Narrative Building China Pakistan Economic Corridor Pakistan My Country
Zainab Nawaz Abbasi
From the start of 21st century, Pakistan faced numerous challenges either economic, political or security. Being a frontline state in global war on terror, it caused Pakistan to drain its economy to serve the interest of the super power of that time, US. Extremism increased in Pakistan, once it started participating in GWOT resultantly it faced thousands of terrorist attacks killing civilians and destroying infrastructure. States, who wished to invest in Pakistan, backed off due to the instability at the national level. Pakistan struggled hard to come out from the state of fiasco and proceed to the road of development.
Although not complete but partial success has been achieved by the state to counter challenges and there is a need to do more to come out of this transitional phase. In this process, the initiative taken by China to invest 60billion US dollars in CPEC, a pivot of OBOR, is huge opportunity for Pakistan to serve not only its national but foreign policy interests as well. This idea needs to be promoted at national, regional and international level to get practical realization of CPEC fulfilled.
Narrative building regarding CPEC.
In international relations, states always give priority to the national interest over everything. Pakistan needs to understand that if China is investing, it will of course serve Chinese interests but also Pakistan’s as well. China Pakistan Economic Corridor is of crucial importance for Pakistan to improve its image worldwide by attracting foreign investment and taking the lead in the region economically.
The situation cannot be idealistic therefore there is need to cooperate and compromise at certain level from both sides to attain bigger goal. Since the day when the idea of constructing the economic corridor from Xinjiang to Gawadar made headlines, narrative building regarding CPEC took the grounds. In order to get fruits of CPEC, there is need to disseminate a narrative which is based on facts, figures, and truth fullness.
There are multiple channels to spread the narrative but the role of media is important. Today mainstream media along with print and social media is major source of communication for people belonging to any class. In media, any governmental policy receives appreciation as well as criticism if it requires but sometimes a baseless and false criticism has also been faced. CPEC, when one side is appreciated all over the country, also has been criticized by identifying flaws and loopholes within it, either genuine or not.
Opposition of CPEC: Myth or reality.
At the international level, US, once a super power of the unipolar world is facing threat economically from the China. Therefore there is contest of ideologies between the two great powers where US promotes zero sum game and China is a determinant of win-win cooperation. Particularly, in order to counter China and its rise, US is continuing is meaningless presence in Afghanistan and making alliance with India while ignoring Pakistan. Western media is critical of OBOR of which CPEC is a major component, and claiming that Chinese rise is not peaceful.
Different articles have been published worldwide to propagate false ambitions of China in the Asian region. At the regional level, India is also making a mistake by criticizing CPEC and aligning with west in sabotaging CPEC. Its involvement in Afghanistan is also making things complicated. However, the opposition is not limited to above mentioned levels. At National level, Chinese investment has been compared with East India Company and its investment is depicted as a threat to Pakistan’s economy, due to increase in debt and threat to culture. Insurgency and ethnic conflicts in Baluchistan are increasing with the assistance of Indian Agency RAW. Some elements are calling CPEC as China Punjab Ec. Corridor, creating further gaps between provinces.
Not every picture shown at these three levels is based on reality. There exist several myths as well. For example as US is afraid of Chinese, there is one thing that needs clarification. Unlike many great powers of today’s century as well as previous centuries, China is a state who achieved the status of great power without defeating any opponent in the war. It rose to power through sheer hard work and struggle of its leaders like Mao Zedong, Deng and its people. This evidence is clear to nullify US claim that Chinese rise is not peaceful which actually is peaceful.
Secondly, Unlike US, China doesn’t grab the whole piece of cake. Rather it believes on cooperation and mutual benefit. So India instead of making attempts to create and disturb this mega project, needs to add its support to achieve advantages from it. CPEC is not going to benefit China and Pakistan only but to the whole region. India should realize that it is a golden opportunity to eliminate the differences and move together on the path of success.
It will create interdependence between India and Pakistan which in longer run, will help both the traditionally hostile states to find solutions to the prevailing problems like Kashmir issue. Another myth which is created is labeling Chinese investment as East India company, whereas history gives us the evidences that colonizing any state has never been in the foreign policy of China. It has never colonized any state like the west used to do. At the provincial level in Pakistan, there do exist some genuine grievances of people but the hype is created by India by supporting many insurgent groups in Baluchistan. Reality is that CPEC is not just for one province but for the whole country. No single province can own this project because it will equally benefit people belonging to any province or ethnic group.
Three pronged strategy for communication regarding CPEC:
Print media has been source of news and information for many years. In the age of electronic and social media, newspapers still did not lose its essence. There are many people who rely on newspaper on the daily basis and gave it preference over face book or television to remain updated. So an effective use of print media can be made by writing articles to support CPEC and by challenging the myths.
