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October 10, 2019

The Chinese equation


October 10, 2019

Prime Minister Imran Khan is on a three-day visit to China, mainly to meet President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. Imran is probably also hoping to bring up the Kashmir issue with the Chinese and build more world support for their cause. Lately, there has been some success in this, with two American senators, including presidential nominee Bernie Sanders, speaking up for the Kashmiris and against the abrogation of Article 370, and the need to protect their rights. These small gains may build momentum. President Xi will be holding a summit with Indian Prime Minister Modi in a few days and the Pakistan team would obviously wish to influence him for this purpose.

Imran is also anxious to explore further investment with China. China has been traditionally one of the biggest investors in Pakistan in terms of roads and other infrastructure projects, but this investment has slowed down over the past year by over 70 percent. Naturally, this will be a concern for the PTI administration. What it needs most desperately now is foreign investment and economic revival. We wait to see what the prime minister can achieve during his dialogue with the Chinese.

Other areas of mutual cooperation are also being discussed. Imran has spoken at a number of forums in China about Pakistan’s desire to emulate the country. Previously he had mentioned the elimination of poverty that China had achieved over the last seven decades. This time, while addressing a trade event in Beijing, he said that he wished he had the freedom that existed in China to jail 500 politicians for corruption. We wonder if that is the best sentiment coming from a prime minister speaking at another country. On Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, China finishes at 87th place out of a list of 180 countries. At the very top of the list is Denmark, followed by New Zealand and then Finland. It seems democracies that work well also have the greater success in countering corruption. Imran and his government need to study these nations. We certainly hope Pakistan’s delegation is successful in persuading China to pressurise India and other Asian neighbours on the matter of Kashmir. But we also hope we find many different models to emulate when dealing with an issue like corruption, which is raising more and more controversy at home.

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