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hrough CPEC is catalysing cultural and social connectivity between China and Pakistan to promote further mutual trust but in order to keep economic corridor and Sino-Pak relations unhurt from massive malicious campaigns which is on rampant globally what is direly indispensable is a new push to reinforce people-to-people diplomacy.

In the course of upcoming China trip to be made by Pakistan PM Imran Khan, if new avenue of people-to-people diplomacy are explored with fresh perspectives along with deepening cooperation on agriculture, skill and social development, agents of chaos will fail to materialize their dream called “CPEC debacle”.

When people come closer by heart and soul understanding each other faith, culture, values and style of workmanship, they never let any other spew the venom to poison relations. Across the world, nations that give higher value to public diplomacy are better positioned to reap the awards. International and Foreign relations are conventionally carried out by national leaders, government officials, and diplomats. People-to-people diplomacy has a charismatic impact on relations between nations since bilateral relations are not consolidated without solid public support.

People-to-people diplomacy also does a wonder even in the period of sour ties between two countries. For instance “Ping-Pong diplomacy” of 1971 led to then President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China the following year. It kicked off when both Chinese and American Ping-Pong players had to participate 31st World Table Tennis Championship in Nagoya, Japan at the time. After American player Glenn Cowan missed team’s bus, he was offered to ride with the Chinese players. His pleasantries and gift exchanges with Chinese player Zhuang Zedong stole the hearts of people of both countries. The Ping-Pong diplomacy that started in Japan paved way for normalization of U.S.-China relations in past.

In Pakistan and China relations, it is being witnessed that frequency of media exchanges, business exchanges, cultural exchanges, study exchanges and skill exchanges has intensified. Even marriages between Pakistanis and Chinese people are making headlines. Here issue is that direction is right but perspective needs improvement to multiply the fortunes.

Despite significant increase of exchanges as a part of people-to-people diplomacy, talks of town are “China is new East India Company”, “Pakistan under china debt trap”, “CPEC is devil eroding Pakistan economy”, “CPEC is for only Chinese benefit”, “Special incentives to Chinese companies in sheer violation of law”, “Pakistan industry will be eroded and replaced by Chinese industry”, “Chinese people are intensively buying Pakistan land under ulterior motives”, “Chinese government is not good with Muslims,” “China will enslave Pakistani people economically sooner or later” and “Pakistan should be outsourced to China.”

Undoubtedly, these poisonous perceptions are untrue, concocted and groundless. They are full of fabrication designed to pollute the public mindset.

There is dire need of hour to ignite a new sense of public diplomacy to make a real difference. Under exchange programs those visiting China should be introduced with Chinese governance system and its mechanism. People are required to enlighten that Chinese system has its own SOPs to run the country and deal with economy within and outside the countries.

The system should never be compared and judged keeping in view other system being run in Europe and West. Chinese Socialism and West Democracy have their own beauties and both may coexist but can never be superseded by each other.

Sense of freedom of expression, people’s rights, religion and sovereignty varies system to system. Chinese system and Western system have their unique but different natural traits.

Pakistan follows Western democracies. But will Pakistan afford to allow LGBT rights like in western democratic system as LGBT rights are characterized as part of people’s fundamental rights.

Pakistani people should also be introduced with Chinese economic and trade system, so that misgivings on transparency may be faded out. Most of people do not know success stories in Africa, South Asia, South East Asia, Europe even in America. People are not abreast of situation how China is promoting transparency, financial discipline and transforming the lives of people without eroding their sovereignty.

China policy to live with peace without hurting any countries’ religion, social fabric, cultural norms, political dispensation, economic approaches and territorial boundaries should be highlighted and made be part of briefing.

It is convincing to note that CPEC has already unleashed people-to-people diplomacy by opening up new chapter of friendship.

The two-day China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Cultural Caravan Festival marked a new beginning of deep linkage between both brethren countries. Traditional drum beat, fashion shows, photo exhibitions, documentary screenings and cultural performances warmed up people’s hearts. A series of books, research reports, and photomontages by filmmakers helped Pakistani and Chinese people to understand each other diverse culture, living styles and social perspective.

In February, 2018, Pakistan and China inked a cultural cooperation agreement to help learn each other heritage and culture.

Under student exchange programs and various scholarships offered by China, size of Pakistan student studying in China is growing day by day. Perhaps total number has crossed the figure of 22,000. Around 3,000 students are nearing to complete their PhD degrees. Rest are seeking education in engineering, economics, management, agriculture, medicine, information technology, communication and language.

After CPEC became a reality triggering people to people contact and linkage, Pakistan saw a bustling trend to learn Chinese language by Pakistani youth even businessmen. With the announcement by Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA) that CPEC needs around 40 thousand Chinese Language interpreters, Chinese language has become a new sensation among the youth

In order to make things happen, TEVTA has already started Chinese Language courses at 24 out of 36 district of Punjab. One reason for the trend is the friendly image of China in the minds of the common people. In July 2013, Pew Research Center, as part of its Global Attitudes Project, declared that 81 per cent Pakistanis had a favourable approach towards China.

China offers around 500 scholarships to Pakistani students in a year. The Ministry of Commerce predicts the CPEC shall create 700,000 direct jobs and that those who are well-versed in Mandarin shall enjoy great dividends. Meanwhile Government College University (GCU), University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Punjab University (PU), Kinnaird College for Women University (KCWU), TEVTA, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Management and Professional Development Department (MPDD) have opened up Chinese language centres. Confucius Institutes have also been set up at the PU and the Agriculture University Faisalabad.

Today, PTI government’s main concern is to channelise CPEC to equip Pakistani manpower and labour with latest skills and high-tech industrial knowledge. Premier Iman Khan has added this agenda into its most important China visit in early week of November, 2018.

In a latest development, China and Pakistan planned for exchanges between the two sides’ legislative organs under CPEC blessings. It will aim to foster friendly exchanges for decision makers build the public opinion. The exchanges will help Pakistan lawmakers to learn the experiences from China in the fields such as state governance, anti-corruption and vocational education.

Pakistan and China People-to-people diplomacy has deep roots in past. It got underway when both governments signed The Cultural Cooperation Agreement between Pakistan and China on March 25, 1965. Now CPEC is new catalyst allowing both countries to cement their ties in every field of life. So, let people-to-people diplomacy play its pivotal role so that none of qualm against each other finds any space in the minds and hearts of people of both countries.

 

The writer is a senior journalist working for China Today and China Radio International. He also contributes to national mainstreams newspapers on economy, international relation and human rights. He is a fellow of ICFJ.

 yaseerkhan@hotmail.com

@yasirkhann