China’s peaceful development and dividends for Pakistan

As both China and Pakistan are celebrating their 73rd Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, and keeping in view Prime Minister Shebhaz Sharif’s successful visit to China in early June, it is the high time to contribute to this meaningful topic of “China’s peaceful development and dividends for Pakistan”.

The world we are living in today has too much turbulence, chaos, conflicts and wars. Scholars of international relations usually define the world as an international community, or a comity of nations, and the global family. However, this benign ideal has not yet materialized in real politik. Human society is a one-way journey forward, and we can’t return to the bygone days. The humanity have suffered in modern times at least three major scourges of war, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War, yet we haven’t learned enough lessons from the history. Today’s world is more divided by the East and the West, the North and the South, while change and uncertainty being the two constants featuring the evolving human destiny. Global geopolitics and geo-economics are witnessing unprecedented dynamics set in motion. Worldwide, peace deficit prevails, security situation is grim, economic growth lacks momentum, development gap widening, and governance deficit exacerbates. Hegemony, power politics, and bloc confrontations are more on the rise. The containment of and rivalry against China, initiated by the US, out of its hyped fear of being the established power out-competed by a rising power, has become the salient feature in world politics. This process of the so-called Thucydides’s Trap, plus the heightened competition between the Global South and the Global North, has injected more uncertainty into regional and international stages.

The dawn of the 21st century has ushered in an epoch-making event, namely, the return, re-emergence and rise of China. Through hard struggles and reform and opening up, China has become the world’s second largest economy, with growing power in industry, human capital, market, science and technology, and military strength, playing a more important role in international affairs. The modernizing and great national rejuvenation of China has provided a paradigm shift to shaping the global political and economic landscapes. China’s peaceful development is a blessing to the world, and its development path has set an exemplary example for other countries to learn and to follow. China’s pursuit of equality, mutual respect and win-win cooperation in international relations brings relief to the Global South and the East countries in their seeking fairness and justice. China’s noble goal of peaceful coexistence, sustainable development, common security and shared prosperity, provides an alternative to the developing countries in their development endeavours. China’s strong leadership, governance experience, social unison, and policy consistency can be shared by other countries in their modernization drive. China has made clear in its foreign policy that it will stick to the peaceful development path and will never seek confrontation, hegemony and spheres of influence, nor will she bully or impose on others. Peace and development is in China’s DNA.

Unfortunately, not all the countries are happy to see China reclaiming its rightful place in history. Keeping in view the development of China-Pakistan relations, it is the same scenario. The West, out of their vested interests of maintaining the status quo, are more than unhappy to see China’s rise. It is why in the past one decade more, a new dynamics was set in motion in the world, and in the Asia-Pacific region in particular. Pivot to Asia, Indo-Pacific Strategy, implementation of high-tech blockades and economic sanctions, decoupling, de-risking, and “friendly outsourcing”, can be perceived as geopolitical, geostrategic, and geo-economic manoeuvres to suppress and curtail China.

China has benefited from the existing international order. We are grateful to the window of opportunities given by history for enjoying the 40-year-more development. Nonetheless, China remains the only country among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council that hasn’t achieved the full national reunification. China is not to turn the world upside down, and instead calls for modifying and rectifying the loopholes and weaknesses of the international order. China doesn’t have the intention, ambition, or strategy to dominate the world. China’s ultimate policy goal is to make its 1.4 billion people have a better life, and strive to build a community with a shared future for mankind. China’s immediate objective in foreign policy is to ensure peaceful coexistence and shared growth for all. China is working for a lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity, and advocating an open, equitable, inclusive, prosperous, clean and beautiful world.

Bipolarity demands the weak, the poor, and the underdeveloped countries to take sides, either with the US, or with the former Soviet Union. History has proved that a bipolar world featured by Cold War is not beneficial to any single country, and the developing countries were most adversely affected. A unipolar world in the wake of the Cold War also did no good to any country, except the only superpower. Multi-polarity is the need of the hour, and works on the right side of the history. Humanity still lives in a transitional stage from a unipolar world to a multipolar world. China believes in an equal and orderly multipolar world, and a universally-beneficial and inclusive economic globalization, and is making its utmost to get it. China upholds the view that such magnificent endeavor requires all stakeholders taken on board. It is why China consequently put forward four major initiatives, the Belt & Road Initiative in 2013, the Global Development Initiative in 2021, the Global Security Initiative in 2022, and the Global Civilization Initiative in 2023. China also put forward the Global Artificial Intelligence Governance Initiative in October 2023.

Pakistan, as an all-weather strategic cooperative partner, and an important country in South Asia, certainly benefits and gets dividends from China’s Initiatives, its modernization and growing role in international affairs.

