Sun, Mar 10, 2013 - Page 14 News List

Pakistan middle class looks to China for growth opportunities

More Pakistani students are learning Mandarin at home and in China, where they find a warmer welcome, instead of the suspicion their nationality arouses in the West

By Guilaumme Lavallee  /  AFP, Islamabad

Last month, it also took control of Pakistan’s strategic port of Gwadar, which through an expanded Karakoram Highway could connect China to the Arabian Sea and Strait of Hormuz, a gateway for a third of the world’s traded oil.

Mushtak Ahmed, 19, has enrolled under Rashid precisely because of the Chinese influx into Pakistan’s northern province of Gilgit-Baltistan, where China is widening the highway to its border.

“Lots of Chinese people are coming to our area and they just speak Chinese and we cannot understand it ... so there is a need for translators,” he said.

According to Pakistan’s embassy in Beijing, about 8,000 Pakistani students are already studying in China and thousands more are preparing to join them.

Former Pakistani ambassador to Beijing and Washington Riaz Khokar said wealthy Pakistanis tend not to return after studying in the West, but China offers a technical education that will benefit the Pakistani economy.

“The Chinese economic presence in Pakistan is growin,g so why should there be Chinese managers or Chinese at various levels? The idea was [that] we should train,” he said.

China has accused the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which wants an independent homeland in the western Muslim-majority region of Xinjiang, of training “terrorists” in Pakistan, although experts question how much of a threat they are.

However, the relationship has few of the tensions that Pakistan suffers with the US, which repeatedly presses Pakistan to do more to clamp down on militants who launch attacks on US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

“I have dealt with their intelligence, I have dealt with their army, I have dealt with everybody at the highest level. They have never told us ‘do this or we will kick you’ as the US does,” Khokar said.

However, if political relations are cosy, then Haiwei says ordinary Chinese professionals are more circumspect.

“In Pakistan we have more than 6,000 Chinese students. However, we have maybe about 50 teachers. We don’t have enough teachers. Some people found it dangerous, so they don’t want to work here,” he said.

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