This article today will take issue with the entire notion of China being an “all weather” ally and will try to highlight some of the important things Pak-China dosti promoters fail to mention. This is in no way implying that we should cut off our ties with China but merely emphasizing on how we should be cautious to remember that everyone is looking out for their own interest and there is no such thing as an unconditional alliance.
A very simple example of that conditional alliance would be that USA and USSR were allies in World War II because it served their purpose. Neither of them wanted Germany to take over the world. However, after the war, both these countries continued with their conflicts and hostilities.
Coming back to China, because of the deteriorating relation between Pakistan and America, people are looking at China as the saviour. Our leaders have used the china angle for leverage for years. When we negotiate with US we have this tone where we keenly suggest that if US does not help us in ways we want, we will ask China, our true friend, for help. Our true friend will bend over backwards and fight the US for our interests. A few days back I saw a cartoon character appearing in a renowned national newspaper showing a Chinese man holding a pistol behind the American telling him to keep his hands off another guy who was shown as Pakistani.
Contrary to popular belief, I think it is important to note that China has provided very limited economic aid to Pakistan. Much of it has mainly been infrastructural aid or business investment to Pakistan and most of this aid suits China’s national interests or goals. Daniel Wagner in his article mentions that “While the U.S. has given as much as more than $2 billion in a single year in economic and military aid to Pakistan (peaking in the early 1960s), China’s cumulative bilateral assistance to Pakistan between 2004 and 2009 totaled just $217 million (an average of $36 million per year), and was often driven by disaster relief”.
Actually, I would like to use this sentence out of General Musharraf’s interview to Fareed Zakaria on CNN here, to reflect on my opinion on the above aid figures provided to Pakistan by China.
A bitter fact of the matter is that Chinese aid is driven by a hunger for natural resources. An article published in Guardian mentions that critics say that a majority of concessional loans provided by china, have gone towards the construction of transportation, communications and electricity infrastructure, while less than 9% has gone towards the development of energy and resources such as oil and minerals. This is very much in contrast to USAID program packages that that focus on subjects ranging from poverty health and education. In addition, China has been investing in securing much of the natural resources around the globe.
Another big reason for that is that we hope China will help us in any conflict with India. It also appeals to the anti-India lot amongst us however, while sympathetic to Pakistan and having an antagonistic relationship with India, China did not do more than offer words and little military assistance to Pakistan in its wars with India. China has always kept a clear vision of what it wants with Pakistan playing us on our anti-India sentiments to keep India at bay, the next big emerging power in the sub-continent region. My simple question is this: where was China in 1965 war? Or in the 1971 war when we so desperately needed a friend to watch our back for us?
Finally, an important thing to mention here while we’re comparing US-Pak and China-Pak relationship is the number of Pakistanis living in both these countries. According to 2006 There are roughly 700,000 thousand Pakistanis living in the US while less than half of this number are in China, the worlds most populated country. Huge amount of remittances also exist which flow from US to Pakistan, aiding our ailing economy whereas such is not the case with China.
Pakistan also has cultural ties with US that obviously China does not. Our mainstream media has western/American-influenced songs, clothes, cars and almost everything in the daily walk of life. We can certainly not say that about China. How many parents are willing to send their children for higher education to China instead of US?
These are some of the questions that we need to ask ourselves and come to a rational conclusion.