China Daily Global Edition (USA)
Backbone of the nation bears load
Party has never eased up in quest to lift up the people, Pakistani scholar says
China’s dramatic progress in lifting up its people over the decades attests to the Communist Party of China’s role as the backbone of the country in driving economic development, according to an international relations expert in Pakistan.
Talat Shabbir, director of the China-Pakistan Study Centre at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, points to achievements such as poverty alleviation as underscoring the Party’s credentials.
“Under (the leadership of the) CPC, China is by far a better-governed country, and a more peaceful and prosperous country,” Shabbir says.
Noting that the CPC has been pursuing a policy of strengthening the development of China by transforming and reforming it, Shabbir says the CPC is playing “a very important role” in China’s achievements. “China is a huge country and the CPC is the backbone of China,” he says.
“From standing up, growing rich to becoming strong, China has realized great leaps one after another under the leadership of the CPC (and) has become the world’s second-largest economy.”
He also points to the transformation of China’s major cities, which have achieved world-class levels in science and technology.
However, he notes the Communist Party has been the subject of false accusations.
“The CPC leadership has withstood groundless accusations and attacks on China, especially the constant smear campaign against the CPC,” Shabbir says.
But it has pressed ahead with its agenda, and the most remarkable achievement that China has made under the Party’s leadership is poverty alleviation, he says.
Since China began to open up and reform its economy in 1978, more than 850 million people have been lifted out of poverty, according to the World Bank.
From 2012 to 2019, the number of poverty-stricken people in China dropped from nearly 99 million to 5.5 million, and the proportion of the population in poverty fell from 10.2 percent to 0.6 percent over that time.
Shabbir says the unprecedented achievement means that millions of China’s hitherto intractably poor — especially those living in remote mountain villages — have been lifted out of poverty since 2012.
On Dec 3, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said China has achieved its goal of poverty reduction as planned, and had lifted nearly 100 million people out of poverty in the past eight years. In February, he announced China’s “complete victory” in its fight against absolute poverty.
In 2019, the poverty line was set at 3,218 yuan ($490) per person a year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The figure is subject to adjustment as the country’s price levels change. A decade ago the level was set at 2,300 yuan.
“Now, in 2021, even though the pandemic has impacted all walks of life severely, the CPC is still determined that its poverty-alleviation goal will not be thwarted,” Shabbir says.
With COVID-19 afflicting countries all over the world, Shabbir says the pandemic has revealed the strengths of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and the way it functions.
“International cooperation in the health sector has been a firm component of China’s BRI,” Shabbir says.
He recalls that back in January 2017, China and the World Health Organization signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly implement an initiative that focuses on health and jointly establish the “Health Silk Road”. Later in August, a communique was adopted by countries involved in the BRI to synergize efforts in medical emergency response and epidemic prevention.
Since the emergence of the pandemic, the Chinese leadership has been promoting the health aspect of the Belt and Road as it is essential for building a global community of a shared destiny, Shabbir says.
He says that China, in addition to sending medical resources and medical experts, is also providing timely assistance to Pakistan to help protect its people with vaccinations.
Pakistan launched its COVID-19 vaccination drive on Feb 2 with donations of vaccines from China. At the time, the country had confirmed around 500,000 infections, with nearly 12,000 deaths, according to data from the World Health Organization.
“China’s commitment to work with the rest of the world toward a community of shared future reaffirms its long-standing foreign policy for peace,” Shabbir says.
In terms of its intellectual origins, the scholar says: “The commitment draws inspiration from ancient Chinese philosophy relationships between diversity and unity, order and chaos, and humanity and nature.
“It also builds on Marxist theses on social community and contemporary Western theories of international relations.”
Shabbir cites China establishment, during the Cold War, of the famous Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.
“(China) pledged that as a new independent third-world country, it would never seek hegemony in any form, but a more just international economic and political order,” Shabbir says.
The five principles comprise mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual nonaggression, noninterference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. It was first set forth by China’s then-premier Zhou Enlai in 1953 and remains a diplomatic guide for the country.
Shabbir, having hosted delegations from the CPC at the ChinaPakistan Study Centre and visited China several times for meetings, Shabbir says the CPC is “a wonderful organization”.
One important thing he took note of is that in the CPC, people down the ladder are also welltrained and that a systematic improvement mechanism allows them to gradually move up the ranks.
“It’s a very great idea that you put people in various tiers and train them about politics, governance, and various issues that you can find as a political entity,” the scholar says.
Shabbir says he has found that the CPC members he has met always work in a systematic manner to pursue the goals put in place by the leadership and that their dedication to work is admirable.
The China-Pakistan Study Centre was inaugurated at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad in June 2017. As the director of the think tank, Shabbir oversees research and advocacy in all facets of bilateral relations.
In January 2019, the center launched a quarterly magazine called PIVOT; Shabbir serves as the chief editor. Its aim is to provide regular updates and analysis of the relationship between China and Pakistan as well as promote mutual understanding at the people’s level.
In a special edition of the magazine published in October 2019 — when the People’s Republic of China celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding — Shabbir wrote: “Though bilateral ties between China and Pakistan were established in 1951 … historical linkages between the two nations date back to thousands of years when an adoring homage was paid to areas that now form part of Pakistan.”
Shabbir says he focuses on Pakistan-China relations because he thinks that the connections between the neighbors are vital for the prosperity of their peoples.
“China has been always helpful to Pakistan in political, strategic and economic domains,” he says. “Particularly, the defense cooperation with China has added considerably to Pakistan’s defense capabilities.”
“As President Xi Jinping pointed out, China-Pakistan relations should be a model of a good, neighborly friendship, a pillar of regional peace and stability, and a benchmark for international cooperation under the BRI.”
The scholar believes that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, a flagship project under the BRI to improve regional connectivity, will always play a leading role in moving BRI cooperation toward high-quality development.
In doing so, it will bring more benefits to the peoples of both countries and contribute to regional prosperity.
Noting that half of the early-harvest projects have been completed and the remaining projects are under smooth construction, Shabbir says the CPEC has entered a new stage of expansion.
CPEC, a corridor linking the Gwadar port in southwestern Pakistan with Kashgar in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, highlights energy, transport and industrial cooperation. The corridor is a major pilot project under the BRI.
In December, Asim Saleem Bajwa, chairman of the CPEC Authority, says the CPEC is expanding into its second phase as scheduled, despite the serious setback posed by the COVID-19 pandemic globally, Bajwa was quoted as saying by the Xinhua News Agency.
“We look at this phase as a hope as it will improve people’s livelihood. It helps address the social-economic problems that we face in Pakistan,” says Shabbir, who expects the second phase of the economic corridor to generate more job opportunities, boost economic activities and support growth in industries.
Besides the economic benefits, he says the CPEC will also help bring peace and stability in the region.
Saying that he foresees “a very bright future” for China under the CPC’s leadership, Shabbir says he believes the relationship between China and Pakistan will also remain cordial.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Pakistan. Shabbir says he expects Pakistan-China relations to further strengthen, especially with economic initiatives like CPEC that will bring them to a new height.
“It is a very important time that China and Pakistan should be together to not only help each other economically, but also to support each other politically,” Shabbir says.