It was an ill-fated spring for the Wuhan city residents of China. All the festival preparations were at their peak. People were returning to their hometowns to celebrate the Spring Festival and meet their loved ones. Houses, streets and markets were all being decorated. Children were anxiously waiting for the gifts they would receive and looking forward to enjoying their long holidays. But suddenly, the country was struck with COVID-19, the novel coronavirus which started spreading in the second week of January 2020. At once all the festivities came to a halt. Measures had to be taken that could help control the spread which compelled the government to announce a complete lockdown in Wuhan city on January 23, 2020. They asked people to stay at home and follow the state’s instructions. China implemented a comprehensive response without any ifs and buts which helped it contain the spread of COVID-19 at domestic and international levels.
Pakistan, being an iron brother, left no stone unturned to counter the negative propaganda against China. The most heartening aspect was that the campaign was led by the people of Pakistan, which reflects the strength of this relationship. The people of Pakistan sent supplies to China and also prayed for its success against COVID-19.
Regrettably, the efforts of China were not recognized at international level and were criticized by the West in one way or the other. Instead of extending their cooperation, these countries used this incident to malign China. The worst part of the story is that it was done purposefully. Western countries led by the U.S. wanted to use the incident to contain China by erecting multiple speed breakers. Fortunately, the friends of China did not leave China alone and asked the world to acknowledge its efforts. Pakistan, being an iron brother, left no stone unturned to counter the negative propaganda against China. The most heartening aspect was that the campaign was led by the people of Pakistan, which reflects the strength of this relationship. The people of Pakistan sent supplies to China and also prayed for its success against COVID-19.
The government of Pakistan also stood firmly with the Chinese people and government. Prime Minister Imran Khan called President Xi to show solidarity. The President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi made a special visit to China in March, and met with President Xi. It was a strong signal to the world that China has overcome COVID-19. Pakistan was also among the first countries to send supplies to China and tried to offer what it had at that time.
In a nutshell, China fought COVID-19 with a brave heart, Sun Tzu strategy, Confucius’ wisdom and Tao’s belief. The friends of China, including Pakistan, firmly stood beside it. Rather, being its ‘iron brother’ Pakistan offered all its resources to China that has contained the spread of coronavirus. It was not any easy task, but China made it happen with tireless efforts and generous spending of its government. However, the most important factor of success is the wisdom of the leadership of China’s Communist Party. The Secretary General and entire leadership worked round-the-clock to ensure the safety of their people.
However, China is also cognizant of the fact that some friends put all their efforts to stand by China during the testing times. China is now utilizing all its resources to reciprocate the good gesture of its friends which are battling against the COVID-19 crisis, and Pakistan is one of them. Although China is helping countries across the world but its dealing with Pakistan is entirely different from the rest of the world. Following are the distinct features of Chinese help offered to Pakistan:
• Most of supplies to Pakistan fall in the category of assistance.
• All sections of the Chinese society, including people, private companies, government, party, and PLA are a part of these efforts.
• Economic activity in the form of CPEC and other initiatives also continue.
• Voice for Pakistan at G-20 for concessions in loans and debts.
We can say China’s assistance to Pakistan is a comprehensive and generous package. President Xi Jinping himself is leading the efforts and making sure that Pakistan receives all the supplies on time. President Xi sent a special team of doctors to build the capacity of Pakistani doctors to fight COVID-19. The important thing to note here that is the team of doctors visited Pakistan on special orders of the President. It is also providing supplies, including ventilators, masks and other stuff without putting additional burden on Pakistan. According to the Government of Pakistan, China has provided us with assistance as follows:
• 390 ventilators.
• 330,000 testing kits.
• 830,000 N95 masks.
• 5.8 million surgical masks.
• China is also trying to fulfil the need for protective tools for medical staff. It has provided 42,000 protective suits, and millions of other PPEs.
• Given USD 4 million to build a specialized hospital in Pakistan.
