Finally, the morning broke. President Xi Jinping arrived in Islamabad with gusts of fresh air from China. Handicapped by the mindset of a client state, our media pundits and government officials are still trying to digest the significance of the visit that actually goes way beyond the number of projects and their cost in billions. The deepening Pak-China commitment is now geared to change everything. It will positively impact the people of our countries and push the world towards a better place.

President Xi Jinping’s words of love touched the heart and appealed to the mind. In a world torn apart by deceit and violence, a world where Pakistan is constantly demonized, his reassuring words of profound appreciation, gratitude and support worked like a soothing balm. To top it all, the words of the Chinese President are backed by concrete actions that make them solid and credible. His visit unfolded like the breaking of a fresh dawn, dreamlike in its beautiful promise but real enough to shatter the dark curse of the empire.

The West-tuned ears of our political elite and the metropolitan media-intelligentsia might take some time to absorb the full force of this powerful Chinese music and its unfamiliar nuances. Imprisoned within the framework of the abusive imperial narrative, they seem to have missed the most pertinent aspects of the visit. This is not about begging for petty sums in dollars and paying back with our lives and independence, forever apologizing for our ‘poverty’ and ‘uncivilized’ behavior. Are we so accustomed to being threatened and humiliated by duplicitous imperial friends and two-faced Muslim brothers that we can no longer understand a fair word when we hear it?

Though the scale of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has been well-registered on the neo-liberal barometers of our leaders of public opinion in the parliament and media, number crunching about foreign investment is a poor way to understand the significance of the Pak-China strategic cooperative partnership announced by the two governments. The deepening Pak-China partnership cannot be squeezed within the imperial framework premised on a master-slave relationship and its accompanying mission to ‘civilize’ us with carrots and sticks. It’s time to change the rusty imperial barometers.

The thousands of megawatts to be added and the billions of dollars to be invested in infrastructure development are not insignificant of course. But what is even more significant is the strategic alignment that underpins this economic cooperation. It strengthens the security of not only our countries but also bodes well for fostering peace in the region. The coordination and collaboration on Afghanistan and closer cooperation on terrorism promises to bring an end to the two-faced deathly games played in the region by our erstwhile so-called sole superpower ally. It will also strengthen our relationship with Iran.

In fact, the repercussions of this strengthened alliance will go way beyond our region. The renewed and reinforced Pak-China partnership is a shot in the arm for global efforts to foster a multi-polar world and rein in the out-of-control murderous empire. Pakistan is one crucial step closer to full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, expected to materialize at the SCO summit in Russia this July. This is not about balancing our relationship with the US and China. This is about dumping the US and joining the China-Russia nexus. Better late than never!

Bitten by the exceptionalism of the US and its unilateralist badmashi, the emergent pole around China and Russia speaks a different language. It talks about respecting cultural differences rather than ‘civilizing’ the world through devious ‘freedom and democracy’ agendas. It seeks to build a framework of mutual cooperation rather than imperial control, respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries rather than violating them through military interventions, subversion and engineered balkanization. The empire is sustained by perpetual war, while the China-Russia nexus consider peace as a crucial prerequisite to push ahead their vision of a shared destiny and prosperity.

It was all there in the speeches of President Xi Jinping but it seems to have gone over the heads of our media experts and desk-thumping parliamentarians. Words about an inter-civilization dialogue and wisdom of the East are perhaps too difficult to stomach for a discredited power elite that is too busy trying to please the West and mimic its ‘civilized’ no-good neo-liberal ways. They have grown up with Washington and London as their Mecca, and it is not easy to correct their qibla. Their private interests are invested in imperial capitals and they advance the interests of the empire at the cost of those they claim to represent as a routine.

So while the Prime Minister read out the right words, the frown on his face betrayed his lack of enthusiasm for this historical leap. His ministers and leaders of other political parties did not fare any better. The men in uniform sitting in the gallery, who understand the importance of this strategic cooperative partnership better than anyone else and who can be credited for pushing this paradigm shift, looked happy and satisfied. And at the end of the day, it is all that matters for now.

In the long run, to realize the true potential of the Pak-China strategic cooperation partnership, we must improve the representativeness of our democratic institutions. This is essential for making it a truly win-win partnership. To save the partnership from becoming another relationship of dependence, our leaders must learn to articulate our national interests and come up with a vision for our development outside the imperial neo-liberal framework.

Rather than attempting to catch up with the discarded western model of development, we should engage with China to rediscover the long-forgotten wisdom of the East, complete with our humanitarian values of community, sustainable traditions of farming and our time-tested knowledge systems of medicine. We should be very careful about choosing the industries we wish to promote. We should clearly show our preference for renewable sources of energy rather than power plants that run on coal, oil and gas. If we make the wrong choices this time, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.