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Saturday, April 13, 2024

China interested in free trade and providing more jobs: Ambassador Yao

In an exclusive discussion, China’s Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing discusses issues far and beyond CPEC; issues that bind and confront almost 60 years of a relationship that has moved from strength to strength.

GVS: Pakistan China relations have often been described as “deeper than the ocean, higher than the Himalayas” what defined these relations from early 1960’s when Pakistan International Airlines became the first Non-Communist world airlines to fly into China? Work on KKH started in 1966. Who were the Pakistani and Chinese leaders you will give credit for this initial vision?

Yao Jing: Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1951, China-Pakistan friendship has withstood the test of time and become stronger and stronger. It is like a deep-rooted tree that grows vigorously. The two countries respect each other, understand each other, and support each other on each other’s core concern.

The Pakistani people praise our friendship as “higher than the mountains, deeper than the sea, and sweeter than honey.” The Chinese people believe that Pakistan is a reliable friend and call Pakistan friends “iron brother”. Our friendship is already deeply rooted in the hearts of the two peoples.

The leaders of older generations of our two countries have laid a solid foundation for our relations. Chairman Mao Zedong frequently met with Pakistani leaders who visited China. Premier Zhou Enlai visited Pakistan five times. Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and many other Pakistani leaders also visited China.

Since 2013, President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, and some other Chinese national leaders have all visited Pakistan, pointing out the direction for our relations in the new era. Thanks to the meticulous cultivation and care from the leader’s generation after generation, China-Pakistan relations continue to climb to new levels, and our friendship flourishes like a big tree.

GVS: Pakistan at one point, in 1960’s and 1970 became the opening point for a Sino-US thaw leading to Kissinger and Nixon summits; how do you reflect back at that moment? 

Yao Jing: In that particular historical background, Pakistan, as a good friend of China, served as an important channel for communication between China and the world. Before the normalization of China-US relations, China and the United States effectively pass the message through Pakistan.

Pakistan facilitated Dr. Henry Kissinger’s secret visit to China in July 1971, which laid the foundation for President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. Since then, China and the US kicked off the process of establishing diplomatic relations.

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GVS: Middle Kingdom, historically has been inward-looking; it never developed an overseas empire; other cultures have been falling under its sway; is this changing with globalization? 

Yao Jing: Chinese traditional culture emphasizes peace. Although there were contacts through the Silk Road and Zheng He’s western voyages, they were mainly focused on economic and trade exchanges. China was traditionally a self-sufficient economy, without close contacts with other parts of the world.

Peace and friendship were what we exported, not colonialism or aggression. However, later on China closed its doors to the outside world and ignored external cooperation, which made its economy, science and technology lag behind the world. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, due to the constraints of domestic and international environment, China had a relatively low level of openness and international cooperation for several decades.

In 1978, China adopted reform and opening up, which attracted worldwide attention. China opened the door to extensive participation in international cooperation, actively integrated itself into and promoted economic globalization, and became both a beneficiary and a contributor to globalization.

China will still adhere to peaceful development, openness and inclusiveness. China will never step on the old road that a stronger country would seize hegemoney. 

Over the past 40 years, China has attracted more than US$1.7 trillion foreign investment in total, and its foreign direct investment exceeded US$1.2 trillion. In the past three years, Chinese enterprises have invested more than US$50 billion in countries along the Belt and Road Initiative routes. Through globalization, China has made an important contribution to the world economy.

China will hold high the banner of peace, development, cooperation, and win-win cooperation. China will always abide by the foreign policy of safeguarding world peace, promoting common development, and firmly adhere to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.

Based on the development of friendship and cooperation with other countries, we will promote the building of a new type of international relations featured by mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation. We urge the people of all countries to work together to build a community of shared future for all mankind. This is China’s current and future foreign policy.

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GVS: Chinese leadership, in recent times, has been defending globalization at World Economic Forum while UK and US have started talking of putting brakes on globalization. What has changed? 

Yao Jing: In recent years, some western countries have shown a tendency of “anti-globalization”. As this trend becomes more and more popular, the world is more and more confused about the prospects for the world economy. In contrast to this, China is actively promoting globalization.

In January 2017, President Xi Jinping stated in Davos, Switzerland that integration into the world economy is the general direction of history. To develop Chinese economy, we must dare to swim in the ocean of the world market. China embraces the world market and learns how to swim by simply swimming. This is the correct strategic choice.

We believe that it is impossible for the sea of the world economy to return to isolated small lakes and small rivers. It is inconsistent with historical trends. Protectionism is like putting yourself in a dark room. It seems to help you escape the wind and rain, but it is also blocking the sun and the air. The result of a trade war can only be a mutual loss.