Private companies in China are also contributing generously. Jack Ma Foundation has donated 500,000 masks and a good number of ventilators. Huawei Pakistan has offered high-tech video conference system to Pakistan, which is a useful assistance to improve coordination and the coordination mechanisms at the national level. China Overseas Port Holding Company Pakistan (COPHC) is helping thousands of people in Balochistan. COPHC is even providing food to the most vulnerable segments of society in addition to medical supplies. Haier Pakistan has donated masks and protective gears and other essential items to Government of Pakistan and KP government separately. Haier, in collaboration with Zalmi group, is also engaged in distributing essential items, including food, among thousands of families. It is also assisting Pakistan and UNHRC to help Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Three Gorges Corporation has donated 750,000 surgical masks, ventilators and protection gowns. It is the biggest donation by any foreign company. Moreover, a good number of industries, businesses, chambers and even people are trying to assist Pakistan.
China is now utilizing all its resources to reciprocate the good gesture of its friends which are battling against the COVID-19 crisis, and Pakistan is one of them. Although China is helping countries across the world but its dealing with Pakistan is entirely different from the rest of the world.
It is heartening to note that Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) has also come forward to assist Pakistan. It is unusual because most of the time PLA avoids direct engagement with other countries. Though, China and its organs of state are always ready to help Pakistan and take relations to new heights. PLA sent a good quantity of medical supplies, including masks, N95 masks and protective suits. Supplies were delivered by a Major-General of PLA, which shows the level of seriousness. PLA also sent a dedicated team of doctors to assist Pakistani doctors.
China is also trying to help Pakistan on the economic front. China has made sure that, first of all, CPEC related projects should not be impacted by COVID-19 at any cost. Although opponents of CPEC have launched a smear campaign against this mega project, Pakistan and China are paying no heed to the campaign. Opponents first propagated that workers at CPEC projects will be the source of spread of COVID-19. They were proven wrong due to the extra protective measures taken by China. The failure on this front compelled the opponents to move on to spread fake news on the progress of CPEC projects. This was also proved wrong, as the pace of work was not impacted by COVID-19. China had made special efforts to maintain the pace of work. It has instructed all companies to maintain the pace and there would be no compromise on the quality and speed of work. The official website of CPEC shows that the work is going on smoothly. CPEC Authority is also reporting that CPEC projects are going on as per the usual order of business and there is no impact of COVID-19 on CPEC.
President Xi Jinping himself is leading the efforts and making sure that Pakistan receives all the supplies on time. President Xi sent a special team of doctors to build the capacity of Pakistani doctors to fight COVID-19.
Contrary to the propaganda, China has offered Pakistan to expand the scope and work of CPEC. It is evident from the signing of two new MoUs (Agriculture, and Science & Technology) during the visit of President of Pakistan. Both MoUs have great relevance and critical importance for Pakistan. Presently, Pakistan is struggling to reform its agriculture sector according to the future needs. The MoU on agriculture can assist Pakistan in benefitting from China’s experience. The MoU on Science and Technology has future relevance as it will help Pakistan to be prepared for the fourth industrial revolution. Although the visit was a show of solidarity but both countries also used it to mitigate the propaganda against CPEC by expanding the scope of work under CPEC.
Pakistan and China are also discussing to devise tools to speed up economic cooperation after COVID-19. Post COVID-19 period will be very complicated, and it will present an entirely new set of challenges for Pakistan. The situation will be further complicated as main export destinations of Pakistan such as U.S., UK, Germany, etc. are under a severe attack of COVID-19. It will have a severe impact on Pakistan’s export and economy. Pakistan will be in need to identify new markets and diversify its export basket. Pakistan and China can use this situation to enhance trade, especially for food products. It would be a win-win situation for both countries, and Pakistan will earn foreign exchange and China can get a good deal on its food import.
China is also trying to help Pakistan on the economic front. China has made sure that, first of all, CPEC related projects should not be impacted by COVID-19 at any cost. Although opponents of CPEC have launched a smear campaign against this mega project, Pakistan and China are paying no heed to the campaign.
The lobbying at G-20 meeting is another evidence of Chinese support on the economic front. China raised the issue of debt re-scheduling and relaxation at G-20. It helped Pakistan get some relaxation in debt payment.
In conclusion, we can say that Pakistan and China’s relationship is immune to any type of externalities and hardships. Both countries always stand by each other no matter what the situation is. China and Pakistan always look for avenues to assist each other. History tells us that difficult times further strengthen the bilateral relationship. It has strengthened the notion of iron brotherhood and shows the true bond between the two which is beyond the comprehension of the world.
The writer is Director, China Study Center, SDPI and also teaches digital diplomacy, negotiation skills and conflict transformation at Foreign Services Academy.
E-mail: [email protected]
Read 56 times