Assessing Imran Khan’s Historic Visit to China

By Adam Garrie
Source

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has just concluded his five day visit to China which saw him hold meetings with top Chinese officials including President Xi Jinping in Beijing before flying to Shanghai where Xi, Imran and other world leaders opened the first China International Import Expo (CIIE). While Imran’s visit was one characterised by mutual optimism in respect of intensifying the all-weather friendship between China and Pakistan, now that Imran is back in Islamabad, it becomes crucial to assess the specific achievements and/or shortcomings of his historic visit.

Loan or no loan? 

Many expected Pakistan’s Prime Minister to depart from China with a guarantee for a loan that will help Islamabad to plug the substantial current account deficit left by the previous government. In October, Imran secured a $3 billion loan and a further $3 billion deferred payment agreement with Saudi Arabia after meeting with de-facto Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman as well as the Saudi King.

Many expected Imran to leave China with a similar agreement although this has not happened. Predictably, Indian media and Pakistani media hostile to the PTI government have classed this as a failure. Yet, no single element of a visit that covered a wide variety of issues can be analysed in a vacuum and as such, it is simplistic to class the substantial visit as a failure simply because China did not offer a Saudi style loan to Pakistan.

China is well aware that in spite of previous IMF loans and loans from partner nations, previous Pakistani governments have not made proper use of such cash injections. The proof of the failure of previous Pakistani governments in this respect lies in the fact that Pakistan is back to square one in terms of requiring further injections of hard cash due to prolonged irresponsible fiscal policies and woefully inadequate tax collecting on the part of previous governments.

Beyond this, black propagandists from throughout the world (including in some quarters of Pakistani mainstream media) have accused China of offering unrealistic loan agreements to partner nations while failing to accept that like in any mature partnership, responsibility is required from both sides. This has naturally made China think twice before offering loans that could potentially garner bad publicity should the party accepting the loan find itself unable to fulfill the terms of the agreement.

By no means is this to say that China thinks that the PTI government is a carbon copy of previous Pakistani governments, but it does imply that in any situation where large loans are offered, China will examine the geopolitical due diligence underlying such agreements before offering any publicly aired concrete proposals.

Beyond this, China’s method of elevating its own people as well as working with partner nations has always been based on a sustainable growth model that prioritises joint infrastructural development, joint job creating initiatives and mutual trading pacts that allow a financially poorer partner to trade its way into solvency rather than borrow its way into temporary rather than sustainable solvency. To put it another way, while some partner nations give an indebted party a fish, China would rather give a world-class fishing poll so that a partner can learn how to fish for its own proverbial meals over the medium and long term future.

The overall tone of the meeting as well as the agreements which were made indicate that this was China’s goal and in this sense the goal has been achieved on a win-win basis.

Trade in national currencies 

Of the fifteen memoranda of understanding (MOUs) signed between China and Pakistan, by far the most far reaching is the agreement to conduct bilateral trade in a combination of Chinese Renminbi and Pakistani Rupees. This effectively ends the domination of the US Dollar in trade between Pakistan and its most vital partner.

This itself will function as a kind of a loan as it will relieve pressure on Pakistan in terms of requiring Dollar reserves in order to buy much needed goods from China while it will also allow Pakistan to simultaneously build up reserves of the increasingly important  Renminbi over the long term.

As the rate-hike heavy policies of the US Federal Reserves combined with the Trump trade wars that have put pressure on currencies in emerging markets are combining to make Dollar based repayments all the more difficult for developing economies, by switching to a bilateral currency agreement in trade with China, Imran Khan’s government has helped to shield Pakistan from the increasingly tumultuous reality that is implicit in respect of dealing in Dollars when one is an emerging market economy.

China to bolster Imran Khan’s housing drive 

One of Imran Khan’s flagship domestic policies is the Naya Pakistan Housing Project. The new government seeks to build modern homes for millions of Pakistanis throughout the nation as part of the drive to reignite the spirit of the Islamic welfare state that national father Muhammad Ali Jinnah envisaged.

China looks set to contribute expertise to the Naya Pakistan Housing Project which will be an invaluable asset in terms of expediting the project as China has a proven track record of rapidly building modern housing infrastructure. By learning form China, Pakistan can see the creation of new local communities that themselves can help to become modern dynamic economic centres for future residents.

CPEC Special Economic Zones 

During the early days of the 1978 Deng Xiaoping reforms, China created a series of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in strategically located areas. These SEZs served as a model for China’s future economic drive for openness as the SEZs allowed for the inflow for foreign capital, technology and services which created jobs in the short term and allowed China to then develop its domestic industrial base that continues to lead the world.

