Since the inception of modern technology, its use became a tool to derive and regulate how one should set an opinion. In this modern webified society, social media became a key driver to set the trends, whether social or political. Its use has surpassed new heights as it is now even used to pollute the election process as the world saw the traces of alleged Russian collusion in the United States’ presidential elections. This modern blessing has also brought curse to the world as the human friendly tech is, most of the times, used as an instrument of war. These new virtual battle fronts are now engaged in war of narratives.
The west and the east has always been two different worlds on earth with converse living tales on both sides. West and mainly U.S. has always confronted the policies of China; it seems legit as both are competitors. However, this fracas took a swift shift into new realms with the emergence of the President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative. The new war of narratives is being used in this context to sub-due the Chinese efforts to globalize the world; which U.S. and its allies apparently have failed to do so. Instead of making globalized world Uncle Sam founded capitalized world and laid the foundations of debt economy. Chinese initiative to globalize world through interconnectivity and development seems legit as long as it fulfills the prime cause of bringing global prosperity.
The moment CPEC gained pace in its development, the narratives against it also started surfacing on the virtual screens. Where variety of accusations were slung in order to stale the bond and the project itself. Through social media and electronic media, the project was and still is being besieged with the shells of narratives.
The U.S. and its allies seem uncomfortable with the rapid growth and echo of the BRI thus web forces are being used to sabotage the esteem and spirit of the project. Notions like China will be crippling Pakistan’s economy or CPEC is another East-India Company are now common among the analytical ranks. These sort of detracting narratives can be found online to bug the juvenile minds.
The difference between The East India Company and CPEC is out of question; the dynamics of both are different. The Company initially was set up for trade but later started influencing and interfering the politics. Whereas the CPEC is not a trade but a bilateral agreement under the umbrella of BRI. These narratives would be admissible if there has some logical basis. Apart from any logic, there is just hatred towards both the nations. Most of the narratives which are surfacing are mainly targeting the two countries rather than diagnosing the harm. There is ample material on the web which is criticizing that China will overcome Pakistan and it will be subdued. The claim might be considered relevant if someone had discussed that how China will do it or how Pakistan, a sovereign nation has surrendered its freedom by signing a BILATERAL agreement. This may also be evident from the fact that PM Khan, had multiple times expressed satisfaction over CPEC projects. And not only on Chinese forums, PM Khan had also urged investors to be part of it at an investment forum in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Also the claims such as China pursuing imperial goals cannot be true as evident from Chinese history. China isn’t among the proponents of mercantilism. They, rather, through different and mutually beneficial economic policies are facilitating Pakistan just like they are doing so in Africa too. Also, Pakistan might be in debt to China but still it is a sovereign state and formulate its policies without any dictation.
Most recently, the second forum of BRI hosted heads of states of 37 countries, and leaders from United Nations, World Bank, European Union and International Monetary Fund. President Xi Jinping refuted the arguments made by the anti BRI forces that it is used by China to establish a global hegemony through debt trap diplomacy.
The responsibility lies solely on the Pakistani government. It has failed to establish a counter narrative. This failure has led to the creation of the void that is filled with anti-CPEC virtual voices. It is mandatory for the government to develop a counter narrative based on statistics and facts. Only this can be a remedy for such maladies.
*Syed Nasir Hassan is a Research Associate at the Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR).