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Sensitivity towards cultures and religions, a real test for Chinese leadership

ISLAMABAD: The respect of various cultures and religions at home is a real test for the Chinese leadership as the failure in showing sensitivity in this regard could prove to be detrimental for the country’s socio-political rise.

This was a key discussion outcome of a roundtable session titled ‘Analyzing BRI and CPEC Beyond Geopolitics’ which was organized by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS).

The session was addressed by Australian-Chinese scholar Dr Baogang He, who is a professor and chair in International Relations at the Deakin University, Australia, and was moderated by Dr Azhar Ahmad, senior IPS associate and HoD, Humanities & Social Sciences, Bahria University, Islamabad. The other discussants included Ambassador (r) Tajammul Altaf, senior research associate at IPS, Brig (r) Said Nazir, senior IPS associate, Mirza Hamid Hasan, former secretary, Ministry of Water and Power, and chairman IPS steering committee on energy, water and climate change, Dr Rashid Aftab, director, Riphah Institute of Public Policy and Mueen Batlay from Obortunity.

Dr He was of the view that while China’s economic rise had been phenomenal, it will still have to deal with social and cultural obstacles laying in the way of its expansion and development. Where BRI and CPEC are set to connect and bring countries closer, a good treatment of cultures and religions in minority at home will set the perceptions in the right direction for the country’s global socio-political expansion. The issue of the Uighur Muslims who the Chinese government calls a threat to its national security was one such obstacle faced by China, he conceded.

The seminar participants were of the consensus view that the Chinese leadership should resolve the Xingiang issue in a rational and peaceful way as the Muslims in Pakistan and across the world were concerned about the situation there.

Reflecting upon Pak-China interactions, Dr He said that there was a great deal of difference between Pakistan and Chinese civilizations, but these differences can easily be dealt with Chinese showing respect to the host country’s norms and culture. An increased mutual understanding and people to people contact was also mandatory in this regard, and that could best be done by fostering trade, tourism and academic exchanges, he said.

The speaker and discussants also had an interesting debate on the growing conflict between China and the US vis-à-vis ‘digital civilization’ where, according to them, China wanted to have an authoritarian control unlike America which was much open in its approach over keeping control of the internet.