Cautiously terming the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) a ‘total reshuffle of cards’, president of the Asia Centre, a research institute in France, Dr Jean-Francois Di Meglio comprehensively spoke about the tectonic shifts that had taken place in the historical Silk road region.
He was speaking at a seminar on China’s regional realignments, titled ‘The economic, strategic and environmental consequences of the new silk roads’, at the University of Karachi’s (KU) Area Study Centre for Europe, on Wednesday.
Dr Meglio sketched an interesting timeline of the Chinese global ambitions, so much so, it felt as if the researcher had read the minds of Chinese policy makers. He articulated Europe’s scepticism towards Chinese aspirations in West Asia.
In his view, China was reversing the direction of history since the flow of commercial traffic, which had hitherto moved from the West to East, was now destined to move in the opposite direction. This, Dr Di Meglio stated, would have massive geostrategic implications. “The former Soviet republics in Central Asia would like to further deepen their already rigorous ties with China, though they remain on their guard given the leverage Russia enjoys over them.”
He drew the audience’s attention towards the symbolism of Chinese geopolitical recalibrations and hypothesised that 2013 was a watershed moment for Beijing’s policy makers.
The researcher pointed out that it was the 35th year of China’s economic restructuring that began under Deng Xiaoping. Moreover, considering 2013 as the starting point, the next 35 years would see major shifts in China’s policies, he added.
“Hong Kong would have completed its transitory period in which it was allowed to operate outside of traditional Chinese Communist power structures. It would be the century of one-party rule.” With respect to Chinese infrastructure investment in Pakistan, in the embodiment of CPEC, he termed the project a ‘geopolitical game changer for Pakistan’. According to the researcher, the project only ‘reinforces the strategic position of Pakistan’.
He lamented his fellow European’s ignorance when it came to geographical significance the country carried.
However, mounting Chinese monetary investment should not be seen as charity, and that not only did China desire peace on its frontiers, it also sought socio-political stability in neighbourly states, he warned.
Dr Di Meglio quickly dispelled speculation that China would like to control the levers of global order. His reason being that arrogance of strength had always been abhorred by the Chinese. “They prefer a multilateral world. The establishment of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was largely in response to Asian Development Bank to smoothen the flow of capital to finance communication networks.”
ASCE Director Prof Dr Uzma Shujaat while briefly illustrating China’s tilt towards South Asia highlighted that China feared having its trade caravans blocked in case of a conflagration around the Strait of Malacca.
The audience engaged itself in a fruitful exchange of views when the floor was opened for a question and answer session.
Responding to the question regarding implications of greater Tokyo-Moscow collaboration in the wake of growing Chinese activity in Russia’s backyard, Dr Di Meglio recalled Sino-Russian tensions during the period of the Cold War.
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