The Yuan Brings About Pakistan’s Second Declaration of Independence
) Adam Garrie
With Pakistan refusing to bend or break under US pressure, even as Washington is set to cut hundreds of millions in “aid” to Pakistan, many Pakistanis are asking themselves, “why didn’t we do this sooner”?
The answer is—in a word: CHINA.
When the US took the abrasive move to formally censure Pakistan under the guise that it harbours and abets terrorism and cut hundreds of millions in what the US calls “aid” but what in reality is US military investment, Pakistan said, “so be it” and said so boldly.
After losing over 100,000 Pakistanis in America’s ill-advised regional military operation in Afghanistan, a conflict which the US intentionally allowed to spill over Pakistan’s border, Pakistani elites and ordinary people have collectively had enough. Many have had enough for decades, not least PTI leader Imran Khan whose anti-American positions have been largely vindicated by recent events.
But while the uneven “alliance” between Washington and Islamabad has alienated Pakistanis for decades, even prior to the US invasion of Afghanistan, what has changed is that there is a new superpower with a colossal presence in the region–one that is willing to forge a thorough partnership with Pakistan and in doing so, rendering any perceived advantages incurred from a US “alliance” more or less dispensable.
For years, China’s investment in Pakistan along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has breathed new life into Pakistan’s economy. From the mountainous border in the north to the Panamax Gwadar Port on the Indian Ocean, China’s positive influence can be felt throughout Pakistan’s vast terrain.
The influx of Chinese experts, workers and high level diplomats in the country has proved that a revitalised Cold War era friendship is by the standards of 2017, one based on pragmatism, mutual respect and a win-win mentality that contrasts sharply with a US attitude of disdain towards Pakistan. This attitude is magnified even more deeply by Pakistan’s Saudi “ally” that has used and abused Pakistan for decades, in a cold exploitation of the country’s financial needs.
Pakistan’s refusal to follow Saudi and the UAE into Yemen and likewise, Pakistan’s refusal to take Saudi Arabia’s side in the ongoing dispute with Qatar, is as much a reflection of the confidence and renewed independence that a Chinese partnership has given Pakistan as it is a reflection of the increased professionalization of Pakistan’s “deep state” which is largely immune to the fluxuations of Parliamentary politics, while wise enough not to inhibit the peaceful exercise of Pakistan’s multi-party democracy.
Pakistan’s refusing to blindly follow Washington’s increasingly anti-Pakistan Afghan policies is a further result of the geo-political armour that China has allowed Pakistan to wear with pride, as it is symptomatic of a Pakistani “deep state” that is far more pragmatic and intelligent than it was 20 years ago.
But the most important development thus far, in Pakistan’s 21st century partnership with China is the agreement to conduct bilateral trade in the Yuan rather than the Dollar. This agreement was inevitable, but the fact that it was agreed just after Donald Trump’s insulting statements about Pakistan followed by the withdrawal of “aid”, sends both a pragmatic and symbolic message to the world. Pakistan is not for sale and nor will Pakistan refrain from taking action to build new partnerships out of fear that the US will be permanently lost as an “ally”. Just as the US closed one door, Pakistan and China quietly and rapidly opened another much larger door.
The treat of US financial blackmail becomes limited in its scope when one realises that Pakistan’s most important long-term trading partner is a country that is not only powerful enough to resist the Dollar’s fading hegemonic grip on global trade, but that moreover, it is a country that owns the lion’s share of US debt. This country is of course, China.
The Dollar might still control much of the world, but with China controlling the Dollar, all the while readying the Yuan for its inevitable transition to a floating currency, it is China that now has the last word when it comes to the effectiveness of US financial blackmail as well as US sanctions.
In this sense, Pakistan’s agreement to trade with China exclusively in Yuan is like a second declaration of independence for Pakistan. Furthermore, the move will certainly inspire other nations to rethink their dependence on Dollar based institutions.
With the US also cutting Pakistan out of security/intelligence sharing agreements, it is high time for Pakistani leaders to admit a long standing reality. The US has never been Pakistan’s ally, it has merely been a two-faced benefactor whose investments in the country were never designed to increase Pakistan’s sovereignty, prestige or safety. In reality, they were designed to bring about the opposite.
By contrast, the Chinese model does not make demands on one’s foreign policy, security policy, wider partnerships or style of government. China demands only honesty and respect and rewards this with the same.
When promoting One Belt—One Road throughout the world, President Xi Jinping is always eager to point out that China’s global trading network is all about enhancing mutual strengths while supplementing areas of economic or production relation weakness. There are no strings attached in One Belt—One Road—the obvious implication being that in the US model of global trading mechanisms there are many strings attached.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte stated that one of the reasons he prefers modernising the armed forces of Philippines using Russia and Chinese weapons, is because Russia and China do not make such sales conditional upon political demands. The same is true with wider trading partnerships with the great superpowers of the global “east”.
The US will surely amplify its anti-Pakistan rhetoric in the coming months and one shouldn’t be surprised if ultimately this leads to sanctions against a former “ally”.
But China has made Pakistan largely immune to Washington’s bullying techniques and thus serves as a model for the world that if one wants to make one’s own country “great again”—one must ditch the US as an indelible partner and embrace sovereignty with Chinese trading characteristics.