Launched on November 17, 2015, the CPEC Media Forum venue alternates between Islamabad and Beijing. The 5th CPEC Media Forum succeeded in presenting facts that the “CPEC is clean” and it formed the basis of a shared destiny not only for Pakistan and China but for all countries regionally and globally.
Speaking at the forum, Shbli Faraz, the leader of the house in the Senate of Pakistan, said the event was a project of peace and development, and praised Chinese ambassador to Pakistan,Yao Jing, for his work in promoting Pakistan-China relations. He also thanked the Pakistan-China Institute (PCI) and the China Economic Net (CEN) for taking the initiative to disseminate fact-based information about the CPEC, in order to counter anti Pakistan-China campaigns and CPEC projects.
PCI chairman and Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said the CPEC’s biggest challenge was media management, which the CPEC Media Forum had the capacity to carry out. Syed said that when Pakistan was suffering acts of terrorism, instability and other challenges, only China came forward and invested in the CPEC.
He cited America’s Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act as a copy of the CPEC, saying its investment amounted to US $60 billion, equal to that of the CPEC. The BUILD Act had been packaged to counter China's influence around the globe, said Syed.
Despite various challenges, the CPEC proved to be corruption free. Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and other relevant institutions launched probes into the CPEC’s operation but failed to find any discrepancies or irregularities.
Ambassador Yao Jing commended the efforts of the CPEC Media Forum, saying both Pakistan and China were beneficiaries of the CPEC.
Responding to the allegations of Alice Wells, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs said that China was always willing to assist Pakistan without any political or government interference.
“China never demands for Pakistan to repay its loans on time if Pakistan is in a difficult situation,” said Yao Jing, while pointing out that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is strict in its repayment policies.
Regarding the accusation by Alice Wells that “The CPEC is not about aid,” Yao questioned why the U.S. suspended its aid pledged for Pakistan only because of political considerations.
“The CPEC provided more than 75,000 direct jobs for local Pakistanis, while around 2.3 million jobs are expected to be generated by 2030. I would be happy to see increased investment coming from the United States into Pakistan,” said Yao.
Yao expressed his “astonishment” at Alice Wells’ statement of higher tariffs in power plants, established under the CPEC, saying he had personally earlier briefed her about the tariff structure of these plants and told her that the tariff structure was the lowest among all the countries to whom Chinese companies provide electricity.
“When the Chinese companies were establishing power plants in Pakistan in 2013, where was the United States? Why didn’t it invest in Pakistan’s power sector despite knowing that Pakistan was in dire need of electricity,” he questioned.
On the allegation of corruption in CPEC projects, Yao said it is easy to level allegations without evidence. He had discussed this matter with a number of concerned stakeholders, including the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), and had not found a single shred of evidence of corruption in any CPEC project.
“Media is a major vehicle of information and platform of interaction," said Yao, adding that, “Media from both Pakistan and China have already been playing a role in promoting state-to-state relations.”
In 2014, President Xi Jinping paid a visit to Pakistan, during which the leaders of both countries reached a consensus on enhancing the exchanges between the media of the two countries. This consensus gave birth to the (CPEC) Media Forum. “After five years of development, the forum has grown into an indispensable exchange platform for the Chinese and Pakistani media. I would like to thank the Embassy of China in Pakistan and the Pakistan-China Institute for your great efforts in this regard. And I do appreciate the tremendous contributions made by Ambassador Yao Jing, his predecessor, Ambassador Sun Weidong, and Senator Mushahid Hussain,” said Cui Jun, editor-in-chief of China Economic Net. The Chinese media has attached great importance to this forum, assigning representatives from several major media in China.
The CPEC plays its role as a model project that represents equal cooperation, common development, and the concept of jointly building a community of shared future among countries. It has brought China’s experience in rapid development over the past four decades to Pakistan.
One of the keys for China’s economic development lies in the construction of economic development zones, featuring concentrated resources, preferential policies, and a complete industrial chain. We are expecting that the Gwadar Free Trade Zone and Rashakai Economic Zone will play an essential development role in Pakistan.
The smooth progress of the CPEC requires a favorable public opinion environment. The Joint Declaration signed by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan last year during his visit to China, points out that both parties oppose the negative publicity on the CPEC. What the CPEC needs is objective and fair media reporting. Journalists at this year’s event were awarded for objective and fair reporting and contributions to the CPEC.
Yasir Habib Khan is a senior freelance journalist. He works for The News (TNS), Geo TV, and The Nation. He is also president of Institute of International Relations and Media Research (IIRMR).