Experts noted that the second phase of the CPEC is set to initiate an era of industrialisation through establishment of Special Economic Zones.

Experts from diverse fields on Monday noted that the second phase of the CPEC is set to boost Pak-China cooperation in agriculture and initiate an era of industrialisation through establishment of Special Economic Zones.

They spoke here at the 6th China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Media Forum. The forum was jointly organized by the Pakistan-China Institute (PCI) and China Economic Net (CEN) in cooperation with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Pakistan. It is conducted as an annual event in Beijing and Islamabad in alternate years. Due to COVID-19, this year’s forum was held virtually and was themed “Post-epidemic China-Pakistan Media Cooperation”.

The forum conducted discussions on topics including opportunities for digital media, media as an engine for the high-quality development of the CPEC and China-Pakistan media cooperation. It was moderated by an anchor of the China Economic Net. Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani was the chief guest. The forum was addressed by Railways minister, deputy chairman Planning Commission plus ambassadors of both the countries.

Zheng Qingdong, president and editor-in-chief of Economic Daily, and Mustafa Hyder Syed, executive director, Pakistan-China Institute, delivered the welcome addresses. Zheng highlighted the importance of the CPEC media forum and said since its launch, it has contributed a lot towards building a positive public opinion on the CPEC. He said that in the face of the complex international environment, the media of China and Pakistan should take joint actions and form synergies in firmly opposing the negative propaganda against the CPEC. Moreover, he said the year 2021 will be the 70th anniversary of Pak-China diplomatic relations, which will be celebrated with zeal in both the countries.

Mustafa Hyder Syed said the Pakistan-China Institute in collaboration with the China Economic Net launched the CPEC media forum as an online event and it is held in Beijing and Islamabad in alternate years. Last year, the Pakistan-China Institute launched the Rapid Response Information Network (RRIN) which identifies fake news on the CPEC and deconstructs them with facts. Moreover, the PCI has launched a monograph titled “CPEC: Facts Vs Fiction”. Mustafa informed the audience that the Pakistan-China Institute will be publishing “The Governance of China”, Part 2 and Part 3 in Urdu, which are authored by President Xi Jinping.

Sadiq Sanjrani, chairman Senate, in his keynote speech said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has achieved significant milestones through joint efforts of the governments, enterprises and people of both countries. The first phase of the CPEC, which focused on energy and infrastructure projects met its successful completion and now the second phase is set to boost Pak-China cooperation in agriculture and initiate an era of industrialisation through establishment of Special Economic Zones.

He commended the role of the media and said it has played a very important role in the dissemination of facts on the CPEC, which has resulted in the CPEC becoming a household name in Pakistan. Through events like the CPEC media forum, both the countries get an excellent opportunity to consolidate the existing all-weather friendship. He highlighted Pakistan’s medical and moral support to China during its fight against the corona pandemic.

Moreover, he said the Senate passed a resolution that acknowledged China’s robust measures to deal with coronavirus and commended their efforts to make Pakistani there, mainly students in Wuhan, feel at home during this critical time. It is evident from the documentary “CPEC Cooperation during COVID-19” made by the PCI that the CPEC remained resilient even during a global pandemic and progressed ahead. As the China-Pakistan cooperation proceeds to a greater depth, the Senate of Pakistan shall play a greater role in extending all possible cooperation to the media of both the countries to develop greater understanding and cooperation on the issues of common interests. The 10th JCC on the CPEC will be held soon, he announced.

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong said as an important pilot project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and a demonstration project of China-Pakistan cooperation, the CPEC plays a significant role to promote in-depth development of the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership and high-quality growth of the Belt and Road Initiative. He said the high level and quality participation in the CPEC media forum is the testimony to the fact that the CPEC has been highly valued in Pakistan. Since its inception in 2015, the CPEC Media Forum has brought together the governments, business communities, media, think tanks and other sectors of China and Pakistan to focus on the construction of the CPEC.

Commenting on a recently held meeting of the Joint Working Group on international coordination on the CPEC, he said China would strengthen coordination with academia and think-tanks through CPEC. Since its launch, Pakistan has achieved fruitful results of CPEC cooperation. After the successful completion of CPEC Phase 1, which focussed on energy and infrastructure, the second phase would focus on industrial cooperation, agriculture, science, technology and improving the livelihoods of people. Moreover, he highlighted the prospects of CPFTA-II and said it would solve the issue of trade imbalance between Pakistan and China.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to China Moinul Haq said that in this digital age, the media is playing a pivotal role in bolstering the friendship and solidarity between the people of Pakistan and China. He said the media has rightly guided the public about the true significance of CPEC projects, which has resulted in creating a national consensus on the CPEC. Moreover, he said Pakistan is the biggest proponent of the BRI and endorses President Xi’s philosophy of shared future and prosperity.

He concluded by saying that Pakistan and China need to strengthen media cooperation by screening more films in China just like ‘Parwaaz hai Junoon”, which was the first Pakistani film screened in China in the last 45 years. He said the JWG on International Cooperation was held in Urumqi on December 26, which agreed to broaden the CPEC by inviting third country participation.

