Is CPEC A Patron-Client Venture Between China And Pakistan?

Any reasonable perusal of Pakistan International history affords sufficient veracity to Pakistan acquiescence in assuming a disdainful role of client state on many instances of its international engagements. However such could not be inferred for the C-pact: A flagship project of the China’s ambitious, trans-boundary and trans-ocean, Belt and road grand venture.

China Pakistan Economic Corridor had rather epitomize the pinnacle of Pakistan-China strategic friendship which has steered Pak-China ties to a new height ushering in new vistas of shared development for Pakistan and the region at large. It is also the vindication of Sinu-Pak all weather friendship that has always stood the test of time and so rightly regarded by many as higher than Himalayas and as deeper than oceans.

The radical change that have occurred in the overall political situation of Pakistan and the stability it has now managed to achieve after a long spate of civil-military unrest have made it strong enough that it could neither be compelled nor anymore enticed (as it had been in the past) to agree on any bilateral or multilateral strategic merger where it would be required to undertake a mere subservient and naive posture in lieu of financial or diplomatic assistances.

Exclusive reliance is made to Pakistan international history to paint Pak-China ties with the same filthy brush. Out of context past events in particular those are set forth where Pakistan was seen succumbing to an unequal partnership with a state which in socio-economic and politico-financial term was far bigger than it. Besides incomplete and dodgy analogies from History are often drawn and subsequently applied to Sinu-Pak emerging relationship. The object of this whole exercise remains to taint CPEC as another glaring example of Pakistan subservience but before a new master this time.

Pakistan on numerous critical moments has partnered with the United States and its associated blocs on controversial terms. Partnership of this sort has evoked much flak while many critical thinkers have decried it as Pakistan virtual surrender before the west that has rendered its sovereignty vulnerable and at stake. Nevertheless contemplating the same by interposition of the said argument about Pak-China ties is ludicrous, for there exist stark disparities in foreign policies and political history of China to that of the US and the western world.

As oppose to the West, China has never retained a colonial status, it has rather been a victim of it. Hence jibes that CPEC heralds of another East India company in making do not bear weight. Moreover Chinese priorities which have predominantly remained economic and inward looking and thus have been a core driver and determinant of its foreign policy and transnational relations further rebut it.

Unlike America and Britian, China has never been accused of instigating violence, interfering in matters exclusively internal in nature, and intruding in to the territories of other sovereign states. Chinese conduct with regard to international relations has many anomalies and differences which don’t correspond with the US and West in anyway. China’s foreign minister once remarked that China’s national interest are better served with fostering constructive, cooperative and peaceful engagements with other states and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is the manifestation of it.

It would not be wrong to state that China’s unprecedented rise, economic boom and structural transformation took place in an environment that remained largely uncontested, unconstrained and liberalized, at least, for China.

One could say the global powers either had not expected dragon’s great leap or they were mired in extinguishing fires they had once razed on the pretext of Terrorism, Nuclear proliferation, and Communism hence could not discern China’s subtle rise.

But the geo-political situation has now undergone drastic change as the frustrated status-quo forces have shifted their attention towards China. These anxious forces have allied together to build a bulwark against Chinese further strategic advances.

This is evident from the US pioneered pivot to Asia Plan which purportedly aims to encircle and contain China through the establishment of trans-regional blocs and the intensification of strategic relationship with states situated in the Asiatic region that are critical of China.

Felt threatened by the Chinese assertive posture, the Global powers suspect their interests and hegemonic sway at stake.  Thus consensus is widely  found among different policy circles of the US and the Western States that China is covertly and steadily poising to dismantle their anchored and dominated international order and vies to supplant it with a one conducive to Chinese trans-national and militico-economic aspirations.

The corollary of such paradigm shift in the status-quo ranks has sparked countervailing reprisals of gravity which however had not speculated by China.

Given the existence of massive trade and investment ties which China enjoys with the US in particular and the west in general, China could hardly foresee the spectre of cold war against it.

In connivance with the west, the United states unrelenting tirade against China: of Technology Theft, of Cyber Attacks, of Non-compliance to Universal Human Rights values, of abuse of exchange rate to its benefit, of fettered investment regime, of economic exploitation of weak states, and of occupation of South China Sea and its vast reserve speaks volume of perceived insecurity of global powers with regard to China.

