Unfounded propaganda targeting CPEC


And what of our own fourth pillar of state?

On Indian TV Channels the propaganda odiously depicting Chinese highhandedness are the same. This is cause for concern – why is Pakistani media falling into the trap of the Goebbels targeting CPEC?

While CPEC’s early harvest projects continue to see fruition and some of them even before the target dates, propaganda by its detractors is also mounting. As the progress on the CPEC, which is the flagship of President Xi’s “One Belt One Road” project (OBOR), becomes tangible and visible, tension is mounting for those who would like to see the mega project flounder. The fall from grace of the Pakistani Prime Minister provided a window of opportunity to the opponents of CPEC, who assumed that after Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan, may falter in the execution of the CPEC. We observed a heightened and feverish propaganda campaign to denigrate CPEC. There appears to be a method in the madness since propaganda by Indian and US media and now a malicious Op-Ed by AFP titled “For Pakistanis, China ‘friendship’ road runs one way” unwittingly carried by a few Pakistani English language dailies are similar in their content.

This scribe has appeared in a number of talk shows on Indian TV Channels after the ouster of Mian Nawaz Sharif. The tone, tenor and methodology of the propaganda odiously depicting Chinese highhandedness are the same. This is cause for concern and point to ponder for Pakistani media managers as to why Pakistani media is falling into the trap of the Goebbels targeting CPEC.

The critics of CPEC are one track in their approach. They are trying to paint China as monsters, who will behave like the proverbial “camel and the sheikh” fable, where the sheikh permitted the camel to put his head in the tent to shelter from the cold but soon the camel occupied the whole tent and kicked the sheikh out. The conspiracy theorists, supported by Doubting Thomas in Pakistan, proliferate that China is behaving like the East India Company and will soon take over Pakistan. Sometimes they give the example of Sri Lanka and Tajikistan, where China extended loans for establishing mega projects and when the two countries failed to repay the loans within the stipulated period, China demanded land in lieu of the defaulted loans. The veracity of these examples need to be verified but opponents of CPEC surmise that Pakistan will be unable to repay the loans extended by China at exorbitant interest rates and Pakistan will lose Gawadar Port to China. This propaganda is unrealistic because the loans extended are at competitive rates and in some cases, interest free.

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Another aspect which AFP, India and the USA harp upon in chorus is that owing to the requiring of acquiring land to construct the communication infrastructure, local population has had to surrender its land but has not been compensated. This is a blatant lie since all land acquired, has been through the willing surrender of rights by the owners who have been adequately compensated.

The most atrocious mendacity being spread is the harsh treatment being meted to Pakistani traders and investors in Kashgar, the other extreme of CPEC. This scribe has toured the length and breadth of the New Silk Road as well as CPEC. Having spent a week at Kashgar, I was pleasantly surprised to observe that Kashgar, which had fallen into neglect owing to the demise of the Old Silk Road, is now rising like a phoenix from the ashes. High rise trade and commerce centres, sprawling highways, railway links and a brand new airport make Kashgar the envy of any modern metropolis.

India and the USA harp that the local population has had to surrender its land but has not been compensated. This is a blatant lie.

The most interesting aspect of this development is what was confided into me by a group of Pakistani traders in Kashgar. They informed me that the Chinese government has offered Pakistani businessmen the incentive to invest in China and bring their trading centres to Kashgar in the Special Economic Zones. In lieu they have been offered rentals of shops, offices and residential apartments at very low rentals, which will be transformed into ownership within a short period. I met numerous Pakistani traders availing this incentive. If this is not true friendship then what is?

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As far as disturbances in Xinjiang Province is concerned, it is a fact that after being incited by USA and India, some Uyghurs are creating a law and order situation. Rebiya Kadeer, an ethnic Uyghur, millionaire who has sought asylum in USA, runs a clandestine program to provoke Uyghurs into insurgency at the behest of the US. She runs a malicious website and posts Machiavellian theories to malign China.

It is a fact that owing to the disparity between the pace of development between the eastern and western provinces of China, the west especially Xinjiang whose majority population is the Uyghurs, felt deprived. To bring about a semblance of parity, the Chinese government took some concrete steps. It expedited the development pace in the western provinces and tasked the more opulent eastern provinces to establish Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in the western provinces. To deal with the Uyghurs’ sense of deprivation, a carrot and stick approach was adopted. Uyghurs were given priority in employment in the development projects in Xinjiang. They were offered positions not only as labourers but also in supervisory as well as managerial slots. To enable the Uyghur youth to equip them with the necessary wherewithal to handle technical jobs, they have been provided admission and scholarship in technical training institutes and universities.  I met with a number of Uyghurs in Kashgar, Urumqi and other locations in Xinjiang province as I travelled the length and breadth of OBOR and CPEC, these facts were confirmed to me by the Uyghurs themselves. They also stated there was no religious persecution, except for those indulging in anti-state activities. The Chinese policy of bringing the Uyghurs into the mainstream as well as dealing with troublemakers with an iron fist has paid rich dividends.

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When the Chinese Embassy was asked to comment on the AFP story, they stated that the KKH is a symbol of friendship and connectivity. It is linking both nations in the bond of “Iron Brothers”. When attention was drawn to the mention of imbalance in trade, the Chinese Embassy confirmed that China is providing equipment and machinery to Pakistan to enhance its capacity of r production so that goods and services can be provided to restore the imbalance.

This reminds me of a visit to China’s Yunnan Province in 2013. At the South Asia Trade Expo in Kunming, the provincial capital, Pakistan was the lead country. At a Press Conference addressed by the Governor of Yunnan Province, this scribe inquired why Pakistan was declared as the lead country. The Governor responded that “we find there is an imbalance in the trade between China and Pakistan.” We have provided an opportunity to Pakistani traders and manufacturers to showcase their goods and products to Chinese and other international businessmen to procure Pakistani goods. Such consideration brought tears to my eyes.

CPEC is destined to reach fruition as well as bring prosperity and progress to the people of Pakistan and China. A dog may bark but the caravan will go. For the Pakistani media that blindly follows the western and Indian propaganda, they should verify the conspiracy theories before publishing them. President Xi Jinping, while signing the agreement for CPEC, had stated that the mega project was a gift from the people of China for the people of Pakistan. Let us not look a gift horse in the mouth. CPEC is a two way road, which will benefit the people of both countries equally.

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