CPEC truly transformative for Pakistan: Pakistani senator
Published: Jul 31, 2022 06:41 PM
A view of Pakistan's Gwadar Port. Photo: VCG

A view of Pakistan's Gwadar Port. Photo: VCG

Editor's Note:

During the past decade, the world has increasingly witnessed a trend of "the East is rising, and the West is declining" in the spheres of economy, security and discourse power. Western countries, particularly the US, plagued by internal woes, have sought the old path of passing the buck and instigating turmoil elsewhere to ease their own pressure. China, representative of the emerging countries, is proposing new solutions to global problems. By advocating win-win development, facilitating consultation and reconciliation and proposing a balanced and effective security mechanism, China is striving to build a community with a shared future for mankind.

In the eighth piece of the series, Mushahid Hussain (Hussain), chairman of Senate Foreign Affairs Committee in Pakistan, told Global Times (GT) reporter Yu Jincui that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of the China-initiated Belt and Road Initiative, has been truly transformative for Pakistan, enhancing the importance and image of Pakistan. "CPEC is the guarantor of a better tomorrow for Pakistan and its people," Hussain stressed. 

GT: In a recent article in the National Interest, the Washington-based publication, you warned that the US' China policy is heading toward disaster. You said that "The US is resorting to containment of China from a rather outmoded playbook and this playbook begins with the demonization of the Communist Party of China (CPC)." Why is the US demonizing the CPC?

Hussain: I think there are two reasons why the US is demonizing the CPC.

First of all, I think there are some hawkish elements in Washington who want to spark a new Cold War against China using the playbook that they used against the Soviet Union in the original Cold War in the 20th century. Then the CPSU, or Communist Party of Soviet Union, was the target to be demonized. So they want to equate CPC ideologically with the CPSU. It resonates with the past "enemy," and it has an impact with certain sections of American and international public opinion who are against communism and want to frame the competition with China as an ideological conflict.

The second reason is that the CPC, which is over 100 years old, is the center of gravity of the Chinese state and the Chinese political system. And the CPC has brought about success since the revolution in China in 1949. So I think they want to undermine this center of gravity. And if they try to weaken the center of gravity, the CPC, they feel that China's image, China's narrative and China's overall role will be adversely affected.

GT: The West concocted various "China threat" theories and tries to isolate China internationally. Will this attempt affect China's attractiveness to the rest of the world?

Hussain: I feel that China today is the target of information warfare and propaganda from the US. They are concocting the theories of "China threat" that we and most of the Third World countries reject. There is no China threat. China has not invaded any country. China has not occupied any country. China has not launched any aggression against any country. China is a peaceful country, in fact, China has been a victim of aggression in the past, historically.

China is not a threat, in my view, to the US or to the world. The US and West have created this imaginary "threat."

In the US 280-page bipartisan Congressional bill, Strategic Competition Act, included is a $300 million "Countering China Influence Fund." So that is used only for propaganda and sometimes, people can be influenced by propaganda.

Photo: Courtesy of Mushahid Hussain

Photo: Courtesy of Mushahid Hussain

GT: You are a longtime visitor to China. What impressed you the most in the past 10 years of your many visits to China?

Hussain: During the last 10 years what impressed me the most was the leadership of President Xi Jinping, a decisive leader with strategic clarity. He also proposed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is probably the most important diplomatic and developmental initiative of the 21st century. And that is why 140 countries or more joined BRI. So I think that impressed me most.

Also, I was impressed by the commitment that President Xi made that China would be free of absolute poverty by 2021. So decisive leadership, China's growing international role, and within China, the removal of absolute poverty - I think these are important achievements. China today is emerging as a global leader in globalization, climate change, socio-economic development and the BRI.

GT: What do you think are the reasons why the CPC can lead China's development to success?

Hussain: I would say that it's, first of all, the quality of leadership. It's been a leadership which has withstood tests. No.2, I think that it's the ability to do a course correction when the leadership realized that a policy is not working, as was the case of the "reform and opening-up" or the outreach to the US by inviting president Richard Nixon to China in 1972, in which Pakistan played a pivotal role as a bridge. And then I would also say that the CPC has delivered for the people of China, giving them a better quality of life, considering that in 1980s over 80 percent of Chinese people lived below the poverty line. These have been amazing transformations. When I first visited China in 1970, the country was poor, weak, and isolated, but now it's a strong, rich and powerful global leader.

Another major reason for the success of the CPC, in my view, is its peaceful foreign policy. Chinese foreign policy has been peaceful, focusing on win-win cooperation, sharing prosperity and a community with a shared future for mankind, avoiding conflicts and confrontation. So I think that also makes a difference. You can see how the Americans have been in the last 20 years fighting the so-called war on terror, while China has been busy promoting the BRI.

GT: China under the leadership of CPC is marching toward realizing its second centenary goal. Are you optimistic about China's future?

