Javid Husain Since early 1960s when Pakistan brought about a strategic shift in its foreign policy, China has been its steadfast friend despite the vicissitudes of time and the changes of government in both the countries. During this period spanning about half a century, both sides have remained conscious of the convergence of their strategic interests that provides the bedrock on which this vital relationship is based. During my posting as Minister in our Embassy in Beijing from 1985-88, I had the privilege of experiencing first hand the strength and vitality of this relationship and the high priority that the Chinese leadership attached to it. It is well known that China has extended crucial support to Pakistan at critical times in our history. On the other hand, Pakistan has consistently supported one-China policy and opposed Taiwans independence. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabaos recent visit to Pakistan was another clear signal of Chinas continued interest in building up strategic ties and wide-ranging cooperation with Pakistan. The joint statement issued at the end of the visit rightly pointed out: Friendship and cooperation between China and Pakistan serve the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples, and contribute to peace, stability and development in the region and beyond. The two countries also agreed to enhance strategic coordination, advance pragmatic cooperation and work together to meet challenges in pursuit of common development. The bilateral trade, which was estimated to be $7 billion in 2010, is targeted to reach $18 billion within the next few years. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao also offered Chinas support to Pakistan in the economic and commercial fields, particularly in the fields of energy, infrastructure and agriculture. The hope was expressed that the large number of agreements and MOUs signed by the governments and the businessmen of the two countries would lead to the increased inflow of the Chinese investment in Pakistan. One news item mentioned that it could be as high as $25 to $30 billion over the next five years. The governments spin doctors tried to create the impression that the offers of Chinas economic support and the large number of agreements and MOUs signed during the Chinese Prime Ministers visit would somehow resolve our serious economic difficulties and usher in an era of progress and prosperity in Pakistan. Nothing could be further from truth. In the first place, the expectations of increase in bilateral trade and the inflow of Chinese investment into Pakistan are highly exaggerated. Currently, our bilateral trade is in Chinas favour with its exports to Pakistan estimated to be $6 billion, as against $1 billion being Pakistans exports to China. Our ability to increase exports to China would depend on our ability to produce at competitive prices exportable surpluses of goods that are needed by China. Considering the current deplorable condition of our economy and the fact that in the textile sector, which is our largest export industry, we are competitors with China, however, it would be a miracle if we are able to increase substantially our exports to China in the next few years. As for the inflow of the Chinese investment, we are all familiar with the fate of MOUs which are signed and then forgotten by both sides. Even if this is not relevant in the Chinese case, foreign investment flows into a country in search of profits or some other economic benefit, provided the investment climate is propitious and the security environment is favourable. Unfortunately, the local economic scene is not very inviting for foreign investors because of the high level of corruption and widespread incidents of terrorism. Therefore, the actual inflow of Chinese investment is likely to be far below the level that is expected by our officials. While we must gratefully acknowledge the assistance that China has extended to us in the economic field, the responsibility for Pakistans economic development lies squarely on the shoulders of its people and the government. Offers of assistance by friendly countries cannot be a substitute for our own efforts to bring about economic progress and prosperity in Pakistan. Unfortunately, our leaders and officials suffer from the dependence syndrome. For every problem that we face and for every ill from which we suffer, they try to find a solution in the form of assistance by some friendly country or by some multilateral institution, instead of relying on our own efforts. If the Karakoram Highway is to be widened, the main responsibility must be assigned to China, rather than to ourselves If Gawadar Port is to be developed, China must do it because it is China, which will benefit from this project (I wouldnt be surprised if one of these days some Pakistani official comes up with the bright idea that China may as well develop our road and rail network to connect Gawadar with its territory.) If our energy resources are to be developed, China must do the job. If our demands cannot be fulfilled by China, we make some rich country like the US, Japan, UK, France, Germany or Saudi Arabia the object of our begging bowl. That is to say, we are prepared to go to any length so as to pass on the responsibility that belongs to us to somebody else. It seems our leaders and senior officials have lost all sense of shame and dignity. If the Chinese Prime Ministers visit has reinforced these tendencies, we in the long run are likely to suffer more, rather than benefit through no fault of the Chinese. Look at the current debate about our increasing budget deficit, the resultant inflationary pressures and the squeeze on the official development programmes. We are prone to blame the IMF for our current economic misfortune, instead of accepting our own responsibility for the current mess. We are in the debt trap basically because we as a nation have been living far beyond our resources for as long as one can remember. We are facing the growing budget deficit because of corruption in our civil and military establishment, high level of our military expenditure which is unsustainable (almost half of the net federal tax revenues go to the military), and tax evasion by the rural and urban elite, who are accustomed to living in luxury while shirking their social responsibilities. Our economic managers cannot balance the budget because they lack both the sense of integrity and the courage to cut their coat according to their cloth. Obviously, nobody can help us if as a nation we do not mend our ways. The least that we can do is to learn from the experience of our Chinese friends. China has achieved economic progress and the high rate of economic growth by relying primarily on its own efforts and by adopting economic, security and foreign policies, which allowed it to live within its means. This is the real message that China constantly gives to us through its example, even if the Chinese leadership is too polite to rub it in. Unfortunately, this is precisely the lesson that our leadership has refused to learn so far. The writer is a retired ambassador. Email: javid.husain@gmail.com