Is Pakistan in danger of becoming a Chinese colony?

Published: October 26, 2016
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Wen Jiabao (R) shakes hands with Pervez Musharraf in Beijing. PHOTO: REUTERS

I remember driving through Mall road with my family in 2005, overjoyed to see banners in red, yellow, green, and white hanging above my head in all their glory. Lahore seemed cleaner and quieter than usual, with the exception of the words Pak-Cheen Dosti” splattered in bold colours everywhere I looked.

Billboards were decorated with flamboyant colours and disproportionate faces of Pervez Musharraf and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao, signifying the year when China and Pakistan signed the China-Pakistan Friendship Treaty. It was a historic moment for both the countries; everyone welcomed China with open arms thinking Pakistan and China were meant to be together as friends, business partners, and strategic allies.

However, 11 years later, Senator Tahir Mashhadi, chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Planning and Development is heard saying,

“Another East India Company is in the offing; national interests are not being protected. We are proud of the friendship between Pakistan and China, but the interests of the state should come first.”

How did we get here?

Is this just a fear-mongering rhetoric by a senator or is there legitimate concern that China will take over Pakistan?

Has Pakistan come under the influence of China to an extent that it may become a Chinese colony in the near future?

Most importantly, is Pakistan’s sovereignty being undermined by China?

We look at this through economic and political lenses of analysis. Historically, China has always been a strong strategic ally of Pakistan. Military relations have been sustained with Chinese assistance in developing Pakistan’s defense infrastructure and strong military assistance in the region. There is nothing new about the kind of military support China has provided Pakistan, but its use in diplomatic relations between these two nations has been significantly enhanced.

China attempts to maintain regional peace and security in order to pursue its economic stipulation through the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, that has now translated into the $51 billion dollar investment project called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). For China, this is one of the many economic expansion plans it is enforcing to increase its global growth as seen with the rise of Chinese investment in Africa and East Asia.

Secondly, from China’s perspective, the rising notion of separatism within its Uighur Muslim minority is a serious concern. China is wary of claims that the influence of terrorism from across the border is increasing in the Uighur community and may be credited for the rise in incidents involving terrorism in the region of Xinjiang. President Xi Jinping’s reign has allowed China to play an active role in maintaining peace and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan with regards to terrorism and insurgency. China’s strategic alliance with Pakistan stems from its interest in maintaining peace within its Uighur minority while also maintaining uninterrupted trade routes through Central and South Asia.

The word colony symbolises the weakening in power of a country to make sovereign decisions for itself, and it is an absolute subordinate of a hegemonic state. In Pakistan’s case, there seems to be no evidence that China is directly involved in decisions of strategic political importance or decisions that go against our national interest. It may be increasingly active in pursuing a notion of peace in the region, but it does not necessarily mean that it is using a political lobby to make decisions for Pakistan. Despite critics eyeing the rise in Chinese influence in our country suspiciously, CPEC plans on revolutionising Pakistan’s economy by providing 700,000 domestic jobs, 10,000 MW in hydro energy and an expected 1.1 percent rise in GDP by 2018 alone.

All proposals by the Chinese government pose equal or even greater benefits for Pakistan.

Such examples of international economic cooperation include the European Union, none of whose members are colonies of each other. United States and Mexico’s economic partnership with NAFTA has stipulated Mexico’s economy in the recent years without Mexico submitting to the United States as a colony. If anything, China is determined to stabilise Pakistan economically as well as politically like we have never seen before, and Pakistan needs this support to maintain its strategic importance in the world as an emerging economy as well as key player in international affairs.

In contrast, the questions raised by sceptical Pakistani economists and critics cannot be simply waved away as false claims or a cow’s opinion or even conspiracy theories by our archrivals. It is true that a trend of reverse globalisation is being noticed in the world that began with Brexit earlier this year. Britain breaking off from the European Union and American political viewpoint (case in point: Donald Trump) echoing views of economic separatism may suggest that countries are becoming increasingly aware of their potential as nationally regulated economies as opposed to neoliberal ideas of sustaining a globalised economy.

Pakistan needs to establish parliamentary oversight of CPEC and use its strategic ties with China to ensure that the project is streamlined, without Chinese influence spreading into our political decision-making bodies. “Pak-Cheen Dosti” should be seen as a strategic partnership that upholds strong diplomatic, economic and military relations for Pakistan, and should be welcomed with open hearts as well as open eyes.

Do you think Pakistan is in danger of becoming a Chinese colony?