FIRST, THE BELT & ROAD INITIATIVE. This initiative has sailed through?the first brilliant decade and has engaged majority of countries and world organizations, bringing a new development to the world economy. According to a World Bank report, the BRI will grow trade of participating countries by 2.8% to 9.7%, and the global trade by 1.7% to 6.2% by 2030, benefiting countries along the Belt and Road cooperation, and promoting parties concerned to build a road of connectivity, cooperation, opportunities and prosperity. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of the BRI, has brought into Pakistan $25.4 billion investment, 2.5 million jobs, 600 kilometers roads and highways, 8020 megawatts electricity, and 900 kilometers power transmission lines, plus hospitals, vocational training schools, and a coming state-of-the-art modern airport and the Gwadar port. CPEC has positively shaped the energy and infrastructural landscapes of Pakistan and will further transform its socioeconomic development.

SECOND, THE GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE. It is to pursue mutual benefit, win-win outcomes?and shared and balanced development for all. China believes that development should top the priority for any country, and remain on top of the international agenda. Development benefits should be distributed fairly among countries. In this context, China helped Pakistan in its poverty alleviation endeavours, capacity building efforts, tackling the climate issues. China came to Pakistan’s aid in flood rehabilitation efforts. In addition to Punjab and Sindh, China also engaged Balochistan and KP by undertaking programs and projects to improve the local livelihood. China shares aspiration with Pakistan in working towards achieving the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Then comes the Global Security Initiative. China believes that one country’s security is intertwined with and interdependent from that of the other. There is no absolute security in the world, and no country should seek absolute security over the other. China calls for a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and each country should embark on a journey to security featuring dialogue over confrontation, partnership over alliance and win-win outcomes over zero-sum?games. China upholds that the Global Security Initiative can serve as a catalyst and a driving force to resolve the regional and global conflicts.

In implementing the GSI, China made relentless efforts to bring Saudi Arabia and Iran together in March 2023, facilitating their restoration of diplomatic relations. China kept a justified and neutral position on Russia-Ukraine conflict. China also released its position paper on Afghanistan in last April, demonstrating its commitment to fostering regional stability and prosperity through constructive engagement. China hosted China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in May, bringing leaders of the Gulf States and the Arab world together to seek the peaceful settlement of the Gaza war. China supports the two-state solution, the establishment of an independent State of Palestine, and its full membership in the UN, and calls for an international peace conference. China has contributed its wisdom, philosophy and strength to maintaining regional stability and world peace.

It is in the same vein that China supports Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. China and Pakistan have good cooperation in defense and counter-terrorism. In the wake of the Bisham terrorist attack, China does think that it is more imperative and urgent for the two sides to further enhance security cooperation and anti-terrorism partnership, so as to eliminate this re-surging menace. China’s cooperation with Pakistan in security and defense aims to support the latter’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, while keeping peace, security and strategic equilibrium on the sub-continent. China even furthered its collaboration with Pakistan into space research and exploration. The successful launches of the Qamar-Icube lunar explorer and the PakSat-MM1 communication satellite, have further uplifted our long-standing friendship from the land boundary to the outer space frontier.

Last but not the least, the Global Civilization Initiative. China doesn’t buy the arguments of “clash of civilizations” or “superiority of certain civilizations over the other.” The GCI emphasizes the importance of cultural exchanges transcending estrangement, mutual learning transcending clashes, and coexistence transcending feelings of superiority. Civilizations should grow and prosper by respecting and learning from each other, and seeking common ground while setting aside differences.

China-Pakistan friendship is not only about 73 years old. It has been existing since the ancient times. The Silk Road and the geographical proximity brought our two nations and two civilizations closer. Historically, Chinese monks and travelers made their journeys to Taxila and other places in Pakistan, and brought Buddhism and the Gandhara Art to China, nurturing a spiritual and cultural bonds between us. The Gandhara Art Exhibition, being at Chinese galleries and museums for more than a year, has generated massive enthusiasm and keen interest of the Chinese people to learn and explore Pakistan further and more. Besides, there are over 30,000 Pakistani students studying in the Chinese universities, indicating China has become one of the favorable destinations for the Pakistani youth to pursue their studies. Furthermore, China and Pakistan conducted research on heritage preservation, and collaborated on cultural exchanges, language training, and people-to-people contacts. The GCI cooperation has indeed brought tangible benefits to two nations.

In international politics, allies can shift, and new power blocs may emerge. China is not seeking allies or alliance, but making friends and partners with the like-minded countries. The future of global stability, security and prosperity may well depend on how effectively and smartly we can navigate this emerging multipolarity. Upholding universal fairness and justice for the world, and for the common good and well-being of the people, China won’t change its friendly policies towards Pakistan. China’s engagement with Pakistan is sincere, cooperative and constructive with no political strings attached. China wishes to see a stable, strong and prosperous Pakistan. By working together, we can go beyond the alignment of interests and step into the alignment of hearts and minds, build a better future for both, and help shape the global political and economic game.

Zhao Shiren

–The writer is the Consul General of China in Lahore.

Zhao Shiren, Chinese Consul General in Lahore.