good however I think Khalid Ahmed is reading too much in to this Kissnger’s book. It is nothing but self congratulatory book trying to justify his China policy. China has shown agression many times but with maturity. It has shown agression only when it knew that it will win in the conflict (Tibet, Taiwan and many other instances). So while trading with China all countries should be careful not to becom militarily week or take the peaceful rise rehoteric of China at face value.


  • Santosh
    Jul 17, 2011 - 3:02PM


    “India has stationed nearly 700 000 troops in the Vale to subjugate a nation of only 5 miliion. One Indian jackboot for every nine members of a nation that is not likely to ever accept the Indian prescence in their land.”

    “India didn’t wait for Goa because Goa was not a part of British India and would therefore still be an independent even today if it were not forcibly annexed by India.”

    1) India has stationed that many troops not to subjugate a state of 5 mn, but to thwart the designs of an army of 1 mn (read Pakistan). Tell me, before the uprising (1989) which was provoked and supported by Pak Army to avenge the humiliation of 1971, 1965, 1984, and numerous other defeats, how many Indian soldiers were there? The young Kashmiri doesn’t know the rest of India nor does he know the history before 1989 nor the role of Pakistani Army. Unfortunately, he only remembers seeing frustrated soldiers and their high-handedness whenever there is a militant attack on them. He doesn’t understand that India is a multi-cultural country.

    2) When the British left the sub-continent, it was a message to other colonialists to leave. The sub-continent is not their country. Pakistan was created for the region’s agitated muslims. The rest of the land was for India (all other religions – Hindus, Muslims, Sikh, Christians, Parsis, Jains, Buddhists). So, the Portuguese were required to leave. They didn’t. So, India was forced to acquire Goa. Anyway, this Goa event should not be of any concern to a Pakistani.


  • Bangash
    Jul 17, 2011 - 3:30PM


    India may be “neck and neck” with advanced nations but some Indians still can’t read a newspaper article. Read the article again.


  • Syed Hussein El-Edroos
    Jul 17, 2011 - 3:56PM

    @R: Agree 100 %.


  • usman
    Jul 17, 2011 - 6:45PM

    interesting facts,but only few things are related to Pakistan.better to write it from pakistan’s point of view


  • m Hussein
    Jul 17, 2011 - 9:47PM

    unless we rid ourselves of our Islam centric view of the world we will continue to lose on all fronts.


  • Abu Faiz
    Jul 17, 2011 - 10:07PM

    What is your point? RK or whoever it is has made his point, atleast he has a view (right or wrong is a different matter.) My dear frreind what is your view? (or do you have one?) Instead of resorting to insults to co commenters.. the least you could have done was to try either to agree, disagree or have an openion. Sorry to say but, by writing some cheap comment not only have you shown how foolish you are but also embarassed the rest of us.


  • pakman
    Jul 17, 2011 - 11:21PM

    Pakistan fails to understand one thing. The modern warfare is all about economics. Strong economy automatically translates to strong army and vice versa.

    In our myopic vision, we believe war is solution to everything. We have been fascinated by the early Islamic wars of the prophet and the rashidun caliphs in which their materially weak armies defeated the strongest armies of the world – but we ignore two things:

    Though weaker in numbers, the muslim armies had same weapons. Second, we don’t have the same level of faith and commitment as citizens of that empire and soldiers of that army had yet we believe we can produce the same miracle that they did.


  • optimist
    Jul 18, 2011 - 1:39AM

    Then how come China attacked India in 1962????

    It seems even Henry Kissinger can miss the point when trying to read China. China will attack when she is sure she can win. Wait till China becomes stronger than the US (if it happens!), China will start with her neighbours and expand beyond…


  • Amir
    Jul 18, 2011 - 1:56AM

    India can never be a friend of Pakistan’s. Indians hate Pakistan and hate the idea of Pakistan.


  • R
    Jul 18, 2011 - 8:30AM


    Don’t forget Veitnam in 1979, Korea in 1950, Tibet 1959 and Soviet Union 1969.

    Don’t forget the carnage wrought on its own by Kisssinger’s gurus of sophistication – Chou and Mao – the cultural revolution 1960s (only 30, 000, 000 dead!) and Tianemen 1989.


  • My Name is Khan
    Jul 18, 2011 - 8:57AM

    While Kissinger makes intelligent comments every now and then, he’s mostly an idiot.

    That being said, this is a good article. We could fight with India in the sphere of economics and all be prosperous, happy, healthy countries or we can keep our 7th Century mindset and live up to every stereotype the world has of us.


  • harkol
    Jul 18, 2011 - 12:10PM

    Hmm… after reading this article again I wonder if the question should be “Can Pakistan understand India?”.

    Having been the same country, and being close neighbors one would think it does. But, it apparently doesn’t understand a multi-cultural, status-quoist, pacifist India. Yet, Pakistan managed to drag India to war on 4 different occasions.

    If Pakistan could never understand such close neighbor, what chance of it understanding China or USA?


  • sajjida
    Jul 18, 2011 - 9:06PM

    What about during Indira’s time. She was a rather aggressive lady. I think India/Pakistan relation are still haunted by results of her actions.


  • Deb
    Jul 18, 2011 - 10:55PM


    I am an Indian and I fully agree with your observation that there is much less abusive language and mindless chest thumping in Pakistani newspaper blogs when compared to their Indian counterparts, when the issue involves Indo-Pak, whether it’s cricket,economy,terrorism or whatever.
    What these people (and they are at either side of the border) fail to recognise is that,
    one who doesn’t respect others cannot expect the respect he is craving for.

    Informed,educated and cultured opinion/argument can do that.


  • Waqeel Hindvi
    Jul 18, 2011 - 11:20PM

    The reason there is so much abusive language and mindless chest thumping in the Times of India and the Hindusthan Times threads is because >
    – The preponderance of young men with poor command of English.
    – This queers the pitch and skews the perception and tenor of the conversation.
    – Also, most of these threads are not moderated as assiduously as are Pakistani threads.
    – In that sense, at least, democracy is not a good idea … there is a responsibility with each right, surely.
    – The design of the Pakistani websites are much more polished and user friendly.
    – They aren’t as commercial and shrill. That in turn attracts a higher and more educated calibre of readers. And those who read, also write better than those you just scan.
    – Last but not the least, the quality of articles and contents published, attract quality patrons.
    – Publish trash, and you will attract mosquitoes.


  • Sam
    Jul 19, 2011 - 2:32PM


    heres a list of ur biggest misconceptions.. i am doing u the favour of pointing them out i suggest u educate urself on the facts

    1- India is neck to neck with world powers like the US

    2- pakistan is a cuontry of the poor and illeterate (indicating india isnt)


  • G. Din
    Jul 19, 2011 - 4:06PM

    Please read what the author is trying to say. When he asks in sarcasm:”But was the US able to make Pakistan win against India? Was Kashmir ceded to Pakistan by an India felled and writhing on the ground?”, he expects you to answer all those questions in the negative. US was NOT able to make Pakistan win against India. Kashmir was NOT ceded to Pakistan by India. Finally India had NOT been felled and was NOT writhing (with pain) on the ground. No point in flying off the handle in a hurry!


  • Jul 19, 2011 - 4:47PM

    India should not interfere in Pakistan’s affairs. They should let Kashmir free and let the north eastern states join China as they are a part of China, racially and culturally.


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