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Monday, December 10, 2018
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Fear of Chinese imperialism rising in Pakistan
-- Allabaksh
There is a growing fear of Chinese imperialism in Pakistan. What is worrying people are not only the Chinese taking over the economic space in Pakistan but also the real possibility of their culture being overwhelmed and subjugated by the aggressive Chinese cultural imperialism. With the Chinese money comes Chinese literature, language, cultural and political icons. This could prove to be more disastrous for Pakistan, already reeling under a grave social upheaval over religious identity.
The vehicle for this cultural hegemony is the ambitious and much-touted China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). People of Pakistan are fed the canard that it will change their lives for better. The reality is otherwise. The corridor is the door through which the Chinese are going to subjugate Pakistan in the name of partnership, while also posing to be “all weather friend”. Talking about friendship though Pakistanis have been strutting around as ``good friends`` of Washington, for the Americans, Pakistan has been nothing more than a willing, if greedy, manfriday willing to do their bidding for dollars.
When the Pakistani establishment, mainly the Generals of Pakistan Army, touted their friendship with the US Generals and the Washington establishment during the Cold War, the spiel was that Pakistan, under the patronage of Uncle Sam, would become a rich and prosperous state, like many of the American allies. People were misled to believe that the friendship with the most powerful country in the world would not only offset India but would offer the people greater opportunities of education and employment. The west was paved with gold, so believed ordinary Pakistanis.
It took decades for the people to realise that while they remained as impoverished as in the past, the Generals and politicians prospered as the American influence increased. The sons and daughters of Generals found easy admission to prestigious schools and colleges in the US and Europe, children of ordinary Pakistanis had to fight hard to get admission to ordinary schools in Pakistan. While politicians bought acres is Switzerland, flats in plush localities of London and stashed away money in secret accounts, lives of ordinary Pakistani became increasingly insecure and unstable. The American dream was merely a dream for them.
Now the same people are being fed the new Chinese dream. The new drumbeat is that with the Chinese corridor will come peace and prosperity, for one and all.
What the leaders are not telling the people is what will happen to the multi-cultural and highly conservative society of Pakistan with the coming of Chinese whose cultural and traditional moorings are vastly different. The Pakistani society had been affected by first the British cultural and political onslaught and then the American imperialism, creating fissures so deep that the people are not today sure what it means to be a Muslim in a country for Muslims. The coming Chinese onslaught will only worsen the situation.
There are ample reasons for this worry. The Chinese, like other ambitious powers, are never content with economic hegemony; they simply don’t trust the other side. They want to be the dominating, domineering partner in every relationship. Their economic relationship is therefore embedded with cultural and political insurgency. First they set up ``cultural centres`` or ``language centres`` where Chinese language is taught with teachers from China. These cultural centres use money to influence the society through various means of propaganda camouflaged as cultural events. A serious fallout of this policy came out into the open recently when Pakistani authorities found a dozen or more Chinese citizens living and working in Pakistan without proper authorisation.
The Chinese then install cultural icons like statues and portraits of Mao wherever they set up cultural centres. These icons project a different ideology, often contradicting and repudiating the existing ideologies in the host country. These have been noticed in Sri Lanka and Nepal. Big cultural centres have been set up in these countries which present a culturally incongruous image, creating a sense of unease, if not outright fear, among the local population. In Pakistan, this is going to be even disastrous than more peaceful and stable countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Besides language, the Chinese are also planning to infiltrate and overwhelm the media space in Pakistan, a fact which is borne out of the recently leaked planning document of the CPEC. The Chinese are planning to buy stakes in media houses, control social media outlets and run other media campaigns to mislead people and suppress any dissent or questions over the corridor. The Chinese are extra sensitive to criticism and therefore will use any repressive measure to stem any wave of criticism against the corridor or Chinese role in Pakistan.
The big question is will the Pakistani people, already reeling under various cultural and religious countervailing forces, be able to withstand the Chinese cultural assault? The growing fear among the Pakistanis is that the Chinese cultural imperialism could become another cause of instability and violence, as is happening in Xinjiang where Muslim communities live under constant fear and assault of the Chinese repression.

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