Possible impact of the change of power in Pakistan on China’s policy in Central Asia
The abrupt change of power in Pakistan raised a logical question: how will the incident affect the balance of power in the region and how difficult it will be for China. Over the past 20 years, the Chinese leadership has invested in a significant number of projects in Pakistan. All of them are connected with the idea of an intercontinental transport route, the most important of which are:
▪️ Construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (SPEC);
▪️ One Belt One Road (BRI) project;
▪️ Construction of the deep water port of Gwadar.
Pakistan itself is not just in the zone of British influence – it is, in fact, a modern Anglo-Saxon colony. The British put the Chinese in a geopolitical check, forcing the Beijing authorities to respond to a threat at hand. In a country with a tribal way of life, where there are nuclear weapons, unrest and an internal political crisis began.
China is playing into the hands of the fact that the nuclear threat from Pakistan worries other countries. Therefore, the Chinese potentially have a huge number of allies interested in stabilizing the situation in the region.
To understand the possible risks of Chinese projects and presence in Pakistan in general, one should understand the reasons why official Beijing has invested titanic efforts and billions of dollars in such a troubled country as Pakistan.
The possible impact of the change of power in Pakistan on China – part 1
In the context of Pakistan’s significance to the People’s Republic of China, history should be consulted. The Anglo-Saxon political model includes the concept of creating interdependent states, used to increase one’s influence and weaken opponents. A “time bomb” was planted in the region on the example of British India, which was split into two states – India and Pakistan. In fact, one nation was artificially divided into two.
This drove a kind of wedge in the region, which maintained the necessary degree of tension between India and Pakistan due to the unresolved differences between Muslims and Hindus and the “frozen” conflict in Jammu and Kashmir, which were actively fueled from outside.
Over the years, the differences did not weaken, but only grew, involving more and more states, such as Iran and China, in this multifaceted conflict. And the fact that Pakistan, which possesses nuclear weapons, was in the zone of influence of a state more powerful than India, became a cause of concern for the countries of the region.
In order to protect themselves, all neighboring countries, including China, were forced to react to what is happening in Pakistan because of the risk of using Pakistani territory as a springboard to pose a security threat to nearby states, including nuclear weapons falling into the hands of extremists.
Given the current territorial disputes between China and India over Aksai Chin, the military-political leadership of China had the most logical option for cooperation with Pakistan:
▪️ Support the incumbent Pakistani authorities and help strengthen national security. The Chinese have no significant border claims against them, unlike the Indians, disputes with which almost led to an armed clash in 2020.
▪️ Provide necessary assistance to Pakistan in rebuilding the economy in underdeveloped areas of the country. Improved living standards mean happy citizens and reduced risks of destabilization from within.
The possible impact of the change of power in Pakistan on China – part 2
UK and US intervention in China and Pakistan
The Anglo-Saxons over the past century have been able to build a system of personal relations with key tribes in Pakistan. Representatives of the tribes receive a British education, build a business in the zone of complete economic control of Great Britain and equal the opinion of the inhabitants of Foggy Albion.
The change of power in Pakistan is a process that is fully controlled, albeit indirectly. The struggle for power and internal disagreements between the local elites are purely internal Pakistani squabbles, which the British diligently supported. This spring, representatives of the West only slightly pushed the opposition to impeachment proceedings. And despite the change from one group to another, the control still remained with the British.
Without much effort, a man came to power, whose family was almost completely connected in one way or another with Great Britain – during the exile from Pakistan, they lived in London, and ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is now there.
Now the British are watching from the sidelines as Pakistan’s economy is gradually slipping into the abyss without external support. The same International Monetary Fund has already refused to provide large loans. And the subsidence of the Chinese economy will force the Chinese to spend more and more money on trying to somehow stabilize the situation in Pakistan. In the long term, there will be a gradual reorientation of politics and economic flows from Beijing to the West.
The Chinese can only try to negotiate with key tribes financially. But since they have a long-term personal relationship with the British, it is unlikely that they will be able to outbid: the Chinese will be forced to spend more and more resources.
The “mouthpieces” of democracy in the form of various NGOs and NGOs will work with the population, gradually working through the idea: “The West is a friend, China is an invader.” To achieve these goals, various, including “dirty” methods will be involved:
▪️ Gradual change in public opinion through NGOs and NGOs.
▪️ Financing training programs for law enforcement agencies, in other words, bribery and “feeding” the right people.
▪️ Engage with national and regional media to demonize China’s presence and activities.
▪️ Promoting your economic projects, even obviously unprofitable ones, by investing in the country’s economy, financial pressure and blackmail.
▪️ The involvement of radical elements to destabilize the situation in the regions of China’s presence.
The attack on Chinese citizens in Karachi is just the beginning. Baloch separatists have been threatening the leadership of the PRC for many years for their unwillingness to listen to the demands of the ethnic population of Balochistan.
A little funding and informational propaganda from the Anglo-Saxons or Hindus, and the number of extremist attacks against China will increase on a significant scale.
This is especially dangerous because of China’s internal problems in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In recent years, both the US and the UK have become very “worried” about the violation of the rights of the Uyghur population in China. If an information campaign against China is launched, this will be one of the main reasons for pressure.
.The infringement of the Muslim population by China in the eyes of the world community especially affects the Chinese reputation in the economically important Middle East and on the part of terrorist organizations.