Amidst tense circumstances which the China are besetting with, it seems almost elusive for it to achieve its formidable goal of a more inclusive, equitable and multi-polar world and thus necessitates the case for China to seek essential cooperation of like-minded countries from all over the world.

In this context Asia merits special attention, for it has become the focali of world powers owing to its major contributions in global output and the vast but untapped reserves of resources wielded by it.

Situated at the crossroads of Asia Pakistan whose interest and its stance on many issues of international concern coincide to that of China’s, a rationale to forge mutual partnership logically arises. Pakistan’s geostrategic position, mighty nuclear status, stake in regional affairs, sway over the Muslim world, and policy divergences with global powers especially the US on a host of regional and international issues creates favorable backdrops for Pakistan. These not only put Pakistan in a much stronger position than it has ever had but also enables it to prioritize its own national interest in the conduct of his foreign relation with regard to  China and rest of the world.

The Holistic contemplation of the above stated counter arguments logically challenge the purported proposition that CPEC cemented Sinu-Pak collaboration is Pakistan’s another principal-agent combination hence embodies nothing significant except a change of master and the switching of loyalties from a strict but philanthropic US to a mild but exploitive China.

The world economic forum has regarded/revered China as the second largest economy of the world. China has secured that title by overtaking its several strong contenders. It is now rightly ahead of Germany, France, Japan and the once mighty Britain. China has amazed the entire world by its exemplary socio-economic transformation.

Bereft with complacency, it is Chinese indefatigable spirit and incessant resolve that its perennial quest for development still flourishes nevertheless the wonders made by it.

The China Pakistan Economic corridor: a mainstay project of the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative is the vindication of that not pacifying Chinese’ enthusiasm and dynamism for more wonders.

However Chinese such no less than best approach followed by its deliberate decision to make Pakistan its vital strategic partner have exulted few and infuriated many from all over the world.

The expression of defiance is clearly reflected from the vicious propaganda campaign being stirred up concomitantly against BRI and CPEC. The opponents primarily the American and Indian lobbyists have attempted to demonize the entire Belt and Road Venture by calling it another Chinese foray on their national security.

While some other critics, sharing the similar views, have described that (contemporary) project a treacherous Chinese contrivance to further its tentacles and establish economic hegemony over the entire world. The enormous reserves of foreign which China wields today to them serve as China’s debt diplomacy tool to its materialization.

Enticed by Chinese astute offers, these conspiracy theorists alleged that States that are financially insolvent and economically strained by all probability would recklessly submit to it without considering its long term implications. This would lead to the formation of unequal partnership that could enable China to exploit the other partner and use it as a springboard in the pursuit of its self-seeking interest.

As they filtered Chinese foreign relations through the said prism they do not hold Pakistan-China bonhomie any exemption and rather declare it the outcome of their said prognosis which rather substantiates their claim.

The ground reality however does not correspond to it and depicts a very contrasting picture hence raises serious reservations to this conjectural disposition. Had this conjecture been accurate, Pakistan would not have secured massive Chinese assistance and incentives in the form of pecuniary grant, investment, and global political support on time when its foreign direct investment and international profile were at the lowest ebb.

Moreover under the broad CPEC framework, Chinese unconditional offer of cooperation to the Pakistan crippling sectors of energy, infrastructure, manufacturing and technology whose overhaul and continuous development is crucial for the revival of its floundering economy obfuscates further the oversimplified judgment of China’s skeptics.

Pakistan aspired vision to broaden CPEC scope beyond China and advance and encourage regional connectivity and economic integration with neighboring and regional economies through this project provide ample reasons to our ruling elites to take full ownership of this project as its successful realization is not equally but far more important to Pakistan than that to China.

If Pakistan is to reap its full benefits and channelize CPEC potential towards its own development, it has left with no choice but to radically transform itself. The much delayed institutional, structural and economic reforms have never been as indispensable as they are today. Contrary to cosmetic adjustment we are usually inured to, the across the board internal overhaul of entire state infrastructure serve the only Hubson choice before us to rise upon looming paranoia.

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