China is practicing public diplomacy globally but inducing neighboring regions is its initial priority. China’s active involvement in peacekeeping and public diplomacy are an effective tool for its global affairs. It has positively expanded its canvass by focusing on cultural, academic, and language exchange programs as well. It has also very suitably utilized diplomacy as a tool of soft power.
South Asia is an important neighboring region for China as many South Asian countries have common geographical boundaries with China that makes them important considerations in Beijing’s foreign policy. Pakistan is geographically and strategically important country for China. Both states are sharing time-tested and deep-rooted bilateral relations because of compact foundation based on mutual trust and non-interference, though the two countries have different ideologies, culture and language.
Both states respect and support each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and are working together to meet various shared challenges. China-Pakistan relations are very strong at state-to-state level and although people of both states generally share a mutual affection and great respect but people-to-people contacts are not consistently developed. In recent years, the governments of both states have started realizing and emphasizing on the importance of genuine people-to-people contacts.
China has been constantly engaging Pakistan, at various bilateral levels through institutional mechanisms, primarily to encourage youth of Pakistan by offering them incentives and modern-day facilities to learn Chinese language in Pakistan and China.
Academic relationship between leading Pakistani and Chinese academic institutions also begun, such as between the Punjab University and Sichuan University, Chinese Foreign Affairs University and the Foreign Service Academy of Pakistan and the Communist Party of China (CPC) School and National Defense University of Pakistan.
Significantly, President Xi Jinping’s first ever visited to Pakistan in April 2015, further gave enhancement to China’s ‘public diplomacy’ in Pakistan. Every year 200 new as well already studying Pakistani students in China are being provided scholarships under Chinese Government Scholarship Bilateral Program.
Meanwhile, for 2017-18, China Scholarship Council has awarded Chinese Government Scholarship to 131 new Pakistani students, of whom 107 are recommended by the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination of Pakistan. The Chinese Government Scholarship program is a government-to-government undertaking, and aimed at promoting all provinces and the students of Pakistan including from small cities like Gwadar, Gujranwala, Multan, Swat, Mingora, Sargodha, and Dera Ismail Khan to expand its public diplomacy. Chinese universities have also been attracting many private Pakistani students. Chinese language is being taught across the Pakistani from school to university levels.
The steps taken by China to strengthen people-to-people relations with Pakistan under the public diplomacy practices and progresses resulted a more better relationship among the both states. As youth is main target for China all around the world and also in Pakistan, for influencing their opinions China is providing scholarships and also conducting students exchange programs. In this regard, institutions such as Confucius Institute Islamabad (CII) play magnificent role in leading educational programs and cultural exchange programs to modernize its public diplomacy.
*Summiya Munem, is a student of a Bachelors program of Defense and Diplomatic Studies