by Mian Saifur Rehman
The Chinese are a very clear-headed people who believe in a futuristic approach with a firm faith in their destiny. I have not seen a single Chinese national in ‘praise of idleness,’ whether he hails from the masses or to the leadership cadre. What I really mean to say that I have not come across any Chinese individual who is not contributing towards national economic growth.
I have been to this wonderful country four times so far. The first visit was at the time when Syed Yusuf Raza Gillani was in the saddle as the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. Those were the days when we attended the Bo’ao Conference, not very far from the globally famous Shimei Bay Beach that is known worldwide as the Hawaii of China, with tourists coming to this scenic, coastal spot in China in large numbers. It was in 2012 when we attended the Bo’ao Forum meeting and there we saw the unprecedented hospitality of our Chinese hosts who gave us a lot of attention and care which made us comfortable despite the language barrier.
In the following years, however, this language barrier has never been a problem. I remember when the former Chinese ambassador to Pakistan, Mr Sun Weidong, paid a visit to our newspaper’s office in the Pakistani city of Lahore, he spoke excellent English with fluency and confidence. But more inspiring has been the clear-headedness of Chinese diplomats and functionaries who are committed to the promotion of their top leaders’ idea of ‘shared prosperity’ and ‘win-win’ strategy. I am of the opinion that, besides other factors, the main factor that underlies China’s colossal growth is this idea of shared prosperity which, along with the win-win strategy, has transformed China into a likable entity that flourishes on the theme of ‘peaceful co-existence.’ This theme is a rather efficacious antidote to hegemonic ways that have created cleavages and schisms in the fabric of world peace.
This theory of peaceful coexistence rebounded in the same year, 2012, when five journalists from Pakistan and three from Afghanistan, including myself, visited China on the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). It was a variegated tour, full of events and activities. What, however, was more inspiring, was our meeting with Dong Manyuan, the then Vice President of the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS). His grasp of international affairs, more so of Pakistan’s socio-cultural as well as economic patterns and developments, was marvelous. We all learned a lot during that brief interaction which was also attended by the Afghan ambassador to China. Dong Manyuan had tremendous insight into the undercurrents of regional politics in general and Pakistani politics in particular.
The same level of understanding was also present in the other CIIS functionaries who were well equipped with knowledge about international developments. This highlights the story behind Chinese leaders’ excellent strategic thinking whose entire premise stands on the ‘knowledge is power’ edifice. This intelligent application of mind is quite visible in almost all the spheres of activity in China, be it agriculture, commerce and trade, industrial development, metallurgy, science and technology or the most critical sphere of governance and administration. I remember when some of us visited the agricultural and fish farms in China, scientists were given the honor which is usually accorded to heads of governments. The marvelous growth in the agriculture sector with the development of hybrid seeds and many other innovations mainly owes to this factor. China has achieved unprecedented success in developing weather-resistant crops, especially crops necessary to fulfill dietary requirements. They simply state that feeding a population of 1.4 billion would have been impossible without innovations in the field of agriculture.
The third time, our visit to China was organized by the office of China’s Consul-General at Lahore which extended the invitation to a group of senior journalists, in 2017. The moment we landed at Beijing airport, we were warmly welcomed by a group of Chinese friends led by an Urdu-speaking Chinese lady who introduced herself as Tahira, a name acquired to give a feeling of familiarity, otherwise her Chinese name was Yei Fang and was an employee of CRI (China Radio International). She had studied in a Pakistani university, with a Masters in Urdu language. The tour was full of learning and fun as we also happened to visit the world-famous Forbidden City and a Shaolin temple. Most of my colleagues felt quite comfortable with Tahira’s communication in Urdu. Yet more comfort came our way with the timely arrangement of Halal food in almost every city of China that we visited. The most wonderful place that we visited during that tour was Shanghai. Most advanced cities of the world are dwarfed by its immense development and its fast-track expansion. At some places, the skyscrapers gave me the feel as if I were in Manhattan, USA. We traveled to Shanghai from Beijing through HSR (High Speed Rail) which we commonly call Bullet Train.
The fourth visit took place recently, in June 2019. I will discuss it in my next column. One word about the unique functioning of China’s ruling party; during the 2017 tour, I asked questions about the functioning of the Communist Party of China. I was amazed to know that is the hub of wisdom which emanates from top to bottom and vice versa, drawing knowledge and wisdom even from the lowest strata of the society. Even an ordinary peasant, a laborer or an ordinary factory worker is treated as an important source of guidance and improvement.
Actually, this input from the lowest rung to the highest echelons of society forms the basis of decision-making at the top level in the government. It is unique in the sense that the system over there is different from the systems of governance in many parts of the world but the system in place in China is no less participatory and representative than any other in the outside world. The results are before us: apart from having a powerful say in global affairs, China has become the second biggest economy of the world although, in real terms, it is the biggest economy of the world, given the fact that China is unburdened from paying off large amounts of foreign debt, compared with the United States of America that is under massive amounts of debt.
Mian Saifur Rehman, a senior English journalist who has visited China on several occasions