Tuesday, August 30, 2016

China's long term 'public diplomacy' in Pakistan

S.C. Kohli, "China's long term 'public diplomacy' in Pakistan," merinews.com

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China has been pursuing an aggressive 'public diplomacy' in Pakistan since early days of its bilateral relations with the latter. Policy of 'public diplomacy' is being pursued by China essentially to seek its national interests by influencing Pakistani people through government sponsored cultural and academic programmes and regular interaction with Pakistani youth by encouraging them to learn Chinese (Mandarin) language.

Enormous funds are being spent by China on academic infrastructure in Pakistan and China for Pakistani youth to facilitate them in learning Chinese (Mandarin) language. China has been following this policy so successfully in guise of bilateral cultural relations that majority of educated Pakistani youth now gives Chinese language a priority in their academic life for their future career as well as to receive higher education in China.

Pakistan and China extol themselves being 'perfect partners' in Asia. They are gleefully unison in their bilateral relations varying from defense to cultural affairs since establishment of their diplomatic relations on May 21, 1951. China always encouraged people to people contacts between the two countries as a part of its aggressive 'public diplomacy' policy to establish its foothold in Pakistan for achieving its long term strategical and economic goals beyond the region since early years of relations with Pakistan.

For this, China has been constantly engaging Pakistan, at various bilateral levels through institutional mechanisms, primarily to woo youth of Pakistan by offering them incentives and modern day facilities to learn Chinese language (Mandarin) in Pakistan and China.

China gave utmost importance to cultural relations with Pakistan since early 50s beginning with the era of Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier and the then Foreign Minister Zhuo Enlai. It was in November 1955, when the first ever Chinese women's goodwill official delegation from Peking, now Beijing, had visited Pakistan at the invitation of the All-Pakistan Women's Association (APWA). Since then cultural delegations from various walks of life of both the countries started visiting each other's countries, regularly.

China is also maintaining direct contact with people of Pakistan through friendship associations of both the countries viz. Pakistan-China Friendship Association (PCFA) and the China-Pakistan Friendship Association (CPFA) in Pakistan and China respectively.

Subsequently, on 25 March 1965, China-Pakistan Cultural Agreement was signed, which further facilitated visits of high level cultural delegations between the two countries. Later in April 2006, China and Pakistan decided to establish Pakistan Study Centers at the Peking University and the Sichuan University.

Academic collaboration between leading Pakistani and Chinese academic institutions also begun, such as between the Punjab University and Sichuan University, Chinese Foreign Affairs University and the Foreign Service Academy of Pakistan and the Communist Party of China (CPC) School and the National Defense University of Pakistan. Later in 2008 and 2009, the Pakistan Culture and Communication Center was established at Tsinghua University and a Pakistan Study Centre at Fudan University, Shanghai, in 2009, respectively.

Earlier in 2007, the five years long bilateral 'Youth Exchange Programme' was also launched and 500 Pakistanis and Chinese each were invited to visit China and Pakistan respectively. Chinese language is also being taught in various private schools of Pakistan especially in arrangement with Pakistan-China Institute (PCI)- a non-political think tank, which was launched in Islamabad in October 2009 under the Chairmanship of Senator Mushahid Hussain.

Significantly, President Xi Jinping's first ever visit to Pakistan in April 2015, further gave boost to China's 'public diplomacy' in Pakistan. During President Xi's visit, a total of 51 Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) were signed in different fields and among them were on NUML Pakistan and Xinjiang Normal University, Urumqi China for Cooperation on Higher Education; collaboration on establishment of NUML International Center of education (NICE) between NUML Pakistan; and Xinjiang Normal University, Urumqi, China and establishment of the Chinese Cultural Centre in Islamabad.

Notably, China has been using study of Chinese language (Mandarin) by Pakistani youth as an effective devise to expand its influence in Pakistan. Every year 200 new as well already studying Pakistani students in China are being provided scholarships under Chinese Government Scholarship Bilateral Program.

Meanwhile, for 2016-17, China Scholarship Council has awarded Chinese Government Scholarship to 131 new Pakistani students, of whom 107 are recommended by the Ministry of Inter-provincial Coordination of Pakistan. The Chinese Government Scholarship programme is a government-to-government undertaking, and aimed at benefiting all provinces and the students of Pakistan including from small cities like Gwadar, Gujranwala, Kamalia, Multan, Swat, Mingora, Sargodha, and Dera Ismail Khan.

