China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has further strengthened the relationship between China and Pakistan which during the past 70 years withstood all the ebbs and flows of time and politics. Although CPEC largely focuses on the economic dimension, it has far-reaching strategic impacts which will be felt across all the sectors of society in Pakistan.
Due to massive Chinese investment and the country’s participation in various projects and enterprises across Pakistan, the number of Chinese citizens around Pakistan will increase which besides having an economic effect will also have a durable cultural impact on Pakistani society. As the massive flow of Chinese goods reaches Pakistani markets, local industry will bear the consequences if not provided protection against a competitor which is an advantage due to its industrial and human potential.
Understanding the matter better
After the commencement of projects under CPEC, it is expected that there will be an influx of Chinese people in Pakistan who not only will participate in CPEC-related projects but also, after attractive investment opportunities are offered, Chinese businessmen will land in the country other than CPEC related projects, to carry out investment at their own in Pakistan. This phenomenon is already evident as many Chinese citizens have started small- and large-scale businesses across various cities of Pakistan.
Investments from Chinese businessmen in small and large enterprises apart from CPEC highlight that Pakistan has achieved a status of a country offering lucrative business opportunities. As the scale of these businesses increases, more taxes will be paid to the national exchequer of Pakistan and in those businesses, the Pakistani workforce will be accommodated ultimately leading to declining unemployment in Pakistan. Besides, it will create a positive impact at the local workforce which is alleged to be lethargic and inefficient while Chinese don’t tolerate these negative traits and out of many secrets behind their success, one is the dedication and tireless determination associated with their tasks. To settle temporarily or permanently in Pakistan, the Chinese are making investments in major real estate projects in Pakistan.
There are many instances when Pakistani people unfeelingly adopted the different aspects of foreign culture only to the dismay of a few intellectuals who are particularly sensitive about the local culture and traditions. One particular example in this regard is the slow abandoning of Persian alphabets while writing the Urdu language. Today, 90% of Pakistani mobile phone users are using this blend version of “Roman Urdu” to communicate with each other and there is hardly anybody concerned about the Persian alphabet which has remained an eternal part of Muslim existence in the Indian subcontinent and dominated their writings for centuries.
This roman version of language impacted the alphabets of other local languages also and their original alphabets were abandoned in favor of Roman alphabets. This example shows the cold-hearted attitude of locals about their own culture and language. They may pledge to protect the native culture while airing slogans but if it goes on to compromise their own convenience, they don’t bother too much to stick to their own values.
Despite all those accommodative policies and embracing nature, there is one domain where people from any part of Pakistan are particularly sensitive, it’s the religion. Although there have been many attempts to give Pakistani society a liberal outlook during Pervez Musharraf regime, the country still remains a conservative religious society and after a recent wave of religious intolerant groups gaining popularity, any issue associated with religion has become further sensitive. This religious intolerance is further enhanced by various groups using the guise of religion to promote their own political and vested interests ultimately leading the society intoa permanently intolerant corner especially with reference to their religious values.
Now after the commencement of projects under CPEC, hundreds of Chinese people are flowing into Pakistan and with them, their culture and traditions are trying to embrace this diverse and rich culture. Although, some of Pakistanis are suspicious and are openly discussing the negative impacts of that cultural invasion by China but it is a fact which needs to be acknowledged that local culture here is already influenced by so many cultures and diversities that its infusion with Chinese culture will only enrich it further and will open new horizons of cultural diversification.
Chinese like to deal in their own language and their founding leader Mao Zedong was particularly sensitive about his country’s language but after his death, the Chinese have were expedient to accommodating western colors into their own culture which also include learning the English language and today a significant number of Chinese citizens can speak English.
Their familiarity with the language of their former colonial masters as well as of Pakistan’s, has helped them communicate with their immediate neighbors with more ease as the majority of Pakistanis are completely unaware of the Chinese language. Thus,in this case, a third language has come to the rescue of these two nations to communicate conveniently with each other. This intermix shows that neither Chinese nor Pakistanis are adamant in their own language and for the sake of convenience are ready to find a midway.
China is one of the world’s largest countries when it comes to industrial production. China’s industry surpassed Japan and other world’s major industrialized countries due to the low cost of production and massive production potential. On the other side, Pakistan’s industry is in tatters due to hour’s long power outages and the country’s volatile and unstable environment due to terrorism and years-long-prevailing instability. As a result of these hindrances, many industrial units in Pakistan are not only performing well below their capacity even many of them closed their operation or shifted to other countries.
To effectively deal with an inflow of Chinese goods and to protect its own industry, Government of Pakistan must swallow the bitter pill of imposing some restrictions including tariffs and quotas for a specific period of time on Chinese products. Although this step may be regarded as irrational by some economists there is no other way to protect the local industry. But actions shouldn’t stop at imposing restrictions, the government must enhance the potential of local industry to make it competitive with the Chinese industry. Given the low cost of labor and depending on the availability of energy, the Pakistani industry can come up in parity with the Chinese industry in a few years, thus initiating positive competition. At this stage, if the flow of Chinese goods is allowed in the country unchecked, local industry will be destroyed.
Education is perhaps the most neglected area in the governance of Pakistan
From primary level to higher education and then in the research field, lack of funds, the absence of dedicated students and even, teachers and experts and lack of proper infrastructure and environment contribute to the decline of education of Pakistan. Only one Pakistani university is ranked in the world’s top 500 universities and the production of quality research projects is not a priority of educationists here. After the collaboration of China and Pakistan, this sector is also expected to receive a drastic overhaul leading towards improvement.
Chinese universities are offering a lot of scholarships to Pakistani students. Although ranking of those universities may not match some of their Western counterparts given the massive resources Chinese are investing into research and education, it can be expected that they can match in excellence with western universities within few years.
Granting scholarships is an effective method of transferring ideas and thinking to other nations and western nations have been particularly keen to use this medium to create a bulk of youth in developing countries possessing capitalist and west supporting ideas ultimately to the endurance and glory of their own civilization.
Similarly, students returning from China will accompany the positive and negative characteristics of Chinese civilization. The dramatic rise of China as an economic giant is a myth in itself and these students will get a chance to explore the secrets behind Chinese success and after returning persuade their Pakistani fellows to adopt those traits which suit them and are incompatible with their local norms and culture.
No cultural and economic blend is concluded without negative consequences although positive impacts may surpass. As in the case of CPEC, Pakistan is the host nation, thus harm of most of the negatives will be bear by this country. This situation makes it extremely important for Pakistani policymakers to thoroughly evaluate each and every aspect of this intermix and properly educate the locals to deal with the negatives and effectively benefit from this opportunity.