Imperialism is just the same as colonialism, where one country occupies other countries and makes them colonies; thus, exploiting their resources. These resources can be both financial and material. Labour can also be exploited. Imperialism, by definition, is the art of exercising power over the other countries by making them colonies. It was a very frequent and prominent phenomenon before the Second World War. Britain was the greatest coloniser of all time. “The sun never sets in the British Empire” is a very common compliment that describes the vastness of the British Empire at that time. But after the Second World War, the feelings of nationalism were on the rise, and many colonies ended up gaining independence for themselves. Pakistan was fortunately among the many.
Ever since independence, Pakistan has provided space for external powers to intervene in its affairs. It had a very subservient relationship with the USA. It developed very friendly relations with Peoples Republic of China. Ever since Pakistan recognised Peoples Republic of China, it has been under its great influence. Both have had diplomatic ties with each other, and helped each other out in times of need.
Now if we jump forward to the present, China is an emerging economic power. It is using soft power to upgrade its status to a superpower of the world. Soft power means to have influence over other countries without using military power, with the help of economy or technology. It has invested a lot of money all over the world to expand its sphere of influence. It is investing in infrastructural development in many areas. Pakistan happens to be one of the “lucky” countries to attract Chinese investment.
But is this all as it seems? Is China investing in Pakistan to make it a stable country? Or are there more strings attached to it?
China isn’t simply helping out Pakistan to make it a stable country. It is actually gaining from Pakistan’s weak government, abundant resources and strategic location. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a very grand project on Pakistan’s territory. China built this corridor to find its way into the world market. At the forefront, it seems to be a great deal of success for Pakistan, because a lot has been invested it in. But this is simply not the whole picture. China has exploited Pakistan through CPEC. It may seem as economic interdependence between both countries but Pakistan is really the one dependent on China. China’s efforts for Pakistan are imperialistic in nature, though they may seem otherwise. It may not be following the orthodox form of imperialism that was present before the Second World War, but it is controlling Pakistan through money. Call it economic imperialism if you will. China’s plans for Pakistan are not so friendly after all. Comparing this scenario with the East India Company, the British came for trade, saw the whole situation of inefficient governments, exploited the land and colonised the subcontinent. And you know what happened during the years of colonisation. China, however, may not occupy our territory, but it sure has initiated its economic influence. Colonialism might not be possible in 21st century, but having a colonial mindset is more than just a possibility for China.
CPEC may benefit Pakistan also, but in comparison to China’s benefits, Pakistan gets almost nothing out of it. So, it has already exploited Pakistan’s land by developing CPEC, it has exploited its strategic location to provide an easy way into the world market. Manpower must also be exploited in CPEC. China has Pakistan to take care of Xinjiang province. It is providing them with material resources because Xinjiang shares border with Pakistan and also because of its Muslim majority population. While for China, it seems difficult to control it from the center. In a nutshell, China exhibits nearly all the characteristics of imperialism towards Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan is under so much Chinese influence that it has started copying projects from China. It is already using Pakistan as a puppet without even making it a colony. Who knows what’s next for Pakistan.