Hussain: I was reading a survey done by the Harvard University Ash Center in July 2020. The survey captured opinion data from 32,000 Chinese people from different walks of life over a period of two decades and the survey found that over 90 percent of respondents were satisfied with the CPC's performance and the central government

I share the data because I've seen how China developed and how China is moving forward. So I'm optimistic because China's policy is for people-centric development, putting interests of the people to the forefront within their country, and also locally and internationally, sharing their success and their prosperity in what is referred to as "win-win cooperation." So China's success and China's peaceful rise is a source of strength, a source of stability, a force for balance that medium-sized and small countries like Pakistan welcome. We are not in a unipolar world, but a multipolar one, which requires multilateralism at the core. So, China gives us a strategic choice and we are very happy for that, because that gives countries like Pakistan strategic space and greater autonomy to pursue independent policy choices.

GT: In April 2022, Shehbaz Sharif was sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Pakistan. He pointed out in his speech in parliament that developing China-Pakistan relations is the most important and priority of Pakistani diplomacy. How do you view the particularity of China-Pakistan relations and how do you evaluate the development of China-Pakistan relations after the new government took office?

Hussain: After the new government took office in April, whether it was the new prime minister's speech in his first day in office, or ensuring that the first diplomat be met with was the Chinese acting ambassador, the Prime Minister reaffirmed that China is Pakistan's best friend and most important strategic partner and that the CPEC will be strengthened and taken to new heights. So that policy reaffirmation has been very clear: China remains the top priority in Pakistan's foreign policy. In fact, I would term relations with China as the cornerstone of Pakistan's foreign policy.

GT: Since Sri Lanka fell into bankruptcy, some Western media have attributed it to China's "debt trap" and hyped that other Asian countries, such as Pakistan and the Maldives, would follow Sri Lanka's path and fall into China's "debt trap." What do you think of this rhetoric?

Hussain: Nonsense! Sri Lanka's economic crisis has nothing do with China, and only less than 10 percent of Sri Lanka's national debt is owed to China. I would like to focus on the facts and let me tell you, I was reading an article which was published in the American publication, The Atlantic, about "The myth of the Chinese debt trap." This article was published on February 6, 2021 in the Atlantic by two American professors, one from Johns Hopkins University and one from Harvard Business School. Both said "there is no such thing as debt trap in Sri Lanka and the debt-trap narrative is just that: a lie, and a powerful one."

I think internationally it has been proven that China's loans help, as these are badly required by developing countries in Asia and Africa. We welcome that. It's not a debt trap at all. And China's help comes without any strings attached and without any political preconditions.

GT: Since last year, there have been many terrorist attacks in Pakistan. In order to further ensure the safety of CPEC projects and personnel, especially since the Karachi bombing in April this year, what measures has Pakistan taken to strengthen its efforts to combat terrorism? Do you have confidence in the safety of CPEC projects?

Hussain: Chinese teachers killed in the Karachi University bombing were victims of terrorism and we really regret that. We have improved our system: better intelligence coordination, better coordination between provincial and federal governments, and enhanced security for the Chinese personnel and projects. We also have two Special Security Divisions of the Pakistan Army protecting CPEC projects. And more importantly, there's also been close intelligence collaboration between China and Pakistan.

I would say that there is also another dimension of terrorism in Pakistan against Chinese people and Chinese projects. It's not necessarily always indigenous. In fact, such Terrorism is sponsored from outside. It's an unfortunate part of geopolitics. 

So there's an element of geopolitics, which means foreign countries. They are playing a role in sponsoring terrorist groups and militant proxies in Pakistan, who they pay to act against Chinese personnel and CPEC projects.

So we have to do a lot of coordination between China and Pakistan and work very closely and I have no doubt we will succeed, because in Pakistan, please remember that relations with China, friendship with China, and support for CPEC enjoy a broad national consensus above party lines.

GT: Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the BRI.As the flagship project of the BRI, what changes has the construction of CPEC brought to Pakistan? In the future, how can China and Pakistan better deepen cooperation and promote the progress of the project?

Hussain: CPEC is China's vote of confidence in the Pakistani people. Pakistan and China are "iron brothers." When President Xi visited Pakistan in April 2015, at that time, we were victims of terrorism, we were having an inland war against terrorism. No country in the world, either a Western country or a Muslim country, was willing to support Pakistan economically on such a scale as CPEC. China was the first country which came out in support, offered assistance and then delivered, whether it's CPEC or the COVID-19 pandemic or defense or diplomacy. It's a strong and substantial support. 

Today, thanks to CPEC, we have 75,000 Pakistanis gainfully employed, who got jobs from CPEC projects. There are 28,000 Pakistani students in China. Gwadar Port was built by China and now is being run by a Chinese company. It is linking the landlocked countries of Central Asia plus Afghanistan to the outside world. So the Port, as a pivot in the Maritime Silk Road, is a major element of the BRI.

In CPEC projects in different parts of Pakistan, you can see women driving dumper trucks and tractors, showing that CPEC is helping in the empowerment of women. It is leading to empowerment of the poor and the marginalized in some of the least developed regions of Pakistan. The Pakistan-China friendship hospital plus vocational training center are being established. It is also bringing about changes with the relocation of Chinese industry to Pakistan, a process that is also underway. CPEC has also united the Federation and its different provinces through easier and accessible motorways, highways and road links. I feel CPEC has been truly transformative for Pakistan, having enhanced the importance and image of Pakistan. CPEC is the guarantor of a better tomorrow for Pakistan and its people. So we thank China for their timely support.