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Sino-Success and Lessons For Pakistan

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Pakistani premier, after his maiden trip to neighboring all-weather ally China, returned to the hilly Capital of Pakistan last week. PM Imran Khan while briefing the cabinet on the visit after return assured that his visit to People’s Republic was “more successful than expected”, although no details about the nature of success were shared, like was the case in the first official visit to Saudi Arabia, about which the ambiguity still prevails.

The premier who invariably speaks highly of Sino-Success was keen to learn through Chinese experiences vis-à-vis battling against poverty, eradicating the menace of corruption and building a prosperous society in Pakistan. China’s economic rise over the past half century is one of the most striking success stories that have invited plenty of extol and attention worldwide.

A nation having long been blamed and shamed for evils of opium and heroin literally having millions of addicts in the country goes on to moving to the center of global economic activity and influence is truly remarkable. The redefining of the international standards by initiatives like Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Shanghai-based New Development Bank (NDB), the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and many others exhibit China’s growing economic muscle in the global community today.

These events have shaped the economic landscape of the world dramatically, and have had an equally huge impact on underdeveloped neighboring economies.

In a joint statement, after the completion of the visit to China, Pakistan expressed a desire to learn from the Chinese poverty alleviation model, which has lifted over 700 million people out of poverty over the last forty years.

Imran Khan who believed to have a great level of empathy and compassion for the poor demonstrated steely determination in his post-election remarks to learn through pro-poor Chinese economic model in order to realize the true economic potential which the previous governments whether directly elected or under martial law setups failed to do.

Over the past seven decades, economic fragility has become one of the worst vulnerability of Pakistan. Even today country remains in serious economic and political peril and that the potential for collapse loomed large. Socio-political stability is lost; standards of living are lower than the other regional peers with deteriorated growth rate.

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China once a heavily populated and poorly resourced country earned independence two years after Pakistan and turned into an economic giant. Can it be replicated in Pakistan? Is Pakistan even ready to pursue a model in which the economic development can be guaranteed?

To begin with, Pakistan needs to revamp its policy priorities, first shifting from geostrategic to geo-economics and by prioritizing much needed internal development and reforms, the same way China supported a shift away from Mao’s revolutionary foreign policy toward Deng’s wisdom of economic development.

The famous Deng Doctrine which remained the foundation of Chinese economic principles for almost three decades suggested Chinese leadership, “observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile, and never claim leadership”.

Similarly, let history be our guide in drawing the lessons from the bitter past. Pakistan must pursue proactive economic diplomacy and focus domestic development as the guiding principle, avoiding an adventurous foreign policy that has long been the cause of instability and embittered our relations with neighboring countries. Rather conducting itself well to turn its economic vulnerability into economic deterrence can be the most significant achievement of the incumbent government.

Further Chinese expertise can be sought in industrialization as China offered in the joint declaration, “to boost Pakistan’s industrial capacity including through joint ventures in priority areas, relocation of labor-intensive industry and SMEs collaboration”.

Most importantly on external geopolitical issues, despite having unresolved borders as well as maritime disputes, Pakistan needs to learn from China the subtle art of maintaining extremely normal trade relations with India with whom China has territorial disputes on Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin (India-China bilateral trade in 2017 amounted $84.44 billion). It has maritime disputes with Japan on East China Sea yet China-Japan bilateral trade in 2017 amounted $103.87 billion, and it also has overlapping sovereignty claims with five ASEAN nations, including Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam in strategically important South China Sea, but hasn’t allowed these disputes to hinder the trade. Despite the escalating tensions in the South China Sea, trade volume between China and ASEAN countries hit a record high in 2017 totaling $514.8 billion.

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The central goal of China’s economic diplomacy is to create a stable and peaceful global environment for its own development. Pakistan, however, needs to find alternative approaches to defuse the tensions by bridging growing mistrust with the neighboring states, following the China model.

The prevailing situation on Pakistan’s eastern and western borders has worsened in recent years as we saw a sharp decline in Pakistan’s export to Afghanistan – a significant 27 percent over the past one year. A peaceful neighborhood is inevitable for economic development and plays a key role in economic success of a country.

The challenge to learn from Sino experience for the benefit of Pakistan is easier said than done. Yet Prime Minister Imran Khan who believes in optimism and on several occasions said that no power on earth can defeat you until you accept the capitulation has the motivation to make this dream come true. Imran Khan has the position now to turn this country into what Quaid envisioned when he said, “If we want to make this great state of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of masses and the poor”.

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