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Economic Progress: What Can We Learn from China?

by Kashif Ishfaq
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Kashif Ishfaq 1

On the 74th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, Pakistan’s government, political parties, and key figures are expressing their commitment to strengthening and solidifying the enduring friendship between the two countries. It is worth pondering what factors have propelled China to become a rising superpower in the world today and how we are working to avoid being isolated by international financial institutions.

China has experienced extraordinary economic growth over the past few decades, becoming a model for many developing countries, including Pakistan. In this regard, it is heartening to note that despite theoretical differences, there is no disagreement among Pakistan’s political parties and the public regarding relations with China. China has also provided substantial assistance to Pakistan in challenging times.

China initiated the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project to enhance economic relations between both countries. Under this project, which began with an investment of $64 billion, the Chinese city of Shenzhen is connected to Gwadar in Pakistan through roads, railways, and pipelines for the transportation of cargo, oil, and gas. Furthermore, China has started various projects in Pakistan to control the energy crisis and address the issue of load shedding. Some of these projects are nearing completion.

The most significant part of this industrial cooperation project is the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in various parts of Pakistan. Chinese companies have invested in these SEZs to promote industrialization, technology transfer, and job creation in Pakistan. Four SEZs are being fast-tracked under CPEC. The Alama Iqbal Industrial City in Faisalabad, Punjab, has completed over 35% of its work, while Rashakai Special Economic Zone in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Bostan Special Economic Zone in Balochistan, and Dhabeji Special Economic Zone in Sindh have all made progress exceeding 20%. Despite delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these SEZs are expected to be completed soon, marking the beginning of a new era of development in Pakistan.

Chinese investors are playing a crucial role in strengthening Pakistan’s economy and improving economic relations between the two countries. I have personally witnessed this in my capacity as Chairman of the Faisalabad Industrial Estate Development and Management Company (FIEDMC). FIEDMC laid the foundation stone of the largest priority SEZ under CPEC, Alama Iqbal Industrial City, in January 2020. This SEZ has attracted over 150 Chinese companies and investors, with investments exceeding $1.5 billion. As part of the agreement, investors in this SEZ have been granted a ten-year tax exemption, leading to the establishment of production units by some industrialists.

China’s investment in various development projects, including SEZs, across Pakistan is helping create a conducive environment for economic growth. It is essential for Pakistan to follow China’s model not only to enhance economic cooperation but also to eradicate poverty effectively. China lifted over 800 million people out of poverty in just 40 years, a remarkable achievement in human history. It’s worth noting that China achieved this milestone two years after gaining independence, and now, with a population of more than 1.4 billion, it is the world’s second-largest military and economic power.

Therefore, by emulating China’s cooperation model, we can address poverty in Pakistan. In this context, it is encouraging to see China collaborating with Pakistan to alleviate poverty. Both countries have signed a memorandum of understanding on mutual cooperation in this regard, and it is hoped that Pakistan will benefit from China’s experiences in poverty alleviation.

Furthermore, as we learn from China’s model, Pakistan should invest heavily in education and human capital development. To produce highly skilled individuals, our education system needs to focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). By improving our educational system, we can transform Pakistan into a modern economy, as China has done through advancements in fields such as e-commerce, telecommunications, and manufacturing.

In conclusion, China’s investments in Pakistan and its development model can serve as a source of inspiration and guidance for our economic progress. Emulating China’s model, eradicating poverty, and investing in education and sustainable development are key steps for Pakistan’s future growth and prosperity.

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