The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation opens in Beijing tomorrow to give another boost to China’s vision for our world’s future. This new blueprint for globalisation is not only essentially different from the imperialist globalisation agenda of the US-led west but also a direct threat to it. Of course, the One Belt One Road initiative is about developing infrastructure, trade and cooperative policies. But more importantly, OBOR promises to dismantle the exploitative global architecture that is suffocating our world and replace it with something that would make it better.
Whatever sophistry the OBOR-detractors employ to paint it as just another case of imperial expansion by the emerging super-power, China’s OBOR initiative is refreshingly different from the devious schemes cooked up in imperial capitals for hegemony over our world and the plunder of its resources. To begin with, OBOR doesn’t come with the dubious chip of civilising the world on its shoulder. Besides, the new globalisation it is poised to foster will eventually kill the fraudulent Dollar-god, the most lethal weapon of imperial control.
Picture this: The governor of the People’s Bank of China has suggested that local currencies be used instead of dollars or other major currencies for all Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) investments to help ensure financial stability of BRI nations and reduce risk from exchange-rate fluctuations. This is not just an isolated thought or comment. It fits in with the Chinese policy of bypassing the dollar and the larger OBOR vision of replacing exploitative imperial control with win-win cooperation. As opposed to divide-and-rule, OBOR depends on regional connectivity to thrive.
Given its characteristic non-confrontational approach, China would rather downplay the inbuilt conflict between its OBOR-vision and the blood-soaked US-led hegemony that has the world in its murderous stranglehold. Chinese officials emphasise that it is all about economic cooperation and have even invited the US to become a part of it. Yet it is obvious that the new globalisation model they are building would break the imperial monopoly over trade routes and regulations and erode the power of the dollar-based system that exists today. I think they are just being polite.
For its part, the US understands the threat OBOR poses to its unilateralist badmashi and is in no mood to say good-bye to its status as the sole super-power. Rather than accepting a realistic role as one pole in a multipolar world, it has taken out every dirty trick in its bag to subvert the reasonable Chinese dream in association with its allies-cum-vassals. No matter how polite the Chinese are, the US views OBOR as a declaration of war against it. The all-out hybrid war against CPEC is just one example of how it is determined to disrupt the OBOR projects.
The CPEC is a part of the larger OBOR initiative and has been widely hailed as its flagship project. Yet the discourse around CPEC in Pakistan, both in favour and against it, ignores the larger OBOR context and its wider implications for Pakistan. From the prime minister to media celebrities, everyone is exclusively focused on the billions of dollars that will be invested. They paint rosy pictures of development and prosperity or project nightmarish scenarios about how it could go all wrong. They miss the most important point.
Whatever the expected boons and banes of economic development under the CPEC umbrella, one thing is certain. Even before its completion, CPEC has already saved Pakistan by forcing a decisive realignment of our geo-strategic positioning. The too-close-for comfort partnership with the US was leading us to certain death. Don’t go by my assessment. Just compare the depressing news and comments in the national press from pre-CPEC days to the news today.
Clearly, economic cooperation under the OBOR umbrella is not only about economic cooperation. How could it be when the framework of cooperation bypasses the biggest badmash on the block? The US would like to spoil the party for everyone to retain its hegemony. If it doesn’t come round to ceding its throne for a respectable place on the multipolar table, soon countries sitting on the fence might have to choose where their priorities lie; whether they wish to embark upon OBOR whole-heartedly or remain stuck in the imperial stranglehold. After all, the economic choices of a country are enmeshed with its politics and notions of security. They determine its foreign relations and partnerships.
The detractors of China’s emerging global role might wish to paint it as the latest episode of imperialism, likening it to the East India Company and what not, but nothing could be further from the truth. Unlike the hypocritical democracy and human rights that the US-led empire would like to impose on the whole wide world, China does not wish to impose its political system and cultural values on anyone. Unlike the imperialist globalisation forced down everyone’s throat, China’s vision of globalisation would have each country determine its own pace of opening up its economy and integration in the world market.
As opposed to US exceptionalism, China has called for a dialogue of civilisations. As opposed to unilateralism, China has advocated the rule of international law. The talk about win-win cooperation is not just rhetoric. It fits in perfectly with China’s broader worldview.
Those cribbing about CPEC conveniently ignore the fact that what we make of it essentially depends on the quality of our national leadership. A project of such magnitude and scope is naturally expected to have far-reaching consequences; economic and environmental, socio-political and cultural. Yet, our Chinese engagement is essentially different from our 70-year marriage with the US-led satanic empire. Unlike the imperial curse, China’s outreach to the world is not designed to be toxic. Unlike double-speaking messiahs of the empire, China’s OBOR comes with no germ-laden blankets.
If our leadership creates the vision to negotiate in our national interest and musters the will to steer the development activity in a pro-people direction, CPEC presents the perfect opportunity for Pakistan’s overall development and true independence. The same holds true for the OBOR and the opportunity it presents to the world.