The first ever Urdu-Chinese dictionary was compiled by Professor Kong Julan, of Beijing University and was launched in 2014 in Fudan University in Shanghai.

Since September 2014, China has also increased scholarships stipend money for Pakistani students. Undergraduate students are paid 66,200 Yuan ($10,660) per year, those pursuing master's degree get 79,200 Yuan and PhD students are paid 99,800 Yuan per year.

Chinese universities have also been attracting a large number of private Pakistani students. According to statistics released by the China's Ministry of Education in mid-April, there were 397,635 international students from 202 countries and regions around the world studying in China in 2015, a 5.46 per cent increase over 2014.

Out of which it is estimated that in 2013, over 8,000 Pakistani students were studying in various universities in China. While only in Xinjiang there were about 500 Pakistani students, there were also 5,000 Pakistani medical students studying in various Chinese universities.

6,000 Chinese students in Pakistan were also studying. Meanwhile, Pakistani teachers in Chinese languages are also being trained regularly by the China government. In 2015, 150 Pakistani teachers were sent to China and 60 Chinese teachers had visited Pakistan.

Chinese language is being taught across the Pakistani from school to university levels. China has sponsored 27 leading teaching centers at various levels across the Pakistan and over 7000 students are being taught Chinese language in a number of colleges, universities and languages institutes.

In this regard, Islamabad-based the National University of Modern Languages (NUML) is the leading Pakistani university, which provides Chinese language training facilities to civilians as well as Pakistan's armed forces and civil organizations and departments of Pakistan government, in collaboration with China.

NUML's other campuses located at Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Quetta, Hyderbad and Karachi are also providing training in Chinese language at different levels. The Chinese Language Council International also set up three 'Confucius Institute' in NUML, Islamabad in 2005, University of Karachi in 2012, and at the University of Faisalabad in 2015 to promote Chinese language and culture and have more and more interaction with the people of Pakistan.

In 2013, a China Study Centre was also established at COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) Islamabad, which is the prime public research university in Pakistan.

Since China shares long standing military relations with Pakistan, Chinese language is also being taught to Pakistani forces at different levels and for specific requirements. Chinese language is being taught at Pakistan Navy's Bahria University at Karachi, Pakistan Cadet Colleges at Hasanabdal, near Rawalpindi (Punab) and at Petaro, in district Jamshoro in Sindh province as a regular course.

Pakistan's provincial governments, particularly Punjab and Sindh have also been encouraging their youth to learn Chinese language at different levels. In Sindh, the provincial government had announced (September 5, 2011) its plans to make Chinese language compulsory in schools from class six by 2013 and had approved (April 2013) Rs (Pak) 625 million for this purpose.

The plan, however, could not be implemented due to some "technical reasons" by 2013. Later, this plan was revived when the Sindh government signed (Karachi, May 25, 2015) a "technical accord" with Chinese education department of Sichuan province of seeking cooperation in teaching the Chinese language in schools of Sindh by next three years.

In Punjab (Pakistan), the Technical Education and Training Authority is running a 3 month free language courses to learn Chinese in major cities of the province. In November 2014, a Centre of Excellence for China Studies was also inaugurated at the Government College University (GCU) in Lahore.

Later, in 2015, the Punjab (Pakistan) government also decided to send 500 persons to China to learn Chinese on fully funded scholarships. Meanwhile, Lahore based Punjab Jiangsu Cultural Centre, which is the first Chinese Cultural Centre in Pakistan has also been providing training in Chinese language.

In Baluchistan, government was making arrangements to teach Chinese language in the province and in October five high schools teachers from Gwadar were sent to Karamay, in Xinjiang in mid-2015 for five months training in Chinese language and teaching skills.

Meanwhile, Pakistani youth, particularly from middle class is setting sight on Chinese language and education to brighten its employment prospects as already over 300 Chinese companies are working in various industries in Pakistan. Number of the Chinese companies in Pakistan is bound to increase many fold with the implementation of US $46 billion worth China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by 2025 and beyond that.

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