The relationship between Pakistan and China has a rich history dating back to 1951. One of the factors which cemented it was that Pakistan was one of the few countries that ended diplomatic ties with the Republic of China (Taiwan), which has been a point of contention for mainland China.
Over time, both the countries have given considerable importance to the mutual respect among each other. The People’s Republic of China has always been a country that stood by Pakistan in difficult times by providing economic and technical support across a number of sectors.
Talking about this day and age, China is globally quite dominant. The best mobile phones in the world, whether they are by Apple or Huawei, are manufactured in China. With the introduction of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), there’s a closer bilateral relationship between both nations. This also extends to job creation and infrastructural development. During the last visit of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to China, the ambassador of China to Pakistan, Yao Jing, stated that the country has created nearly 75,000 jobs for Pakistanis in China.
According to statistics, CPEC will generate around 700,000 to 800,000 jobs for Pakistani citizens. Currently, young Pakistanis around the country are making the most of this opportunity by trying to get a first-movers’ advantage by learning Mandarin, the official language of China. According to locals in Pakistan, Mandarin has become as important as English as a second language.
Looking at the past, English was the medium of communication which would create job opportunities for people in Pakistan. The recent boom in Mandarin teaching institutions is a result of the investment that directly comes from the Chinese and Pakistan governments or from private teaching institutions which understand the edge Mandarin can give to job-seekers.
Another major element that comes into play is the existence of Chinese products across the country. From the tiniest miscellaneous items to the most common consumer electronic goods, almost everything is manufactured in China. The biggest element that plays its part in this equation is the level of acceptance and adaptability Pakistani citizens are willing to allow for the incoming cultural influence.
With the passage of time, Pakistanis are becoming more accepting of Mandarin as a second language in lieu of or in addition to English. Numerous schools and universities offer Mandarin courses of various levels.
A Chinese job fair took place about two months ago in Lahore at the famous Punjab University, where multiple students came across numerous job opportunities. The reputable Aitchison College in Lahore has also made Mandarin compulsory from the primary level.
The element of Chinese influence is not only limited to Pakistan, but also to many other countries. A major example is Thailand, where Mandarin has slowly seeped into university education, major vocational training institutions, and immigration centres.
Another important aspect is the number of Chinese citizens working in Pakistan for work and investment purposes. There’s a huge population of Chinese people selling products, involved in major multinational corporation, and investing across Pakistan. Today, around 30,000 Chinese citizens work in Pakistan.
However, the extravagant borrowing from China has drawn considerable attention and concerns. China had pledged a total amount of USD 135 billion under CPEC, out of which only 4 percent of the money has been utilised in Pakistan.
There is a huge problem when it comes to transparency of the loans provided through CPEC and there’s a wavering sense of reservation from the masses.
Karachi, the biggest city of Pakistan, has around millions of dollars invested in the real estate sector. Online portals like Prop.pk have property listings available for investment; and Chinese investors are showing their interest in this market.
Another group of Pakistanis questions the onus of responsibility on them of learning Mandarin, ratheri than on the Chinese investors for learning the native languages. This school of thought is countered by the idea that since the Chinese are investing in Pakistan, the power dynamics lean in their favour. Hence, the onus of accommodating these investors lies with Pakistanis.
In addition, the economic exchange is not one-sided and there are a large number of Pakistani students being offered scholarships when they go to China. With visa restrictions for North American and European countries for Pakistanis getting more and more stringent, Chinese visas are relatively hassle-free.
In conclusion, these factors create a never-ending debate between both sides. Whether the growing influence of China in Pakistan will do more good than bad, or vice versa, to the economy and culture of the country still remains to be seen.