Shahid Javed Burki is a renowned economist and also belongs to the anti-PPP divide. He was a minister in the interim cabinet after the removal of the 1996 government of MBB. This article that appeared in Dawn is extremely positive and stops just short of out and out appreciating President Zardari for his China policy.
Zardari’s China policy- By Shahid Javed Burki
Dawn, July 13, 2010
BY the time this column appears in print President Asif Ali Zardari would have concluded his fifth visit to China since taking office less than two years ago. The Zardari visit came at a time when Pakistan faces a difficult economic situation and while China is engaged in the process of redefining its economic objectives. In a long paper I had written a few months ago for the Institute of South Asian Studies at Singapore, I had argued that under China’s leadership Asia — or most parts of the large continent — was catching up with the more advanced countries in the global economy.
Some time during the course of 2010, China will overtake Japan as the second largest economy in the world after the United States. China’s rise, I had argued, would be different for Asia from the earlier rise of Japan. While Japan had anchored its economy in the West, China was focusing to a much greater extent on leading the rest of Asia towards modernisation.
I discussed this finding with some of the senior leaders of the Chinese ministry of finance. They found the conclusion interesting and plausible. This discussion took place in Beijing while President Zardari was in China. It raised in my mind the question of whether the discussions the Pakistani team was having recognised the importance for their country of the massive structural change that was occurring in China. This will be of great consequence for the future of the Chinese economy, its position in the global economic system and its relations with the countries in its immediate neighbourhood.
How should Pakistan respond to China’s evolving situation in the global system given the long relationship between the two countries is a question that I will take up in a later column. Today my focus will be on the symbolism of the latest Zardari visit to China and the role he would like to see China play in helping his country deal with the energy crisis that has already taken a heavy toll on the economy.
This time President Zardari was escorted to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing by his two daughters. China Daily covered the Pakistani president’s visit quite extensively. It carried his picture alongside President Hu Jintao on the first page of the newspaper. It quoted the Pakistani president telling the Chinese leader that his daughters wanted “very much to see you in person” hoping the meeting would inspire the younger Pakistani generation to continue its “all weather and
Cementing the relationship further - Zardari with Hu Jin Tao
time-tested friendship with its Asian neighbour.” The Chinese press was touched by this gesture carrying the story of the meeting under the title, ‘Children lead the way into the meeting’.
It was reported that since the Pakistani president assumed his present office the two countries had concluded 60 agreements, opening up a number of new avenues for Chinese investment in Pakistan. The Hu-Zardari meeting on July 7 lasted for 100 minutes and witnessed the signing of six deals in the areas of law, housing, agriculture and media cooperation. These were all new areas of collaboration between the two countries. The visit and the associated meetings also covered some of the traditional areas in which the two countries have been involved. The most important of these is the development of Pakistan’s energy resources.
The Pakistani president told Chinese business heads in Beijing that “Pakistan was facing an acute power shortage and intended to add tens of thousands of megawatts of power to its national grid in the next 25 years through combined hydro, coal, gas, nuclear and renewable energy resources”. The Chinese response was encouraging. According to China Daily “an executive of China’s Three Gorges Corporation which runs the huge hydropower dam in central China, … agreed to invest more than $100bn in two hydropower projects in Pakistan”.
The question of China’s support for developing nuclear power in Pakistan also came up. This issue had acquired some significance following questions raised by the American administration about the understanding China and Pakistan had reached earlier in the area of nucle ar power development.
The China National Nuclear Corporation had signed an agreement with the Pakistani government in February of this year to finance the construction of two new reactors. Washington was concerned whether the promised assistance by China to add to the nuclear capacity already built at Chashma in the Punjab was in accordance with Beijing’s international obligations.
Beijing gave repeated assurances to the international community that its current and future nuclear commerce would be in total compliance with its commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This assurance was repeated to the Indian adviser on national security adviser, Shiv Shankar Menon, who left Beijing the day the Pakistani president arrived in the Chinese capital.
Menon spent several days in China during which he met Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. He said before leaving China that he had discussed China’s assistance to Pakistan in the nuclear area. “They told us that what they are doing will be in accordance with their international obligations. We will wait and see where this is going,” he said while talking to the press before leaving for India.
Ye Hailin of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences spoke on the controversy and said that the Chashma project was legal and also had nothing to do with other countries. He said that China has always been supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency and future nuclear cooperation with Pakistan would depend on the demand of that country for using nuclear power to meet its large energy shortfall.
“Our cooperation is not a show, not a demonstration. It is decided by our need.” The expression of concern by New Delhi and Washington about the cooperation between Beijing and Islamabad was surprising since they themselves had concluded a deal which was clearly outside the NPT framework. The Americans had used considerable political muscle for the international community to accept their agreement with India.
From the perspective of Pakistan’s current economic needs the Zardari visit seems to have been a success. Whether it will put Pakistan in a position from which the country could draw benefit from China’s changing situation will be discussed later.