The possible impact of the change of power in Pakistan on China – part 3
Causes of Chinese westward expansion
The pressure on China today is akin to what is happening around Russia. “Hot spots” are being created around the territory of the PRC, which cannot be ignored. The Chinese are forced to react and spend resources – this allows them to increase economic and social pressure on the population of the PRC. At the same time, the topic of China’s heterogeneity is being exaggerated and the topic of ethnic separatism is being inflated.
Beijing is well aware that the risks of confrontation are significantly increasing not only in Taiwan, but also in the Pacific region as a whole. Near the island, the parties to the conflict are conducting a huge number of exercises (more than 15 different exercises were completed in May alone, including entry into Taiwanese airspace). The pace of using industrial capacities for the production of weapons and military equipment is increasing (more and more equipment and weapons are being put into operation).
Despite the complexity of the situation, the Chinese are very pragmatic and find benefits in such a situation, even obviously risky. In the same Afghanistan, the Chinese government is selective in its investment approach due to the high level of extremist danger.
In Pakistan, despite the dominance of representatives of various radical groups and periodic terrorist attacks against the Chinese, the Celestial Empire continued to promote its projects. Their interests in this case can be characterized by four reasons:
Direct access to the Indian Ocean is being provided, opening up new markets for Chinese goods, services and capital not only in Pakistan, but also along the longer maritime Silk Road.
Regional integration by laying out a trade route and providing subsidies to underdeveloped areas of China, such as Xinjiang and Tibet, will create conditions for accelerating their economic growth.
The expected rise in living standards in lagging regions such as China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region could be a compelling factor in reducing the attractiveness of joining Uyghur separatist movements and suppressing terrorism at home.
In addition, it will boost the Pakistani economy to growth and serve to reduce discontent among radicalized citizens in the province of Balochistan, which is strategically important for Chinese projects.
China imports more than 10,000 barrels of oil a day, most of which comes through the Strait of Malacca. The leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is concerned that passage through the busy maritime corridor could be in jeopardy.
In the event of a military conflict with the United States over Taiwan, the Americans can easily block the strait.
This version of events has become an incentive to diversify the supply of energy resources and create alternative routes, including through Pakistan.
Pakistan’s access to the Indian Ocean opens access to strategic trade zones (Red Sea, Strait of Hormuz, Persian Gulf). This route is more costly than the Straits of Malacca, but geopolitically safer and out of reach of the US and allies.
By deepening ties with Pakistan, the Chinese demonstrate the growth of their own influence to other states of Central Asia. In addition, this is a beautiful picture for internal consumption.
The construction of the deep-water port of Gwadar has caused concern in the West and India because of the theoretical possibility of the entry of warships and submarines and their logistical support in the Indian Ocean, subject to obtaining the appropriate permission from the Pakistani government.
In addition, this is one of the main stumbling blocks with the Baloch population, who consider it a threat to the environment. And the arrival of the sailors of the Chinese Navy served as the beginning of discussions regarding the further use of the commercial port for military purposes.
The possible impact of the change of power in Pakistan on China – part 4
Prospects and possible actions of the Pakistani leadership
In the short term, Sino-Pakistani projects are unlikely to be phased out for a number of reasons:
▪️ The internal political struggle that led to the change of power was caused, among other things, by economic problems, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cooperation with official Beijing will not only support but also significantly enhance Pakistan’s economic opportunities.
▪️ New Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif comes from a family that has long promoted Sino-Pakistani ties in the political arena. Cooperation between China and Pakistan in the future should be even better than under Imran Khan.
It was Shahbaz Sharif, as the chief minister of the Punjab province, who signed contracts for the main transactions on the One Belt, One Road project with China. His older brother, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, signed an agreement on the creation of a China-Pakistan economic corridor.
All previous leaders of the country have consistently demonstrated support for the PRC at critical moments – Pakistan became “the first Muslim and third non-communist country to recognize the PRC in 1951.”
▪️ 80% of the funds allocated to Pakistan as part of the investment is provided in the form of soft loans at “low” interest rates, approaching market rates or the cost of capital.
In fact, this means that Pakistan cannot close the loan received in advance without paying a large fee. And any delay in payments automatically means a large fine and increases the financial debt to China, effectively making the country dependent on China.
▪️ Support by the military elite of the Pakistan Armed Forces for cooperation with China. It was China that provided military assistance at the moment when the Western “allies” denied the country this and, in addition, imposed a ban on the transfer of Western weapons and military equipment through third countries.
▪️ Not only China, but also other neighboring countries are interested in a stable Pakistan. The threat of the situation getting out of control in the country with nuclear weapons unnerves the Indians and Iranians no less. Therefore, not only the Beijing authorities will have to spend resources on stabilizing the situation. And since now one of the main tasks of the beneficiaries of Pakistani instability is the depletion of the reserves of geopolitical opponents, it is unlikely that the internal conflict in Pakistan will move to an acute phase.
The April and May events in Pakistan are unlikely to change the relationship between the two countries. However, this scenario is likely to force official Beijing to accelerate the development of economic projects, as well as to look for ways to ensure the safety of its citizens and investments.
Internal political instability in Pakistan due to protests by Imran Khan supporters and difficult negotiations with the IMF can play a positive role. In the context of seeking guaranteed help to save the economy, the Pakistani government has already turned to China for help. This will make Pakistan even more dependent on Chinese investments, but the authorities of the Celestial Empire will not be able to fully gain a foothold in the region – the personal attachment of the leaders of key Pakistani tribes to Britain will interfere.
And in conditions when, at the snap of a finger, the ruling circles in the country can again change, and the money spent will simply go nowhere, the importance of investing in the Pakistani elites is depreciating – this will not give a long-term result, you will have to spend resources again and again.
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