Book Review: Rise of China and the Asian Century

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Rise of China and the Asian Century by, Ambassador (R) Syed Hasan Javed, NUST, Islamabad, Pakistan, 200 pages, ISBN: 978-969-8535-36-0, Reviewed by Dr Shahida Wizarat, Dean CESD, Director Research, Chief Editor PBR and HOD Economics, IOBM. The “Rise of China and the Asian Century” by Ambassador (R) Hasan Javed is about the realization of the Chinese dream and the ascendancy of this once poor country into a global power. The book is not only very informative but has been written in such a way that it is difficult to set it aside once you start reading it. It is composed of eight chapters and seven appendices. The author appears as excited at witnessing the transformation of China from a poor and traditional country to acquiring a super power status as if it was his own country. And this enthusiasm at China’s ascendancy is shared by many Pakistanis. The author draws our attention to a silent global revolution in our immediate neighborhood that has taken place away from our attention or media focus. This is the rise of the People’s Republic of China as an economic super power whose GDP in 2015 of US $ 19.5 trillion exceeded US GDP of US$ 17.4 trillion on the Purchasing Power Parity basis. The author says ” China in 1980 was in many respect 25 years behind Pakistan. ————– Today China is definitely 25 years ahead of Pakistan.” In the chapter on the ” Dawn of the Asian Century” the author states that the dawn of the new era is giving rise to new alliances and new opportunities which is a win win for all rather than a win for western countries and loss for southern countries inherent in the present world order. In fact this comes out very forcefully in the present global scenario, where conflict is causing a tremendous increase in income in the rich countries and a substantial decline in incomes, death and destruction in the developing countries. But the new era being ushered by China does not have this trade offs between the interests of countries and regions. Discussing the rise of China the author points out that China’s good fortune was that it has an honest leadership which practiced ‘collective decision making’. It was sincere and eager to learn from past mistakes. Moreover, it was open to new ideas and showed pragmatism and courage in taking bold decisions. Having established trust and credibility in its policies not only in the local population but amongst overseas Chinese, ideological issues were handled with tact and wisdom. The government undertook wide ranging reforms to improve governance by promoting merit and the rule of law. Human dignity and rights were restored. People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was converted into a professional institution and helped in the construction of infrastructure for the Special Economic Zones. Wealth generation was promoted, life tenure for employment was abolished, with the right to hire and fire. The government promoted research and development and knowledge creation in a very proactive manner. Study teams were sent abroad for exploring ‘global best practices.” Overseas Chinese and foreign investment which was earlier seen as a ‘taboo’ was promoted. New slogans like‘A Communist does not have to be poor’, ‘Being rich is glorious’, ‘If you cannot beat the rich, be one of them’ came up. The author points out that this was a reversal of the ‘Maoist era’ thinking which glorified poverty. The Chinese government adopted a four Point Modernization Program on Economic Reforms and Open door Policy to the world. Under this program agriculture, industry, science and technology and national defense were promoted very aggressively by the government. Massive investment in human capital was undertaken by sending more than four million students to Western Europe, Japan, USA, Australia and Canada for higher education by 2015. This led to the creation of knowledge, skill and technological change. Export culture was also promoted, rules and procedures for foreign investment were simplified and legal reforms were undertaken. Governance reforms included re-structuring of federal ministries, downsizing, retrenchment, promotions and transfers. Corruption and wastage were strictly monitored and very stringent punishments imposed on those who indulged in these vices. The writer states: “The new leadership promoted soft power values and the centuries old Chinese wisdom contained in the teachings of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Modern ideological principles of Marxism, Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping’s Theory.” As a result of these reforms China emerged as a global economic power with sustained 9-10 % GDP growth rate for more than three decades from 1980-2015. It is the world’s largest exporter, the world’s largest producer of electricity, steel, computers, automobiles, toys etc. It is the largest trading partner of 142 countries. More than 106 Chinese Multinational Companies were listed in Fortune 500 in December 2015, as compared to only three in 2000. China accounted for 65% of global patent applications in 2015 as compared to only 28% from the USA. China has taken the largest number of people out of poverty in the shortest period of time. Chinese dream is to become a fully developed country by the year 2050. Ambassador Javed mentions many times that the Chinese remember the role played by Pakistan in opening China to the outside world and remembers this with gratitude. This reflects that China’s handling of international relations has moral and ethical overtones, which is quite a contrast to the present international order which has no room for such values. The author goes on to discuss Pakistan’s development experience, which has been replete with missed opportunities. He also discusses at length the lessons that Pakistan can learn from China’s success story. But the chapter on Recollections from China Memories is really fascinating. It takes you back to the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s and brings back the nostalgia of yester years. It also helps to inform the readers about various Pakistani Ambassadors to China and one can’t help realizing how dedicated Pakistan’s civil service was in the years gone by. It even encouraged me to take a lot of photographs during a one day trip to Lasbela so that when Pakistan is developed and transformed as a result of CPEC, I will be able to show what Baluchistan looked like prior to CPEC and how it has transformed after CPEC. In the chapter on One Belt One Road (OBOR) or Yi dai yi lu CPEC projects totaling $ 46 billion including US $ 35 billion investment in energy and related projects and $ 11 billion for infrastructure are discussed. In addition oil and gas pipelines and fast speed railway lines through tunnels for transit and trans shipment of manufactured goods and energy from China to West Asia, Gulf region and Africa and vice versa are envisaged. The Chinese stand to gain from the proposed rail link and oil and gas pipelines from Gwadar to Kashghar through major reduction in the cost of freight, shipments and the shipping delivery time. It would take just a week for goods and fuel to reach Beijing from Kashghar by the Southern Xinjiang Railways. Another advantage to China will be on account of providing China’s an alternative trading route to the present route, which according to Andrew Korybko will help to change the present unipolar world to a multi polar world. Elaborating Pakistan gains from the CPEC project the author states that even if only ten percent of China’s total foreign trade of US$ 4 trillion uses CPEC it would mean transit of US$ 400 billion of goods from China alone as compared with total US$ 70 billion on account of foreign trade of Pakistan. Besides China, Iran, Central Asian States, etc will have access to Gwadar. The author points out that such a mega transit corridor could become a major catalyst for Pakistan’s economic development and change. That is why US and India nexus is opposing it tooth and nail. And as Gundar Frank stated that rich countries develop by under developing the rest of the world. The development of poor and under developed countries is bound to affect the balance of global economic power – and this explains the antagonist western stance to CPEC. And the author warns, ” IFI template hit men are once again active, not to let this happen.” I think it is quite likely that to sabotage CPEC Pakistan might be dragged in a war or accused of sponsoring terrorism, as has recently been witnessed in case of the Uri attack to start cross border skirmishes, which will have the potential to spark a full fledged war between two nuclear armed neighbors. Pakistan has stood by and is facing the onslaught very boldly. Hopefully there is realization that accusing Pakistan of terrorism is actually an attempt to engage Pakistan in a situation which preempts CPEC and an alternative trade route to China thus denting the multi polar global order ! The book is a must read for development economics practitioners, students, policy makers, CPEC researchers, geo politics students and experts and anybody and every body interested in Pak China all weather friendship. It is available for Rs 800 from NUST publishing, Islamabad.