These days China is making headlines in our news almost on a daily basis. We Pakistanis in an effort to move away from under the US shadow, somehow feel much better to look to China for help. Noted as a true and an all weather friend, the relationship between the two countries has been described by Hu Jintao as “higher than the mountains and deeper than oceans.” Recent articles in our print media have also been talking non-stop about how China will look after our interests and watch our back and that is what prompted me to explore further into the myth.
Considered to overtake US by 2016, China is well underway to economic prosperity as well. With a population of 1.3 billion and 17.6 percent of this number being the age group of 0-14 years, China has roughly 234 million potential job seekers in the coming years. Please also note that China currently has an unemployment rate of 4.3 percent.
Coming over to Pakistani demographics now, we have a population of 180 million. Out of this 180 million population, 60 percent (roughly 112 million) are between the age group 15-64. We have a literacy rate of 49 percent, and an unemployment rate of 15 percent which is substantial and which puts us only a couple of spaces over Iraq and at the bottom end of the totem pole for unemployment in the world. We have had a demographic explosion and we need a boost in the economy that requires this unemployment rate to be lower than what it is. This means that more jobs need to be created to offset the unemployment percentage.
Now the point I’m trying to make is this: China no doubt is a good friend and alliance with China is important – but let us not indulge in this fantasy world where we think China will overlook its own population of potential jobseekers in the coming years. There are a finite number of jobs and resources available globally to roughly 350 million job seekers combined. China also has a low enrollment rate in school. This means that, unless things change, Pakistan and China will both have growing populations competing for the same jobs in the global economy. China will obviously first look to provide jobs to its own citizens before turning to Pakistan and addressing its economical problems.
We cannot rely on China alone. Pakistan needs to develop good relationships with not just China but other powers including EU, SAARC and US etc. Cutting ourselves off from the US, who remains the world’s largest economy and a major economic partner of China, is limiting our friends and allies and will be detrimental in our effort to expand on all our options in the future. We should be working with all the major economic powers to find areas where our interests overlap and then try to improve our education system and expand our access to markets across the world. This will help us advance our country’s economy, which in turn means better way of living for an average citizen. Depending on just one country and putting all our hopes and dreams on it, hoping that it will be our saviour, is not a good approach economically or otherwise.