Staff Report

ISLAMABAD:  In commemoration of 70 years of Pakistan-China diplomatic relations, the Pakistan-China Institute organized a webinar titled “Future leaders in shaping Pakistan-China relations“.  The conference was arranged under Friends of Silk Road initiative. The webinar was arranged to understand and facilitate bilateral youth exchanges under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as it enters its second phase. This was the first-of-its-kind bilateral dialogue aimed at engaging youth of both countries.

An illustrious panel of eight speakers, including young parliamentary leaders, Senator Qurratul Ain Marri and Senator Dr Afnanullah Khan, participated in the Webinar. Thekeynote speakers were divided into two sessions, which was moderated by Qianli Liu, while opening remarks were given by Mustafa Hyder Sayed, Executive Director Pakistan China Institute.

The conference was divided into two sessions with different themes. The theme of Session one was “Pakistan-China Future Cooperation: A Perspective of Young Leaders”whereas, Session two was themed as“People to People Connectivity: Role of media and culture

The event was moderated by Qianli Liu, Editor of Guancha, who highlighted 70 successful years of Pakistan-China relationship in shaping future of the region. While talking about youth exchanges, she said that youth development doesn’t distinguish on race, ethnicity, and religion, and so must be taken forward.

Mustafa Hyder Sayed, Executive Director ofPakistan-China Institute, in his opening remarks talked about how since Friends of Silk Road’s establishment in February 2019, the platform has brought prominent members of political parties, business groups, students, civil society, members of academia and media together to enhance connectivity among people. He highlighted that these exchanges are a fundamental pillar of Pakistan-China relations, as the bond between two countries is rooted in its peoples. Moreover, he highlighted the need for the youth to expand and enhance this beautiful, inherited bilateral strategic relationship for the next 70 years. While talking about CPEC, Mr. Sayed said that this mammoth project will engineer social equity revolution in the country.

Dr. Afnan Ullah Khan spoke on Big Data and Artificial Intelligence: How Pakistan can learn from China?He quoted President Xi Jinping who had emphasized the need to promote the deepened integration of internet, big data, and artificial intelligence with the real economy, and added that Pakistan needs to learn from the Chinese model to harness big data for making better-informed decisions, such as enhancing GDP growth.

Bayazeed Kasi, Advisor to PTI on CPC Affairs spoke on Role of youth in building a community of shared future.Recounting his interactions with youth in Balochistan, Kasi highlighted that Pakistan’s youth is more than eager to contribute to Pak-China iron brotherhood. However, he highlighted that as 65% of Pakistan’s population consists of youth, more opportunities need to be provided to them so they can contribute towards strengthening Pakistan-China relations. He highlighted that the academia needs to train and provide a platform to the youth so they are motivated to work for the welfare of people. He concluded by saying, “An untrained worker can never make a building and so we need to train our youth on the lines of contributing towards Pakistan-China.”

Dr. Lou Chunhao, Deputy Director and Associate Research Professor of the Institute of South Asian Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary Relations, spoke on Pakistan-China Cooperation: Challenges & Opportunities. After congratulating the panel on 70 years of Pakistan-China relations, he highlighted four areas of opportunities for Pakistan and China. These were i) political commitment, which is a prerequisite; ii) economic cooperation, a solid foundation for Pak-China relations; iii) Strategic convergence, shared convergent ideas, and iv) Covid 19, against which he thinks Pakistan and China have put up a strong front.

Senator Quratulain Marri showed a good grasp overWomen Empowerment and CPECas she advocated for female inclusion in CPEC-related projects. She presented China as a model country which falls at top 30% of Global Gender Gap Index, and said that Pakistan can learn from this. She advocated that while CPEC presents a number of opportunities, women empowerment can only come about after female perspectives are catered to, such as in Thar coal power plant.Senator Marri said, “An increase of women employment by 25%, creates a GDP growth of 33%, and Pakistan needs to work towards achieving this if it wants to make CPEC a tangible reality for the people at the grass-root level.”

In Session 2, Dr. Hina Aslam, Associate Research Fellow at SDPI recounted her own experience of studying in China as she talked on Breaking Barriers – Studying in China. She highlighted that her contribution towards Pakistan-China relations has been through teaching Chinese language course in Pakistan, after completing her Master’s in China. She also shed light on the need to closely look at the environmental aspect of CPEC to make it a more sustainable project, something for which stakeholders in both Pakistan and China have shown motivation for.

Wang Benqian, Deputy General Manager of China Road and Bridge Corporation talked about the Role of CPEC in enhancing mutual understanding. As he recounted his 10 years’ experience living in Pakistan, he highlighted that CPEC should not only be built on land but in the hearts of people, as is envisioned by President Xi Jinping as well. He said that CPEC will serve as a pre-requisite for enhanced political and economic cooperation, and people to people cultural exchanges.

Yu Xiao, Research Fellow, Tsinghua University shed light onPeople to people ties: The pivot of Pakistan-China Friendshipby terming BRI as a demonstrable Chinese commitment towards global youth. He labeled CPEC as an optimizer of existing realities. He said that CPEC can only be successful if both Pakistan and China can jointly set examples of cross-border cooperation through enhanced cooperation between its people.

Zoon Ahmed Khan, News Anchor at China Economic Net and a Research Fellow at Tsinghua University talked onBridging the Communication Gap Between people of China and Pakistanby labelling CPEC as a uniting factor towards bridging the communication gap. She highlighted that the two countries need to invest in their youth if they want to engage with them. She added “In order to enhance the scope of CPEC, we need to incorporate more perspectives, especially by including youth.” Moreover, she said that in order to create sustainable CPEC framework, there needs to be a thorough understanding of the Chinese perspective. 

The online event lasted for two hours and thirty minutes, including an hour-long Q&A session among 50 participants.