During bilateral meetings between Chinese and Pakistani officials, it was agreed that China will help Pakistan to create its own SEZs along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This can help to transform Pakistan’s long term economic development on a model that helped China to achieve immense success over the last 40 years.

As CPEC carries goods and now people across a highly diverse terrain, strategically placed SMZs can help Pakistan to internationalise CPEC and in so doing, Pakistan can be transformed into a hub of world trade and innovation exchange that will have positive long term economic effects, the likes of which were previously thought impossible.

Free trade 

During his keynote speech before the CIIE, Imran Khan affirmed Pakistan’s commitment to free trade and economic openness. As he quoted Xi Jinping regarding China’s perpetual state of modern economic openness, Imran gave an indication that Pakistan’s own markets will open up to more foreign investment and goods at a time when both can help to revitalise the economy.

As Pakistan is strategically located and as such has been referred to as the “zipper of Asia”, by embracing free trade, Pakistan can geopolitically position itself at the centre of major trading crossroads linking the Pacific to the Afro-Mediterranean region via important maritime belts as well as linking south Asia to central Asia and northern Eurasia via new trading roads.

Free trade can help Pakistan to become a regional economic leader in terms of goods, services and logistics. Such a development will have far reaching positive implications for the domestic economy.

Conclusion 

The key takeaways from Imran’s visit to China include a mutual agreement to trade in national currencies rather than the US currency, an agreement to open Pakistan up to new trade and foreign direct investment, the creation of Special Economic Zones along CPEC and agreements to work jointly on infrastructural development including on Imran’s flagship Naya Pakistan Housing Project.

Of course, China will be in close communication with its Pakistani partners regarding the latter’s discussions with the IMF regarding a loan to plug the current account deficit. While China did not offer a loan upfront, it remains a likely possibility that if the IMF proposed terms of a would-be loan agreement threaten China’s long term connectivity projects in Pakistan, Beijing may ultimately offer a short term fish in to its all-weather friend in addition to the fishing poll that China has already given to Naya Pakistan.

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This is What Can be Accomplished During Imran Khan’s Visit to China

By Adam Garrie
Source

Later this week, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan will take his first official visit to China. As Pakistan’s neighbour and most important all-weather ally, the visit is of incomparable importance as Pakistan stands on the verge of fulfilling the next stages of inspiring new projects throughout the country, many of which have been jointly initiated with China. Furthermore, international pressures as well as domestic challenges that have arisen over the last year mean that China is well placed to offer Pakistan the kind of sustainable economic assistance required to rectify problems that previous Pakistani governments failed to address. With this in mind, here are the goals that can be achieved during Imran’s inaugural visit to China:

Securing a loan 

Last week Saudi Arabia gave Pakistan a one year loan of $3 billion with an addition $3 billion offered in the form of deferred payments for oil. The agreement was made on the same day that Imran Khan attended the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh. This itself is demonstrative of the no nonsense approach that Imran takes when dealing with important multilateral issues. Imran Khan’s positive meetings with the Saudi leadership along with his statement that Pakistan is willing to play a role as a mediator in regional conflicts including the war in Yemen, indicates that far from Saudi offering a “sympathy loan” to Islamabad, rapidly emerging geopolitical trends and Pakistan’s own economic development makes Pakistan a crucial partner for Riyadh.

The $10 billion that Saudi Arabia has invested for the purposes of building an oil refinery in the Pakistani port city of Gwadar makes it clear that not only is Gwadar fast becoming one of the most important hubs for global trade but that in integrating Saudi investment into the city that represents the southern terminus of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Saudi Arabia is attempting to utilise the decades of good will between itself and Pakistan in order to become more immersed in the win-win relationship stemming from direct participation in the Belt and Road Initiative.

The IMF has already made it clear that as expected, all of Pakistan’s current internal and bilateral projects will be scrutinised from the overtly American perspective of the IMF’s top officials. As such, Chinese officials are well aware that Washington could use its influence on the IMF to meddle in the progress of multiple CPEC related and other regional Sino-Pakistani projects. This gives China a clear incentive to help its neighbour whose current account deficit has widened due to the economic mismanagement of previous Pakistani governments.