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Raina Iqbal

Raina Iqbal

The author is a student at California State University in Los Angeles and an Alumni of Beaconhouse School System. She is an award-winning public speaker with a keen interest in Public Policy and international Affairs. She tweets @rainaiqbal

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Pakistan would benefit from being a Chinese colony than a Saudi colony. At least terrorism would come to an end.Recommend

  • Hozur

    It is early days to make any judgements.Wait and see what the final outcome of the association is.If it is financial the question is why other nations are not curious about this investment and have made no moves to be part of the project Invitations have gone out but the response is ‘luke warm’Recommend

  • Predator

    this is good news for pakistan.being a Chinese colony it has its own advantages.most of the lands owned in pakistan by some political elites .Land reformation can maintain equality in people just like , china.Then religious extremism .Pakistan can become an atheist country ,like china.That is the answer for terrorism.Recommend

  • Hassan

    Recently Chinese Ambassador met Imran Khan to discuss about his protest. This is just a beginning. Chinese are here for business like they did in Africa and Srilanka.

    After creating the power plants and corridor by loans how can you compete with Chinese goods in manufacturing?. Only then you can export your goods to other countries. Also will Chinese allow you to be their competitor in exports? Chinese are also using their own manpower during construction. Land route to east china (all major cities in china are in east) will cost 10 times more than sea route. Why should China bring all materials through land.? Even if they transport some items how much can Pakistan gain by collecting taxes. Also considering the other issues like security, Taliban, bad relation with Afghanistan etc how are you going to pay back the loan. Why should someone use CPEC . Everyone is interested in CPEC because it is easy to loot Pakistan.Recommend

  • Hassan

    Recently Chinese Ambassador met Imran Khan to discuss about his protest. This is just a beginning. Chinese are here for business like they did in Africa and Srilanka.

    After creating the power plants and corridor by loans how can you compete with Chinese goods in manufacturing?. Only then you can export your goods to other countries. Also will Chinese allow you to be their competitor in exports? Chinese are also using their own manpower during construction. Land route to east china (all major cities in china are in east) will cost 10 times more than sea route. Why should China bring all materials through land.? Even if they transport some items how much can Pakistan gain by collecting taxes. Also considering the other issues how are you going to pay back the loan. Why should someone use CPEC . Recommend

  • Umair Khalid

    I think Pakistan would do better if administered by Chinese think thank (Political scientists, economists, technocrats etc.) rather than our looser, corrupt and pathetic politicians and economists. I want Pakistan to become a Chinese colony. This will also be good for the Chinese Muslims, who at present are not able to live a free Islamic life in China.Recommend

  • Shiv

    The first sign of willingness to become a Chinese colony came when Pakistan meekly gave away territory in Kashmir to them. Either they were scared or planned to use Chinese goodwill against India. This, when in their own words Kashmir is disputed territory and have no unilateral rights to decide on Kashmir.
    These days OPEC is being touted as the savior of Pakistan’s economy. It’s supposedly a panacea whose acceptance by people is also now a certification of patriotism. No one knows how Pakistan is going to repay Chinese debts and how China will enforce repatriation of its profits when there is no clear view of how sustained economic growth will come about. All this will lead to Pakistan being another North Korea. CPEC will indeed be a corridor for China to use it’s port in Gwadar.Recommend

  • Bharat Indian

    For this to happen, religion centric approach and state of mind has to be shed off. It would be a welcome move to see a atheist state than a theocratic state.Recommend

  • Avinash

    The fact that you jumo from one ally to another.. like hero worship.. is the reason y u r so backwardsRecommend

  • FB

    Why don’t you stay out of country issues because you are not a pakistani citizen any more as you are supporting america. you must be having fun with the americansRecommend

  • who me?

    China has invested similar/greater funds in many countries across the World – many of those investments have backfired as the recipient countries eventually concluded they overpaid for the projects and feel they were ripped off. No bid contracts should be a good indicator that Pakistan is going down the same route. Pakistan isn’t going to become a colony of China – it’s just going to drop all the friendship nonsense.Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    In China it is known as the Pyongyang Model.Recommend

  • Dipak Mehta

    Great! no permission to celebrate EID.Recommend

  • Mushtaq Nissar

    Pakistan should indeed become a Chinese colony. In the first place, there will be no food shortage as the Chinese will teach us to eat everything which moves. Then just like Xingagang of Ughiur muslims, China will change Pakistan’s name to Pingang.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Cpec is china Punjab economic colonisation
    Might as well lease Punjab to china and delete Punjabi and use mandarinRecommend

  • Milind A

    The concerns of the writer are irrational. No country in its right-mind would want to colonize Pakistan.. The Chinese will use & throw Pakistan as its earlier benefactors US & Saudis….Recommend

  • Sami Shahid

    Wow what a stupid argument….when China is not intervening in our internal matters at the moment than why would China interfere when we would be providing a shorter route for Chinese trade ! What a stupid argument by a mohajir senator !Recommend

