Is “Qingzhen” diplomacy faux friendship?
When William Deresiewicz wrote his famous essay “Faux Friendships” in 2009, he could not have imagined its kinship to international relations. “Faux Friendship” was a bitter philosophical treatise swerving between Horatio and Facebook. China-Pakistan friendship has been hailed as ‘Higher than Himalayas and Deeper than Seas’. The former communist country has the lion share of arms exports to Pakistan. Pakistan had severed ties with Taiwan and acknowledged China soon after its independence proclamation. We share world’s highest Khunjerab border in Gilgit-Baltistan region also the highest point on miraculous Karakoram Highway built by the help of Chinese. Pakistan supports Chinese right of the accession of Tibet against India and parts of Kashmir. China has always sided with Pakistan on Kashmir. The diplomatic pressure of mighty Chinese on India stands tall with its historic triumph over India in Sino-Indian War in 1962. With increasing tensions in US-Pak relationship embittered by recent refusal of F-16 subsidy to Pakistan, the relationship with neighbouring China has become pivotal.
Recent Alliance between India, Afghanistan and Iran on Chabahar Port rivaling Pakistani Gwadar Port has painted the new mural of changing the great game, this time with new players. It seems like Pacific war theatre of WW2 is not as pacifist as it remained after the great devastation. With recent trade embargo on Vietnam removed it is reaching out to the US for arms purchase. Whitehouse’s remarks on the South China Sea and Chinese activity in her islands were not overlooked by Beijing. Chinese Spokeswomen took the pains to announce Chinese resentment to the world on the issue. A part of it highlighted how China resolved its border issues with its 14 neighbours in a peaceful manner. Since the Pearl Harbor Japanese have been on the American side on literally every international dispute. Russia’s recent altercations with Turkey and stance on Syria have alienated it to the most Muslim world. Unlike the good old times before the iron curtain, Russian axis with central Asian countries in the northwest is no more there. The US have gained its sympathies and seems like Russia is being isolated in the region also. This means the rift between socialist friends Mao and Stalin will continue to haunt or at least limit China and Russia in international comity of nations.
Although this quid pro quo diplomacy has brought countries together with numerous social, economic and geographic perks, is this friendship for real? What is in it for Pakistan is the question that hogs many analysts and economists today. Is godless China on its way to Secular Democracy or Pakistan has become an important pawn, an inconvenient truth? Nawaz Sharif cannot afford to be next Jamal Abdul Nasser, who fell out of American good books by siding with USSR. With recent Panama Leaks and involvement of the Prime Minister’s family, his position has weakened both in Pakistan and around the Globe. Amidst power games, figuring out Chinese mindset is of critical importance. In November 2015 China and Pakistan signed a 43-year lease of a huge area in Balochistan. An astronomical sum of $46 billion dollars will go into the development of the area with tax-free prerogatives.
At home, The Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region assessed halal food sales in the area to be worth $1.5 billion dollars. The Chinese word for halal is Qiang Zhen. Chinese export of halal food to Malaysia, UAE, Egypt and Qatar has gone up to $1 million dollars. With the Muslim countries newly in its business contact list, has China become a real friend of Islam? In 2005, Human Rights Watch published a comprehensive report on human rights abuse in Chinese Xinjiang province, home to eight million Uighur Muslims. With the enormous increase in halal food exports, food in China for Muslims remains unprocessed. Huge scandal jolted the newspapers in which Halal Industry Development Research Center at Ningxia University found out that Pork was being used in making Halal food at the production facilities. It led to vehement protests against the government. Legally speaking article 36 in the constitution of People’s Republic of China ensures ‘Freedom of Religious Belief’ of people. Factually, Wang Zhengwei, a Chinese Hui Muslim, was removed from his post for his views on halal food and campaigning on reforms that would ameliorate the situations for Chinese Muslims in PRC. All this leads one to question the divisive dichotomy of the local and international policy of China towards Muslims.
Neo-liberal economists and policy experts seem to have troubles with predicting Chinese future in international trade. Dani Rodik a senior professor of Political Economy at Kennedy School of Government calls the US-China trade relationship as a match made in heaven that has led to blow-up in the hindsight. The outlook does not seem promising at least theoretically. Given the volatile political economy of Pakistan combined with gloomy predictions of economists over Chinese economic future, will Pakistan be able to reap the benefits of CPEC when the lease ends or at any time until then? The question remains unanswered amidst political horse trading, diplomatic wars, and media trials.
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