A few days ago, Premier Li Keqiang reiterated that China will unswervingly promote globalization and uphold free trade. This reflects China’s role as a responsible world power. China’s door has always been open to the world.

China considers both national and global interests. We are willing to cooperate with the world in a win-win situation. Based on the principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration, we can provide a stronger driving force for global development.

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GVS: What is China’s overall vision for the OBOR? How does CPEC fit into it? What progress has been made, in CPEC, on the ground? What kind of investments and loans have materialized and what more has to follow? Are we keeping timelines initially announced? Do you feel that CPEC is coming under lots of criticism from certain sections of media, business community, and civil society? 

Yao Jing: Since its launch in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has received great attention and positive response from the international community. Up till now, there are more than 100 countries supporting and participating in BRI.

The BRI was built on the principles of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefit by enhancing policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds. China has continued to expand its consensus with countries along the BRI and promote it from the planning and designing a cooperative action of all parties.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a major pilot project of the BRI. It is one of the earliest, fastest-growing, and most effective projects. CPEC has entered into the early harvest stage with the total investment over US$18 billion and 20 projects under construction or completed.

In China-US relations, Pakistan serveed a bridge. We must not forget the bridge.

With the joint efforts of both sides, significant progress has been made in the four key areas of Gwadar Port, energy, transportation infrastructure, and industrial cooperation. Major projects such as the Sahiwal and Port Qasim coal-fired power plant were successively completed. The Gwadar Free Zone inaugurated and the first international expo was held there.

The Gwadar port has begun its commercial operations. The second phase of KKH upgradation is under construction. The Chinese experts are working on tailor-made planning for the establishment of an industrial park with Pakistani side. The CPEC Long Term Plan was also released.

We have noticed that there are some speculation and doubt about CPEC. we are willing to listen to that advice, suggestion and even criticism which are objective and out of goodwill. However, some rhetoric is fabricated, malicious and groundless. People will make its own judgment when they are faced with the achievements and practical benefits achieved in CPEC.

GVS: What is the progress in other corridors of OBOR? How China plans to invite India into CPEC or OBOR?

Yao Jing: Besides CPEC, the other five major economic corridors including the New Eurasian Land Bridge Economic Corridor, the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor, the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor, the China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor are steadily moving forward. BRI is open and inclusive.

All countries are welcomed to participate actively, including India. The cooperation under the BRI is a long-term process. All parties need to maintain patience and perseverance and work together.

GVS: China has developed a huge market; an attraction for the whole world; however, Pakistan remains a net importer of Chinese goods, which is often turned into a taunt by the western commentators who point out that Pakistani economy, is dependent upon export markets in US and EU; what can be done by Chinese government to facilitate Pakistani exports into China? At least initially before they can understand and develop an access? 

Yao Jing: Economic and trade cooperation is an important area for all-weather cooperation between China and Pakistan. Pakistan has strong international competitiveness in the fields of cotton spinning products, mineral products, sporting goods, and medical equipment.

The market of China is always open to Pakistan. According to statistics from the State Bank of Pakistan, the net increase of Pakistan’s exports to China from the fiscal year of 2007 to 2016 is 248%.  China is currently Pakistan’s second-largest export destination.

The current Pakistani trade deficit with China is largely due to the construction of CPEC infrastructure and energy projects, which require the import of large machinery equipment from China. This is a temporary situation. In the long run, the large machinery equipment will help Pakistan to lay a solid foundation for its industry and increase its production efficiency and export capacity.

However, some rhetoric are fabricated, malicious and groundless. People will make its own judgement when they are faced with the achievements and practical benefits achieved in CPEC.

China and Pakistan have always maintained consultations and dialogues on improving bilateral trade structure. China is willing to speed up the second phase of the negotiations on the free trade agreement between the two countries, push forward production capacity cooperation and promote the healthy development of bilateral trade.

The Chinese government has sent expert groups on cooperation to Pakistan to seek cooperation in the fields of textiles, steel petrochemicals and the possibility of establishing special economic zones (SEZs). We will discuss with the Pakistani side on the model of industrial cooperation, such as establishing joint ventures, developing international market-oriented industries and providing more jobs for the local people.

In addition, China will hold the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai in November this year. It will provide great opportunities to expand export markets for Pakistan. The Pakistani side will be warmly welcomed to join the Expo.

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GVS: International media, followed by many in Pakistan, argue that such high rate of returns have been guaranteed to Chinese investors that Pakistan will not be able to pay back and will become bankrupt; What’s your view on this? 

Yao Jing: This is a misunderstanding of CPEC and Chinese investment. In the process of implementing the CPEC, China always adheres to the principle of mutual benefit and win-win cooperation. Chinese companies come to Pakistan with funds and technology and expect to receive reasonable investment returns.

