China has a lot to learn from Pakistan other than how minorities should be treated

Archive photo | Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan | Facebook / ImranKhanOfficial

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When Prime Minister Imran Khan categorically endorsed China’s position on Uyghur Muslims, he succumbed to political opportunism: “Due to our extreme proximity and our relations with China,” he said. , “We actually accept Chinese version”. A politician smarter in the face of Chinese media might have tried to take a little tour instead of missing out on truth, human rights and Muslim solidarity. However, one should not be too hard on the PM; any country which owes its life to a powerful patron has little room for maneuver.

Much loved by some but feared by others, China is today an economic superpower. Geopolitics changed in 2017 when its GNP surpassed that of the United States. But what explains his phenomenal rise and ferocious progress? Likewise, one may wonder: why was Pakistan on external respiratory assistance from 1947 and barely limp? The difference calls for an explanation.

Max Weber, the 19th century German sociologist, would have an answer. From his pioneering work, social scientists have known that economic growth goes hand in hand with the collective worldview and culture of a society. Through data-driven research, Weber explained why Protestants and Calvinists far surpassed Catholics in wealth creation and industrialization of Europe. He concluded that cultures conducive to progress require a belief in rationality, the rule of law, planning, punctuality, delayed gratification, and expectation of reward in this life rather than the next.

Certainly not how minorities should be treated! But there are a lot more things China can teach Pakistan.

If he was alive today, how would Weber view China in relation to Pakistan?

First, China’s worldview is, like that of 19th-century Protestants, entirely forward-looking and this-world. Despite the pride the Chinese people take in their ancient science and civilization, there is no deep yearning and no appeal for Ertugrul-like mounted men to resurrect an ancient kingdom. Whether for better or for worse, whether under Mao’s revolutionary communism or under Xi Jinping’s capitalist communism, the Chinese are simple and stubborn people.

Read also : Xi Jinping and the systematic “demonization” of indigenous Uyghurs in China

This attitude sets the tone for education, both at school and at university. Knowing that universities are the engines of progress, China is very careful about who gets admitted. When it comes to language, reasoning, and math skills, Chinese students are expected to know everything American students learn – only better. Today’s gaokao – the no-cheating college entrance examination – is a legacy of the rigorous examination system (keju) of ancient China’s civil service.

Reputed to be the toughest in the world, the gaokao even beats that of various IITs (Indian Institute of Technology). Sadly, educated in a memorization heavy culture steeped in religious issues, most Pakistani university professors – including those who are HEC certified and with hundreds of research publications – would not pass the entrance exams to the University. Chinese university.

Second, a resurgent Weber would see China clearly define its national interest, with economic progress at the top. As a rationalist-materialist country, China aims to become the world leader in space exploration, brain science, quantum computers, electric cars, biopharmaceuticals, renewable energy, etc. Five-year plans are followed to the letter; there is no empty chatter or arbitrary wishlists.

The next level of priority is politics. To find Taiwan, China snaps its sabers from time to time. Nonetheless, China-Taiwan economic ties are strong. Taiwanese companies have invested around $ 60 billion in China, and one million Taiwanese live in China with many Taiwanese factories operating. The Chinese political leadership controls its army. There is no story of dead end Kargil adventures and the military stays away from business matters. The warrior ethic is firmly subordinated to the capitalist ethic.

In the case of Pakistan, warriors define the national interest. While searching on Google for “national interest”, I found occurrences in speeches, academic theses and in publications of the University of National Defense. All of these references were related to security and India. In this resolute approach, Pakistan-India trade remains hostage to Kashmir being resolved on Pakistan’s terms. Nowhere is there a map of where the country hopes to be in 20 to 30 years. No one takes the Pakistan Planning Commission seriously.

Third, Weber would confirm that a strong work ethic leads to high labor productivity, the backbone of economic growth. Although he only knows Protestant-Calvinist workers and capitalists, the qualities of diligence, discipline, responsibility, punctuality and honesty of the skilled industrial workforce extend to the cultures of China. , Japan, Vietnam, Korea, etc.

Read also : How China’s plan to de-Islamize its Uyghur Muslims began and continues

In contrast, labor productivity in Pakistan is appallingly low – less than half that of China. Many economists and businessmen have pointed out that producing an item in high-wage China is cheaper than in low-wage Pakistan. Low productivity is due to the lack of skills of workers and general dissatisfaction. Exploiting employers pay minimum wages, ignore principles of fairness and reject grievance mechanisms. But worker ethics are also weak. Few are those who are proud or enjoy hard work, who are diligent or who take initiative. Like our parliamentarians and teachers, most are crooks who need to be reminded of their homework.

These bad habits start in Pakistani schools where children are forced to focus on exam skills and learn just enough to get by. Cheating is tolerated. Some parents, including those who emphasize religious rituals, encourage their children to cheat in order to progress. But, at an even deeper level, quality education for all is impossible given the extreme wealth disparities.

In China, such disparities were offset by Mao’s communism. Although huge excesses occurred during the Cultural Revolution, education was universalized and hard work celebrated. China is reaping the dividends of its communist past. Pakistan has never seen such an evening. The leaders of the Pakistani Movement – including Jinnah and Allama Iqbal (the post-1930 Iqbal) – were fiercely anti-Communist. Some were large landowners who saw danger in the education of their serfs. Education was a low priority in 1947 and remains low.

Oddly enough, the country the founders of Pakistan feared and hated the most (after Russia) is now Pakistan’s closest ally. He attacks his Muslims; the evidence is irrefutable. Yet aside from how religious minorities should be treated, China has a lot to learn from Pakistan. One of the most important lessons is the creation of a skilled workforce, the dignity of work, the reasonable distribution of public wealth and resources, the emphasis on birth control and the encouragement of ‘a state of mind focused on the future rather than the past. If Pakistan is to break the crutches of foreign dependence, this is the way to go.

The writer is an Islamabad-based physicist and author.

This article first appeared in Dawn July 10, 2021.

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