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Foul Smell? Chinese Learning is Trending in Pakistan Amid Deepening Ties With China

The massive collaboration dubbed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, is generating interest among Pakistani students and professionals to learn Mandarin

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Li Xue Mei teaches compulsory Mandarin lessons
Learning Chinese Trending in Pakistan Amid Deepening Ties With China. VOA
  • China’s investment of around $60 billion under CPEC collaboration is expected to bring around 20,000 Chinese to Pakistan
  • Public and private institutions are establishing links with Chinese counterparts to promote exchanges in higher education and provide research opportunities on both sides of the border
  • While both countries have traditionally enjoyed close political and defense ties, officials hope the corridor will further cement relations and bring economic prosperity to Pakistan

China is investing billions of dollars in extensive roads, railways, special industrial zones and energy infrastructure in Pakistan. The massive collaboration dubbed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, is generating interest among Pakistani students and professionals to learn Mandarin.

Li Xue Mei teaches compulsory Mandarin lessons to around 300 students ranging from grade five to middle school. She is one of the Chinese instructors at the private Roots millennium schools, where more than 7,000 children are learning the language.

“They are good and they are very excited to learn Chinese,” she said.

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She adds that writing Chinese language characters is challenging for her students, but they quickly master it. The instructor underscores the urgency of learning Mandarin.

“I think they need to learn more Chinese to learn Chinese culture and they can communicate more and they can cooperate better with Chinese people and they can work better,” she said.

China’s investment of around $60 billion under CPEC collaboration is expected to bring around 20,000 Chinese to Pakistan.

A large number of them have already moved to the country, mostly running private businesses.

Public and private institutions are establishing links with Chinese counterparts to promote exchanges in higher education and provide research opportunities on both sides of the border.

Beijing regards CPEC as “a pilot flagship project” of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is a massive trade and connectivity venture aimed at linking China to the rest of Asia, Africa and Europe through both land and maritime routes.

While both countries have traditionally enjoyed close political and defense ties, officials hope the corridor will further cement relations and bring economic prosperity to Pakistan.

“History bears testimony to the fact that this great friendship has stood the test of time. But in the past four years this relationship has crossed new thresholds and culminated in the establishment of CPEC,” said Pakistani Foreign Policy Advisor Sartaj Aziz.

The nearly 3,000-kilometer long corridor China is building in Pakistan will allow its trade convoys to travel along the Karakoram Highway, snaking past snow-capped ranges, down to the deep-water Pakistani port of Gwadar. The freight will then be placed on ships bound for markets in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. (VOA)

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Nepal Government Pushes Journalists to Avoid Critical Reporting on China, Tibet

Nepal is careful in dealing with Tibet issues to avoid offending its powerful neighbor

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FILE - An earthquake survivor reads a newspaper at a shelter camp in Kathmandu, April 29, 2015. VOA

Government officials in Nepal are pushing journalists to avoid critical reporting on China, one of the nation’s largest investors as part of Beijing’s One Belt, One Road project, a Nepalese journalist told VOA.

Anil Giri, foreign affairs correspondent for the Kathmandu Post, said journalists are discouraged from covering Tibetan affairs to mollify China and that government officials shy away from commenting on China-related issues.

China sponsors junkets for Nepalese journalists and “that’s why probably we don’t see lots of criticism about China’s growing investment in Nepal, Chinese doing business in Nepal and China’s growing political clout in Nepal,” Giri said.

He said Nepali government officials shy away from reporters seeking comments on China-related stories.

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Map of Nepal. VOA

Conduct found ‘unsatisfactory’

The sensitivities extend beyond the press. The Kathmandu Post reported earlier this week that the Samajbadi Party of Nepal suspended lawmaker Pradip Yadav for six months for attending a Tibet support conference in Europe last month. The party reached the decision after finding his explanation for attending a program called “Free Tibet” in the Latvian capital Riga “unsatisfactory.”

Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries, shares borders with China and India. The border with China along the Himalayas passes through Tibet, which China considers part of its territory, a view rejected by many Tibetans.

China wants to control the movement of Tibetans to India, which started after a failed uprising in 1959. There are now about 20,000 exiled Tibetans living in Nepal.

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FILE – Nepal’s Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi and China’s Ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong, second from left, exchange documents during a signing ceremony relating to the One Belt One Road initiative in Kathmandu, May 12, 2017. VOA

Nepal and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on bilateral cooperation under the framework of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in May 2017. Nepal received foreign direct investment (FDI) pledges from China of $57 million in 2015-16, $76 million in fiscal 2016-17 and $427 million U.S. dollars in fiscal 2017-18, according to Xinhuanet.

Such investment comes at a price, said Cedric Alviani, director of the Asia Bureau of Reporters Without Borders.

“For the Belt and Road Initiative to be fully successful” and reach its full potential as envisioned by China, “the population of every country taking part in the project has to be enthusiastic,” Alviani said. “But of course, just like any project led by a foreign country, there are many questions.”

Such questions must be suppressed when a country joins the Belt and Road project, Alviani said, adding, “For this development to become successful, the media must be muzzled.”

Reporters Without Borders has accused China of creating a “new world media order.” The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

Nepal is careful in dealing with Tibet issues to avoid offending its powerful neighbor, Giri said.

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Tibetan spiritual leader The Dalai Lama arrives at Gaggal Airport in Kangra, April 26, 2019. The Dalai Lama was discharged from a New Delhi hospital three days after being admitted with a chest infection. VOA

Journalists investigated

In June, Nepalese government officials began investigating three journalists from a state-run news agency Rastriya Samachar Samiti (RSS) who reported on the discharge of the Dalai Lama from a New Delhi hospital. The agency’s chair, Hari Adhikari, told Indian news outlets that the issue was “very sensational for us.”

Gokul Baskota, Nepal’s minister of communications and information technology, told the Kathmandu Post that he ordered the investigation. “We should be sensitive to our neighbor’s concerns,” he told the newspaper.

Dilliram Batarai, one of four members of a committee assigned by RSS chairman Harikar Adhikari, said, “RSS is a state-run news agency, however, and our investigation will be guided by Nepal’s relationship with China, by the One-China policy, and by Nepal’s foreign policy. So we report to higher authorities.”

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said, “Presumably, the price of friendship for some governments is to prevent anything that reflects poorly on China, and any reminder of the repression in Tibet is something that does reflect very poorly.”

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“Nepal has been shutting down peaceful protests by Tibetans, even when it comes to displaying flags or posters,” Ganguly said. Giri said it is not a lack of Nepali people’s interest in Tibet, but the government’s fear of China that puts discussion of Tibet off-limits.

“There is extreme pressure from China. The expanding cloud of influence or pressure from China over different sectors” means people are afraid to speak openly for the Tibetan refugee community, he added.

But China wants even “the idea of independent journalism to disappear,” Aviani said. “And this might happen in one or two generations if democracies do not react and fight against it.” (VOA)