That China has poured more cement in less than 17 years of the current century than the US did in the entire 20th century is a fact. In other words, China has used more cement or undertaken more development works during the current century than what the US did in 100 years prior to the advent of the current century. Not only has China lifted hundreds of millions of poor people out of abject poverty, its involvement in infrastructure projects since Deng Xiaoping’s days in the late 1970s is also unprecedented in the entire history of mankind. Providing jobs to a sea of humanity has been the cornerstone of the Communist Party of China’s approach to economic goals under Deng and his successors Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and now Xi Jinping. Not only are the Chinese engaged in China’s mainland in various types of economic activities, their presence is strongly discernable or noticeable in various parts of Asia and Africa in particular where they, metaphorically speaking, can be seen pouring cement. The preponderance of the Chinese presence in the case of Central Asia is so great that the road signs in areas where Chinese are carrying out various infrastructure tasks are both in Russian and Chinese.
As far as Pakistan is concerned, about 30,000 Chinese have been working on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and other infrastructure projects in Pakistan. This seems to be the most authentic number of foreign workers who are engaged in a variety of development activities in the country; this has quashed a wild speculation that Islamabad has issued as many as 20 million visas to people from the friendly country. This figure of a 30,000-strong workforce has been unveiled by none other than Pakistan’s ambassador to China, Masood Khalid, one of the most relevant persons to speak as far as China-Pakistan bilateral relationship is concerned.
According to him, China pumped in $1.8 billion last year. “However, if all the projects, including those that have already started but have not been completed and those that have not kicked off yet are taken into account, China’s investment in Pakistan exceeds $50 billion,” says a seemingly excited ambassador, underlining the fact that security has much improved in Pakistan in the last two years and that the country has deployed as many as 15,000 soldiers for the security of Chinese workers in Pakistan.
But what is more important in his talk from Pakistan’s business people’s perspective is the revelation about a new trend as far as Chinese investments are concerned: many smaller Chinese firms are also investing in the country’s textile and food processing sectors. In other words, it means that the Chinese entrepreneurs have begun to create their footprints in big and small-and-medium enterprises as well. It is plausibly claimed that the record Rs 15 billion sales of Pakistan’s Independence Day-related items in Karachi alone were not without a fair share of Chinese manufacturing output. Such developments must not instill some misplaced concerns among the members of our manufacturing sector because Chinese investments will be surely accompanied by better management and quality-control practices to promote healthy competition in the industry. Here one must not lose sight of the fact that Dutch giant Nestle, for example, which has a lion’s share in the food market, has led to creating a tough competition in this sector, increasing industrial output, boosting consumerism and creating new job opportunities. Last but not least, the Chinese investments in the textile and food sectors cannot be a match of what China has committed for infrastructure creation in Pakistan, because Beijing, as a policy objective, is always required to provide more and more jobs to its people to keep them busy in “pouring cement.” The present strength of the Chinese workforce in Pakistan-30,000-is therefore likely to swell to any greater number over the next few years, but the number of employed Pakistanis working with the Chinese in tandem will also increase. Won’t it be a win-win situation for both China and Pakistan?