The construction of CPEC is open and transparent, and the return on investment of CPEC project is mutually agreed upon by both parties through legal and compliance procedures.  It is in the common interests of both parties and in line with international practice.

In fact, in some projects, to speed up the process of construction, the Chinese companies took risks to use their own money to promote the projects before the financial close was reached. They simply think our friendship is worthy of the risk.

GVS: Pakistan has always enjoyed excellent relations with China, but people to people contact has been limited; Is this changing? What are you doing in terms of educational, scientific and cultural exchanges? 

Yao Jing: With the comprehensive development of China-Pakistan relations, the two countries have expanded their exchanges and cooperation in culture, education, science and other fields. Compared with the friendly relationship, we need better people-to-people exchanges.

On the eve of the Chinese Spring Festival in February this year, President Mamnoon Hussain sent a video message of congratulations to the 1.3 billion Chinese people, which touched the Chinese people. Recently, Ms. Mariyyum Aurangzeb, Minister of State for Information, Broadcasting, National History and Heritage paid a successful visit to China. The two sides renewed Executive Programme of Cultural Agreement (2018-2022), which is the plan of the exchanges and cooperation in culture, education, film and television, publishing, sports and other fields during the next five years.

The Chinese government encourages and supports outstanding young Pakistanis to study in China and is willing to assist Pakistan in training personnel and improving the capacity building. China is now the number one destination of overseas students of Pakistan. Pakistan ranks the fourth in sending foreign students in China.

In 2016, nearly 22,000 Pakistani students were studying in China, 5,100 Pakistani enjoyed Chinese Government Scholarship, which is the number one in the world. China will continue to encourage more friendly exchanges between our two countries at all levels and in all fields.

GVS: Bollywood has developed the huge market in China; Pakistan’s film industry is also resurging. What can be done to provide it access into the Chinese market? 

Yao Jing: China is the second largest film market in the world. For the introduction of foreign films, China has always adhered to the principle of diversification of countries, subjects, and styles, and insisted on the principle of selecting excellent films that are exquisite, well-made and suitable for the Chinese market.

In recent years, China is trying to strengthen exchanges and cooperation in the film field with countries such as Russia and India through the framework of the BRICS. The exchanges between China and Pakistan are not very active in the field of film.

We hope to further expand the breadth and depth of China-Pakistan film cooperation through the platform of cultural exchanges between China and Pakistan and through the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. We sincerely welcome Pakistan to recommend us excellent films that are suitable for the Chinese market and meet the tastes of Chinese audiences.

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GVS: Some educational institutions like Roots Schools in Islamabad have developed excellent Chinese language courses with help from Chinese Embassy; can this help be broadly available, through a system, to other schools and colleges who may apply for it? 

Yao Jing: At present, there are four Confucius Institutes and two Confucius Classrooms across Pakistan. In 2017, 8,600 Pakistani were learning Chinese language at the Confucius Institutes. With the support of the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan, the China Radio International Confucius Classroom settled in Roots Millennium Schools in 2011.

Now Chinese language teaching has been extended to 15 campuses in Islamabad and Karachi. The next step is to expand to the campuses in Lahore. In the past few years, about 8,500 primary and secondary school students have studied Chinese language at Roots Millennium Schools.

The Chinese Hanban (Confucius Institute Headquarters) set up a Chinese language teacher-training program in South Asian countries in 2015 to provide government scholarships for the teachers from the South Asian countries to study Chinese. In the past three years, 1,381 teachers have been trained in total, of which Pakistan has the largest number of 488.

To help young Pakistani students learn more about China, every year the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan organizes young Pakistani students to visit China to participate in summer camps or other youth exchange activities to expand cultural exchanges and promote public communication between two countries.

The Chinese Embassy in Pakistan hopes more universities, primary schools and secondary schools would offer Chinese language classes. We are ready to assist willing institutes to apply for Chinese teachers or volunteers from the Chinese Hanban. At the same time, we are ready to facilitate the cooperation between the willing institutes from both countries.

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GVS: It is widely believed that Pakistan is coming under lots of pressure from several quarters to create a situation to fail CPEC or to slow it down to reduce its dividends, are you aware of this? How can China help to face these kinds of pressures? 

Yao Jing: The CPEC is a consensus between China and Pakistan. It is in the common interests of both countries and is also conducive to regional peace, prosperity and development. The CPEC is not targeted at third parties. We firmly opposed to any attempt to obstruct the construction of CPEC.

China attaches great importance to the safety of the CPEC and appreciates the efforts of the Pakistani side to ensure the safety of projects under the framework of the CPEC. The Chinese government will continue to work with the Pakistani side to ensure the safety and security of these projects.