If we write positive or negative about CPEC, which indeed will make Pakistan an economic hub, people will get influenced by it. So not just a small area but more pages should be dedicated to the writings and pictures which can depict positive aspects of CPEC to show the benefits and prospects it would bring to our country. Writings should be based on facts and figures along with simple words so that a reader belonging to any group can grasp easily. Newspapers with global reach should be more careful in whatever they publish.
More writings should be published which can unite the institutions and provinces and also which can inculcate nationalism in the people. Articles or columns which are adding fears in the mind of people by creating myths without having any logic and reality should be challenged as soon as possible.
When a reader will read more and more about advantages of CPEC, they will build a narrative and their mind will automatically not accept any fabricated news. This all will help in molding public opinion in favor of CPEC which eventually will bring prosperity to Pakistan without any doubt. Genuine concerns presented in any piece of writing should also be acknowledged by forwarding them to the government so that if any province or people belonging to any area are facing problems, they get addressed immediately.
Electronic media is a strong tool to show the real picture of CPEC to all amd especially to the people whose minds are filled only with the negative aspects of it based on myths. There is a need to do more talk shows on CPEC in which professional and authentic scholars and researchers should be invited to enlighten the public with what actually CPEC can do for our betterment. Anchors and journalist should be given training on how to create, sell and justify a narrative regarding CPEC based on reality.
They should be assisted by the government to visit the construction of the corridor and present documentaries on it. Different paid adds promoting CPEC need to be delivered during the break time from any show to create an impact. As many channels have global influence, any negative news about CPEC is quickly picked up by India or West to further endorse it by creating and selling negative narrative about CPEC. Electronic media should be unbiased without having any linkages to the elements which cannot see Pakistan to stand independently and fiercely.
Use of social media is very quick and frequent these days. If anyone is not connected to the current affairs via electronic or print media, he or she is certainly associated to it through social media. In order to strengthen the idea of China Pakistan Economic Corridor, there can be created multiple pages presenting images and short clips to show how the future of Pakistan will look. Through social media, groups can be made in order to organize conferences with the purpose to tell our youth how they can benefit from this cooperation between China and Pakistan.
Pages regarding information about scholarship programs to China should be promoted so that students get help in shaping their own future. Any content trying to spread negativity and hatred among people which hinders Pakistan’s progress, should be reported and blocked.
Adding fuel to fire, our media is also busy in promoting negative aspects of CPEC, further infuriating the public and their mindset. As approach to media has become convenient, so it has got easy to influence public whether positively or negatively.
It is evident that CPEC will transform the economy of Pakistan because it is not focused entirely on building roads and bridges but on opening new avenues through Chinese investment in different sectors. Yet unfortunately, it has been the victim of critics who use false data and logics to misguide the public to create obstacles in the smooth progress of CPEC. It is mainly because our government has failed to identify its national interests.
Political parties in government and opposition are busy in leg pulling that they forget to shape national and foreign policy of Pakistan. Corruption is creating hurdles in materializing the Chinese investment in the best possible way. Moreover, as approach to media has become convenient, so it has got easy to influence public whether positively or negatively. Pakistan’s electronic media is only showing day to day fights between political leaders.
Sometimes irrelevant news get so hype that the real issues that are needed to be discussed get sidelined. There are hardly any programs or talk shows done on regular basis with the aim to discuss CPEC or foreign policy goals. Adding fuel to fire, our media is also busy in promoting negative aspects of CPEC, further infuriating the public and their mindset.
Our print media on the part to promote CPEC has failed. There are more numbers of articles and opinions get publication which write negative about CPEC. They write more only to highlight problems faced by people after this project has started.
It is also a failure of our educational system for being unable to infuse nationalism in our youth that is why they get easily distracted by Anti-CPEC talks. There is no doubt that every media should act neutral which doesn’t mean to display only positive picture but that too doesn’t mean to show only bad picture of CPEC so a balance is required. In today’s world, media is playing a major role in defining a state’s image. The way India is succeeding in portraying their positive and peaceful image through media to the world, Pakistan failed to do so. We also need to make use of this soft power to attract foreign investment.
Pakistan should be thankful to China who being an only state to take the step of investing in Pakistan when other countries were taking their money out from there. Gawadar was still there years ago and its depth was still the same, yet nobody came to transform the fate of Pakistan. Indeed it is the failure of our government and media to sell and strengthen a narrative supporting CPEC but people who criticize and believe in these criticism fail to realize that how much Pakistan was in economically struggling phase when China came with this idea of economic corridor.
The west has already disowned us inspite of what we did for them. FDI is always what states from global south wait for desperately. Pakistan should take the full advantage of it by taking its populace on board. Strong public support from Pakistan’s side will also increase Chinese willingness to work for more mutual benefit.
The author is a graduate in International Relations from National Defense University and currently attached with CPEC center of excellence.
Narrative Building China Pakistan Economic Corridor Pakistan My Country