  • Sunil

    You are a Chinese colony, prior to that you were an American, British, and an Islamic one. Remember what your real origins are even though you deny them. I am sure someone will own you always.Recommend

  • Ravindra Sharma

    Old saying —- Friendship is possible between equals . If Pakistan is equal to China then O K but if not then be cautious .Recommend

  • omer

    I miss being a British ColonyRecommend

  • Xian Jan Khan

    Soon Pakistan restaurants will be serving Chicken Manchurian Karahi ! As is Punjab always loved to be called someone else, Arabs . Turks, Mongols, now they will be called Xian Ju Bajwa, Li Qui Butt, Bing Bang Cheema, Ping Pong Malik etc etc etc …. Pakistan is for sale.. any investor also gets an army for hire !Recommend

  • jeetainder

    In true sense it is going to become in near future but cant help it as after break up with US & sore relations with India they require a strong partner who can challenge these countries.Recommend

  • A_Karachi

    First we were a British Colony (which had maximum resentment), then an American Colony (with little resentment) and now most forcefully a Chinese colony (which will be the most painful of them all). That realization will (obviouusly) come later.Recommend

  • fuad

    Slaves are destined to be slaves!! Only the masters change! From being a British colony to an American Colony, now its the Chinese turnRecommend

  • KlingOn2K

    People with Islamic beards are not allowed in public transports in China. You’ll have to deal with such restrictions.Recommend

  • anish

    well saidRecommend

  • anish

    no need to colonize pakistan , it’s the only country with no GRACE .Recommend

  • Ahmad

    And it will be better than the Current Scenario. At least they are not Corrupt like Pakistani GOvernment.Recommend

  • Sudhanshu Swami

    Adding to that, there will be tax free zones for 3 or 4 decades.Recommend

  • Someone

    You are joking right? Every year thousands are punished in china for corruption. But unlike you, chinese people dont have an option to replace corrupt govt.Recommend

  • genesys

    Chinese are great pork eaters,so be prepared to serve Pork with or without relgionRecommend

  • AshrafChopan

    If Pakistanis think they are becoming a Chinese colony then they are far from reality and/or embarrassingly illiterate and/or their minds are far more westernised and they gobble up every propaganda coming from West. If deepening ties with China means colonising for Pakistanis then Pakistan has been a stooge colony of US all the time since its inception.
    I really pity all those people who voted “yes” in this poll, though I respect their opinion. It signifies that Pakistanis are among the most unconfident people in the world.
    You can’ t to save your nation from other enemies because you are not even competent enough to save it from yourselves and your own people.

    (As a matter of fact and looking at all those comments I believe that mostly Indian readers have voted “yes”. It goes on to show that even on a Pakistani newspaper article your votes become minority)Recommend

  • AshrafChopan

    It will b better for u to be India’s colony at least culturally u will have realisation.Recommend

  • http://www.umalik.com/ Usman

    Apparently more of our neighbours were interested in commenting than Pakistanis themselves.

    However Raina that 51 billion USD is not investment rather a loan. Recommend

  • Sanjay Natarajan

    Oops, you left saudi colony!Recommend

  • Vikram Loomba

    The article lacks foresightRecommend

  • Cyber citizen

    If Pakistan is in some sort of danger like that of becoming a colony of China , I wonder why our Indian friends in their comments apears more concerned about our country then us. This artical has very validly and forcfuly rejected the impression that Pakistan is in any danger of colonization by China. And this is the foresight we have and we need; the trust in our time tested friendship with China !Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Chau Han Lie ie 4 times Han, a big lieRecommend

  • Salim Alvi

    is it Oriental or Chinese PEC?Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    and where live Chau Han Poo NjabiRecommend

  • PUSHKAR TYAGI

    China since the time of Khan/Han/Yuan dynasty has the culture of keeping concubines. Pakistan’s CV shows that it has a brilliant profile for this role. Work experience includes 50+ years working for the USA which is seen as impressive. There is no doubt Pakistan will flourish in its new role and will exceed the expectations.Recommend

  • A_Karachi

    Dear AC, Please do not forget that India had been our colony for more than a 1000 years. So you shouldn’t brag about a temporary turn of tide which is hardly 70 years into its making and has already peakedRecommend

  • Purna Tripathy

    like Tibetan friendship with China a few years back. Indians are concerned because we dont want to see Chinese on the west as well. With your foresight you were earlier with Americans now you want with Chinese. Saudi Arabians are there any way. Your fore-sight has only one criteria, who has money.Recommend

  • Purna Tripathy

    oh, really. thanks for conceding “temporary turn”. dont worry unnecessarily. no one makes better suicide bomber than you.Recommend

  • Purna Tripathy

    doing very well. keep it up. independence is not you cup of tea..Recommend

  • Sannan Safeer

    is it Oriental or Chinese PEC?Recommend