Written By Muhammad Atif Hanif
Pakistan and China are held together by a strong bond of sixty years which has cemented further with every test of time. During this time period, remarkable collaborations have been established in various fields that has benefited both the countries and their people. However, the time has come for the close ties between the two countries to be diversified and expanded in other areas as well.
Most importantly, the amiable relationship between the two governments needs to be translated into a strong people-to-people contact. The two neighbours, despite being at very friendly terms, have a cultural disconnect due to lack of people-to-people contact and linguistic blockade.
The strengthening of people-to-people collaboration shall have multi dimensional benefits for both Pakistan and China. It shall improve cooperation in tourism, education, health, media and most importantly long-term socio-economic and political relations.
The single most important instrument required for opening up the social corridors between the two countries is for Pakistanis to learn the Chinese language. While Pakistan’s educated youth predominantly speaks English, the Chinese on the contrary have maintained their native language as the primary medium of communication in education, government and almost all aspects of social life.
Pakistan’s economic relations with China are mainly based on trade which has reached nearly $9 billion annually. However, the trade by and large is in one direction i.e. imports from China to Pakistan.
Pakistan’s trade association with China has resulted in mushroom growth of offices of Pakistani businesses in China, which as per most conservative estimates is in thousands. These offices are mostly staffed with managers and accountants from Pakistan who are not highly educated. On the contrary, thousands of MBAs are being produced by government and private universities in almost every city in Pakistan, most of whom are unable to find jobs of their liking and in related fields.
These MBAs can find excellent job opportunities in Pakistani business houses based in China, provided they learn to speak and comprehend Chinese. Hence, a comprehensive Chinese language programme needs to be organised especially in coordination with business universities within the country.
By having a strong command over the Chinese language, young graduates can find work easily in China and excel in their field. In addition, our fresh graduates can also accompany Pakistani businessmen on tours to China, who are otherwise dependent on translators provided by hosts and hotels in China.
All those graduates who can converse fluently in Chinese can play a crucial role in elevating the country’s commercial ties with China and help transform our one way trade into a two way mutually beneficial commerce and investment channel. On return to Pakistan, these young business professionals will bring with them highly useful experience and exposure of China’s rapidly developing business sector, which would help to develop the corporate and trade sectors of Pakistan in the long run.
To benefit from learning Chinese language in the long-term basis, Chinese needs to be taught in education institutions of all levels from primary to universities with an aim to produce Chinese speaking Pakistani youth across the society which shall bring the two friendly nations closer in all aspects of life. The Chinese speaking Pakistani youth will truly serve as the single most vital channel for developing and sustaining mutually beneficial relations between the two countries.
The promotion of Chinese language in Pakistan is also beneficial for China in many ways, specially the central and western regions of the country which are less developed will get linked with Pakistan through much needed social and cultural bonding. This shall open new avenues of socio-economic development in our neighbouring Chinese province of Xinjiang as more investment and trade opportunities will be established with Pakistan. Xinjiang, which happens to be the largest province of China in area, shares with Pakistan its strategic location on the great Silk Route which has the potential to be the most important future trade and energy corridor, which is also the shortest and most economical logistical route to Persian Gulf, the main source of oil imports for China.
The realisation of the socio-economic benefits of learning Chinese is on the rise, which can be summed up by a simple but strong rationale; our next door neighbour with whom we enjoy the most cordial ties is always welcoming us with open arms. It is the most populous country, second largest economy in the world and in a few years time, it could beat the US to become the largest global economy.