China’s progress and development has been colossal. In the last 30 years, it has leapfrogged to become the world’s second largest economy and within a decade, it is poised to overtake the number one economy, the USA.A remarkable feature of China’s economic planners is taking its neighbours along on the path to progress. This strategy is generous and prudent, since if China were to be surrounded by impoverished neighbours, they could prove to be security risks as well as begging for morsels. If they can share in its opulence by dint of their own hard work and equal contribution, it would be a win-win situation for all.Among the provinces, Yunnan - located in Southwest China - is most strategically located to act as a bridge for South and Southeast Asian countries. Its astute planning enables China to benefit from the natural resources of its neighbours, transform them into profitable products and share the largesse, enabling all stakeholders to have an equitable allocation of the revenue.Against this backdrop, the Kunming Fair, which has been held since 1993, and the South Asian Countries Commodity Fair, which has been held for five consecutive years, have played an important part in increasing economic and trade cooperation between China and South and Southeast Asian countries.In October 2012, the State Council of China approved to upgrade the South Asian Countries Commodity Fair to China-South Asia Exposition, to be held each year at Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province.The First China-South Asia Expo was held from June 6 to 10, 2013. The inauguration was a grand affair with Presidents, Prime Ministers, China’s Vice Premier and the Governor of Yunnan province gracing the occasion.The Chinese Vice Premier, in his inaugural speech, highlighted the abundance of natural resources, which South Asian countries have been blessed with, but need to be mobilised for the common benefit of all. He spoke of Pakistan’s key role in economic integration and serving as an economic corridor between the Middle East, Central and South Asian States. He made a special mention of the importance the new Chinese Premier accords to South Asian countries, which he depicted by commencing his first foreign tour with visits to Pakistan and India. The proposed rail link between the province of Yunnan, Myanmar and Bangladesh as well as the rail/road linking Gwadar with Kashgar are examples of the economic corridor.The China-South Asia Expo had been designed to be a high-level comprehensive event integrating commodity trade, service trade, investment cooperation, tourism cooperation and cultural exchange. Pakistan fielded 170 stalls displaying various products, ranging from woodwork, textile, couture and carpets to precious and semi-precious stoneware. Media delegations from South and South East Asia were invited to witness the various events.The First China-South Asia Expo did not restrict itself to the promotion of goods and services, but investment promotion, China-South Asia business, economy and trade, and think-tank and friendship organisation forums were also organised and met on the sidelines to consolidate the gains.Relevant government organs and business associations of participating countries were invited to present their investment policies, environment and incentives, and promote their investment projects. At the China-South Asia Business Forum, heads of state and leaders from participating countries delivered key-note speeches to enhance mutual trust and confidence. Pakistan was represented by Senator Mushahid Hussain. At the China-South Asia Economy and Trade Forum, members of various chambers of commerce held pragmatic discussions to meet various challenges and augment cooperation. Experts and scholars from South Asia and China met at the Think Tank Forum to exchange views on selected topics, focusing on key areas of mutual interest to provide academic support to the exchanges and cooperation. China-South Asia Friendship Organisations Forum developed the theme, “going forward hand in hand, building up friendship, expanding exchange and cooperation, seeking common development”, to serve as a people-to-people dialogue platform to promote friendship between China and South Asian countries.Besides Kunming, the visiting journalists were taken on a tour of Honghe, Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture to visit agricultural, mining and industrial enterprises, which showcase success through astute preparation and planning. Pakistan needs to emulate some of these practices. For example, the terraced rice fields are located on the mountain slopes, where rainwater is circulated to water the crops, while the excess is siphoned off for other crops; thus achieving a high yield of high quality rice, adding to the natural beauty as well as agricultural produce. Nature has to be tapped for mutual benefit of all.
The writer is a former group captain of PAF, who also served as air and naval attaché at Riyadh. Currently, he is a columnist, analyst and host of programme Defence and Diplomacy on PTV.