Beyond this, a Chinese investment in Pakistan in the form of a loan should also be described as an investment in China. As China and Pakistan have shared interests in seeing that the full extent of neighbourly cooperation bears the sweetest possible fruits, China requires an economically stable Pakistan in order to realise this win-win goal. Imran Khan’s optimistic spirit and his domestic war on corruption itself mirrors that which Xi Jinping has engaged in for the benefit of the Chinese people. While no nation wants to throw money away, China knows that Pakistan has the potential to be a great economic power and that as such, a loan to Pakistan would represent an effort to help Imran Khan bring his nation back to economic solvency while the unwise practices of his predecessors that were ultimately bad for Pakistan and its partners are now a thing of the past and as such encouraged investor confidence from many quarters. Thus, a Chinese loan to Pakistan should be viewed as an important investment in a mutually sustainable future based on transparency and a neighbourly opposition to all forms of degrading corruption.

Taken in totality, there remains an opportunity for Imran to secure a loan from China which when combined with the existing Saudi loan could help Pakistan to avoid the IMF all together.

Fight fake news about Belt and Road/CPEC together 

Those with an interest in retarding the progress of Belt and Road and CPEC specifically have launched an all out disinformation war about the current healthy state of China-Pakistan relations. This disinfo war itself is part of a wider drive among certain malicious actors to drive a wedge between China and its partners in the Ummah (global Islamic community). It also serves as an outgrowth of America’s zero-sum attitude to Belt and Road that is expressed in non-factual media reports across several journalistic markets.

When Pakistan’s Foreign Minister addressed the United Nations last month, he presented Pakistan as a champion of the multi-national Belt and Road initiative that is sometimes described as merely a Chinese rather than multilateral initiative. In standing beside Xi Jinping, Imran Khan has the opportunity to not just expose the lies but attack the sources of the lies regarding malicious anti-CPEC stories while showing the world that Pakistan and China remain positively jointly committed to win-win relationships that will transform not just Pakistan but multiple Asian and African nations through enhanced connectivity and economic modernisation in the wider Afro-Eurasian space.

A rounded perspective on Xinjiang

Unlike some of Imran Khan’s predecessors, Imran Khan has shown himself to be deeply in touch with the charitable, austere and compassionate roots of Islam. As such, Imran Khan has vowed to revitalise the dream of national father Muhammad Ali Jinnah to transform Pakistan into an Islamic welfare state.

While mostly non-Muslims and non-Chinese continue to write absurd stories about life in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, particularly where the welfare of Muslims residents are concerned, Imran Khan is well placed to dispel this rumour by publicly relating how Chinese and Islamic values are neither incompatible nor mutually exclusive in practical terms.

As Xinjiang province borders Pakistan, there is all the more reason for Imran Khan to express feelings of unity as a means of dispelling attempts to divide the Ummah from its natural Chinese friend and partner.

New economic initiatives

The spirit of Naya Pakistan (new Pakistan) has been felt not only by Pakistanis but by much of the wider world. Chinese officials have already expressed how it is Beijing’s desire to tap into this spirit of forward thinking to work on new mutual projects that will transform the lives of multiple people in both nations, thus offering the Pakistani and Chinese people a future based on sustainable development through deeper and wider cooperative efforts.

While many Pakistanis are squarely focused on the loan that they hope to secure from a partner like China, Imran Khan has been wise in reminding Pakistanis not to be consumed by the negative legacies of the past. While the mistakes of the past must be dealt with, Imran Khan has also encouraged Pakistani’s to dream positive and healthy dreams for themselves and their country. This attitude is similar to the Chinese Dream that is encouraged through the people-centred initiatives detailed in Xi Jinping Thought. Because of this, it is clear that the only thing more constructive than two neighbours dreaming big is dreaming big together.

More cultural exchange 

Prioritising visits by Chinese tourists to Pakistan and Pakistani tourists to China is a vital way to secure the best possible future relations. Additionally, musicians, artists, sportspeople and great minds from both countries ought to present their talents to those on the other side of the border in order to demonstrate that the benefits of a modern win-win partnership have the ability to foster enlightened human development as well as economic and infrastructural development.

A commitment to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation 

Pakistan’s membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation gives the country a seat in an important organisation that can help bring further peace to Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, help to foster peace within Afghanistan and work to fight terrorism across multiple states. Iman Khan’s own views that extremism must be fought through a combination of proactive security measures and the draining of the swamp of economic destitution in which extremism foments is itself not dissimilar from the methods China has used to rid Xinjiang of extremism.