Tian Yuhong, executive secretary of the All-China Journalists Association, said the CPEC is a symbol of attachment between Pakistan and China and even a global pandemic like COVID-19 could not stop the progress of projects under its umbrella. He said news exchange and cooperation is an important factor to promote the healthy development of bilateral relations and smooth implementation of CPEC projects. Under the BRI framework, the All-China Journalists Association has established close cooperative relations with several journalist organizations, including the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, All Pakistan Journalists Association and All Pakistan Newspapers Society. Moreover, he said that in the face of COVID-19, the common enemy of mankind, the media of China and Pakistan helped each other with a common mission.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, chairman Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and Pakistan-China Institute, commended the resilience of the CPEC which progressed with full speed and vigour during COVID-19. He said not a single Pakistani working on CPEC sites was laid off. Commenting on a recently-held meeting of the Joint Working Group on international coordination, he said there will be an enhanced focus on media and think tank collaboration to take the CPEC forward. The meeting also welcomed third party participation in the CPEC.

He highlighted three objectives of conducting the CPEC media forum. Firstly, it is aimed to promote the all-weather strategic partnership between Pakistan and China. The CPEC is part of the BRI which is the biggest developmental and diplomatic initiative of the 21st Century. Secondly, it aims to counter the propaganda against the CPEC with facts. This type of media cooperation will create synergies and energize both sides to come up with facts needed to shape positive public opinion on the CPEC. Thirdly, it aims to highlight CPEC developments to the media and the general public. In this way, the forum is acting as a “Force Multiplier” in taking this friendship forward.

NI Siyi, deputy director Office of Editor-in-Chief, Xinhua News Agency, said since the launch of the CPEC, there has been close cooperation between the media houses of both the countries, When Prime Minister Imran Khan visited China in October 2019, the INP and the Xinhua signed an agreement to take this cooperation to next level. He called for airing more stories on the CPEC to evoke people’s engagement. Moreover, he said the media of both the countries need to highlight the importance of the 70th anniversary of Pak-China diplomatic relations in 2021.

Muhammad Jahanzeb Khan, deputy chairman Planning Commission, gave a comprehensive presentation on CPEC Phase II. He said the CPEC is a multilayered project. In the first phase which ended in 2020, the focus was on improving infrastructure and solving the issue of energy. In the second phase which will end in 2025, processing and manufacturing industries will be developed and efforts will be made to ensure improvement in people’s livelihoods and balancing regional economic development. In the third phase (2025-2030) also called the period of maturity, the indigenous mechanism for sustainable economic growth will be in place and the CPEC will be ready to play a leadership role in the region.

Ms Zhao Qiao, director, Department of Urdu, Asian and African Centre, China Media Group, said the media of both the countries fought misinformation regarding Pakistani students in Wuhan during COVID-19 by interviewing them and communicating the true perspective. She called for enhanced media ties between the two brotherly countries and said that steps should be taken at the governmental level to increase people-to-people exchanges between Pakistan and China.

Senator Azam Khan Swati, federal minister for Railways, highlighted the importance of the ML-1 project and said that it would transform the socio-economic fate of Pakistan and the whole region by giving a boost to connectivity. This project, he said, will create employment opportunities for the locals and improve the logistics infrastructure in the country. Moreover, he thanked China for standing by Pakistan through thick and thin and said that in the coming days, this cooperation would be diversified and made more comprehensive. He said ML-1 would cover 80% of Pakistani territory and 78% of the population of Pakistan.

Mudassir Tipu, director general, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan, termed the CPEC a transformational and consensus-oriented project. He said the COVID-19 cooperation between Pakistan and China has been exemplary. He appreciated the Chinese Communist Party for extending full support to Pakistan during the pandemic. Moreover, he called for closer cooperation between the media of both the countries.

Aamir Ghauri, editor of The News, talked about the ways to respond to CPEC challenges and said the coverage of this grand project has seen significant since its launch. He briefed the participants about the importance of connectivity as a result of the CPEC. Moreover, he called for upgrading media ties between the two nations.

After the speeches, an award-giving ceremony was held in which seven journalists were conferred with “CPEC Communication Award”. Those seven journalists were: Muhammad Asghar, correspondent of Associated Press of Pakistan in Beijing; Naveed Hussain, editor (Print & Digital) Express Tribune; Shafqat Ali, special correspondent of The Nation; Liu Chang, journalist of China Media Group, Pakistan Bureau; Tariq Sumair, editor of INP; Aamir Ghauri, editor of The News; Sultan Hali, columnist, writer and author of a book on China.

At the end of the conference, there was a comprehensive question/answer session from the participants, which lasted for over 15 minutes. The CPEC Media Forum has a huge online participation of over 300,000 people in Pakistan and China, including students and scholars, journalists, academics, policy-makers, think tanks and business and opinion leaders.

Meanwhile, a 12-member delegation led by Muhammad Ali Houmed, president of Djibouti National Parliament and acting chairman of the African Union, is arriving in Pakistan on Tuesday (today). The African Parliamentary delegation will be accompanied by the navel chief of Djibouti. The delegation is visiting Pakistan on the invitation of the chairman Senate and will have important meetings with the president of Pakistan, the prime minister, the foreign minister, the speaker National Assembly, the army chief, the navel chief and the president of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

The delegation will visit different areas of the country. Speaking in this regard, Sadiq Sanjrani said this visit is of utmost importance to strengthen the parliamentary relations between the Pakistan and African Parliament. He said Pakistan gives utmost priority to its ties with African countries and emphasised that parliamentary relations would pave the way for strong economic and trade corporation. He said there is need to increase parliamentary exchanges to steer the agenda of economic development in both the regions.

Originally Published at The News