Furthermore, the regional government that PTI first formed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2013 helped to pioneer education and social welfare as means of lifting people out of both poverty and the related trap of extremism simultaneously. As China continues to do the same in Xinjiang in accordance with Chinese characteristics, both countries can share and pool their experiences in fighting extremist threats that continue to dominate issues at the level of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Such an exchange of methodology can help the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to become a more potent force for security in the region.

Conclusion 

Iman Khan’s visit to China will be an important moment where a dignified and forward looking Pakistani leader will be able to make the most out of a decades long all-weather friendship with the most important economic superpower in today’s world. So long as the meeting is guided by the optimistic spirit of Naya Pakistan, both countries will be able to achieve much on a win-win basis.

The Dangerous and Duplicitous Infowar Against Imran Khan

Among the many reasons why Imran Khan’s PTI party swept Pakistan’s recent general elections while making major inroads in provincial elections was his party’s commitment to ending a systematic culture of corruption that existed among both of the national legacy parties as well as among regionally strong and fringe parties. As a result, PTI not only won at a national level but in so doing, helped to sweep away the power of the MQM in Karachi, erode the iron grip of PML-N over Punjab, as well as reduce the share of votes received by radical religious parties whose agitation politics has had a negative impact on Pakistan’s civil society for decades.

While Imran Khan’s foreign policy position of neutrality as a whole, scepticism combined with realism in respect of the US, robust clarity combined with an olive branch to India and steadfast fraternal relations with China has never been ambiguous, multiple media outlets are attempting to so discord over PTI’s foreign policy by taking simple statements out of context and in some cases by penning utter fiction as a means of discrediting Imran Khan.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in multiple stories, primarily from western outlets and occasionally from Indian outlets (later picked up by Pakistani outlets) implying that somehow the future of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is anything other than mutually assured from the perspective of both Beijing and Islamabad.

To understand this concept, one can learn much by studying the new Malaysian government led by the veteran politician Mahathir Mohamad. Like Imran Khan, Mahathir Mohamad is and always was an advocate of progressive nationalism with modern Islamic characteristics. While the multi-racial dynamic in Malaysia is different than the provincial/ethnic identities present in Pakistan, Mahathir’s approach to foreign policy was and remains similar to the course which Imran has promised to follow. Mahathir never hesitates to criticise the United States nor its allies (including Israel) while his relationship with China was and remains based on mutual respect tempered with a strong sense of Malaysian national pride.

Mahathir’s return to power this year at the age of 93 was in many ways a result of the same anti-corruption battle that characterised Imran’s campaign. Mahathir openly criticised his notoriously corrupt predecessor Najib Razak who is currently being investigated by the authorities for gross acts of corruption involving the abuse of power. Likewise, Imran’s effective predecessor and political rival Nawaz Sharif while presently out of prison is also being investigated for acts of corruption in respect of his ownership of multi-million dollar properties in London.

While the relations of both Pakistan and Malaysia with the Chinese superpower continued to progress along positive lines during the respective Premierships of Nawaz and Najib, it would be naive to suggest that two corrupt individuals somehow engaged in 100% ethical business deals with their Chinese partner. In other words, if corruption was the word of the day for both Nawaz and Najib, why should their joint projects with Chins be any different? This is not to say that China in any way bears responsibility for the actions of Nawaz and Najib. As a country that expects its international partners to exercise responsibility over their share in any and all joint projects, China does not exist to meddle in the internal affairs of foreign nations, whether such nations are run by men like Imran and Mahathir or whether they are run by men like Nawaz and Najib.

Because of this, China is not worried about the fact that some of the vanity projects of both Nawaz and Najib are now being reviewed by the new governments who were elected to do just that – review matters signed off for by predecessors whose domestic legacies had been rejected by the voters in a democratic election. China is in fact engaging in dialogue with both partners in order to reach a new understanding over projects that will be to the win-win benefit of all parties.

Thus while both Iman and Mahathir have both gone out of their way to clarify that their revision of various projects has everything to do with internal matters and nothing to do with negative views of Beijing, the Sinophobic media of the west and India continues to say otherwise in a clear attempt to manufacture a false narrative.

Far more than Malaysia, Pakistan’s economic future is dependant on healthy relations with its all-weather Chinese neighbour and not a single genuine statement from any PTI official has indicated otherwise. In fact, the high level contacts between the new government and Chinese officials demonstrates that if anything, PTI wants to make the most of Pakistan’s friendship with China and in so doing, making the most of opportunities often squandered by previous governments.

However, it is now clear that Pakistan must do as much as possible to fight the Sinophobic infowar which threatens to spread misinformation among Pakistanis at a fanatic pace. Take for example the scandalous article recently published in the London based Financial Times called “Pakistan rethinks its role in Xi’s Belt and Road plan“, insinuated that Pakistan is about to cancel important bilateral projects related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under the new PTI led government of Imran Khan. The report was based on statements from Pakistan’s Adviser for Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production, and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood whose Ministry has now fully rejected the article while claiming that the Financial Times took his words completely and intentionally out of context.

According to Pakistan’s Ministry of Commerce and Textile, “The statements attributed to Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Textile have been taken out of context and distorted“. The Ministry further said that Pakistan rejects the article entirely “especially the title” while going on to call CPEC a “national priority”.

China likewise refuted the content of the article, describing the FT piece in the following way,

“Such ill-intentioned reports based on distorted and misquoted information only demonstrate that the report contributor has total ignorance and neglect of the CPEC or China-Pakistan traditional partnership”.

t is the latter part of the statement which is the most important in the context of the Financial Times article that is clearly part of the wider Sinophobic campaign in western and Indian media which has recently focused on China’s growing partnerships with the developing nations of Africa. But unlike China’s relations with multiple African states, some of whom had few profound contacts with Beijing in the 20th century, China’s relationship with Pakistan is among the most consistent of any neighbourly partnership in the world. Indeed, long before China became a global economic superpower, Beijing and Islamabad had incredibly close relations. The fact that since 1978 China has gone from a nation of overwhelming poverty to a nation about to dethrone the United States as the world’s largest overall economy, yet is still as close with Pakistan as it ever was, is a testament to the fact that the good neighbourly relationship in question has not shifted as so many Cold War era partnerships have radically done and continue to do in the 21st century.

China’s contemporary partnership with Pakistan has grown and developed as both countries have internally grown and developed. While Pakistan’s economic development is at a different stage than China’s, both countries look to pursue the path to a moderately prosperous society with national characteristics. The One Belt–One Road initiative has been a crucial mechanism through which both nations can build upon their traditional partnership to help achieve substantial economic growth on a cooperative win-win basis.

Because of this close and growing partnership, the fact that the Financial Times would attack such a partnership as opposed to the straw man targets that include Sino-Sri Lankan or Sino-Pan African relations,  is indicative of a new level of intensity in the hybrid infowar against China. If one were to compare the anti-Chinese infowar to a traditional military battle, it could be said that the enemy has pivoted away from targeting the nation’s hinterlands and has dropped bombs on the nation’s capital. Because the Sino-Pakistan relationship has led to the development and growth of CPEC and because CPEC is the central artery of One Belt–One Road, a fake news story indicating that CPEC may be stalled is nothing less than an outright provocation designed to sow discord between two of the world’s longest standing allies.

The ultimate aim of such provocateurs is to isolate China from major east-west trade routes as a “death” of CPEC would mean that with Myanmar in the midst of western provoked conflict and the Strait of Malacca being a de-facto US controlled shipping route – China would effectively be boxed into its own national seas without having an easy route into the Afro-Bengal Ocean.

For Pakistan, the aim of the provocation is to completely isolate the country by cutting off from its economic lifeline to north-east Asia, thus leaving the country surrounded by hostile forces in India and Afghanistan along with a temporarily economically crippled Iran.

The fact that the provocation was placed in a once “respectable” newspaper combined with the fact that the attack on Sino-Pakistan relations is as brazen as it is based on falsehoods is likewise instructive as it indicates that there are no depths to which the western liberal media will not sink in order to attempt and sabotage CPEC. In many ways the Financial Times article in question is even more scandalous than the kinds of things written in Indian media because the staff at the Financial Times would be well aware that due to an unfortunate lingering colonial mentality in south Asia, many Pakistanis would more readily believe a western source than an Indian source even though in the year 2018 they both have near identical agendas.

The conclusion for Pakistanis to reach is that they must be on guard against a perfect storm of anti-Chinese fake news deriving from stories planted by India in Pakistan’s own liberal media as well as stories from western outlets that many Pakistanis still respect. The aim is to isolate Pakistan totally from all of its neighbours and in so doing, leaving the country economically barren and depressed unless Islamabad comes crawling back to a scoffing US on its hands and knees. While Pakistan’s state institutions are well aware of this strategy, the people themselves must be aware of it, as it is the people who are being directly targeted with misinformation which if believed could destroy Pakistan’s best chance of achieving its developmental goals.

By Adam Garrie
Source

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