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Monday, July 15, 2024  
08 Muharram 1446  

Explained: China’s ‘muted’ responses to attacks on nationals in Pakistan

Mission in Islamabad verifying situation that erupted at Dasu project
Art: Aaj News
Art: Aaj News

The Chinese foreign ministry has said its mission in Islamabad was verifying the situation regarding its national accused of blasphemy by fellow workers at the Dasu hydropower project—a charge he denies.

“The Chinese government has always required overseas Chinese citizens to abide by the laws and regulations of the host country and respect local customs,” the ministry’s spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, said at Tuesday’s news briefing. “If this issue does involve a Chinese citizen, the embassy will provide consular protection and assistance within the scope of its duties,” he said.

The Chinese man was brought before a court late on Monday where he said he had been falsely accused, police official Tahir Ayub told Reuters. The court sent the man to jail on judicial remand for 14 days, he said, adding that police were not identifying him for his own safety.

Since the early 2000s, there have been at least 40 attacks on Chinese interests across Pakistan. This includes high-profile incidents in which multiple Chinese nationals were target killed, including through attacks. “But unlike in other countries where Chinese embassies react strongly to such incidents, in Pakistan reactions have remained muted, likely due to Pakistan’s geo-strategic value for China,” points out Dr Ammar A Malik, a research scientist at AidData, where he leads the Chinese Development Finance Program.

So far, the recent ‘blasphemy’ attack on the Chinese engineer in Dasu appears to be motivated by religious fervor, rather than any grievance against Chinese involvement in Pakistan.

Public opinion in Pakistan is incredibly favorable toward China, consistently above 80% in Gallup world polls in recent years, well above competitors like the United States, according to Dr Malik while responding to questions from Aaj News.

“China’s measured responses to attacks against its interests in Pakistan also indicate of a strong policy coordination established between Chinese officials based in Pakistan, and security officials in both Rawalpindi and Islamabad.”

Dr Malik went on to add: It is likely that these issues are discussed behind closed doors, where the Chinese side expresses concerns about the increasingly dangerous security environment they face across the country, but it is telling that concerns are usually not expressed by Chinese officials in public.

Timeline of attacks

Here is a short timeline of recent attacks on Chinese staff in Pakistan collated by ChatGPT:

  • May 2011: Ten Chinese workers are kidnapped from a construction site in Pakistan’s northwestern region. One worker was killed in the rescue operation, while the others were released after two months of captivity.

  • June 2017: Two Chinese nationals, a man and a woman, were kidnapped and killed in the southwestern province of Balochistan.

  • November 2018: A Chinese consulate in Karachi was attacked by three militants, resulting in the deaths of two policemen and two civilians. The attackers were also killed.

  • December 2018: A roadside bomb targeted a bus carrying Chinese engineers in Balochistan, killing two people and injuring several others.

  • July 2019: A bus carrying Chinese workers in Dalbandin, Balochistan was attacked, leaving nine people dead.

  • April 2021: A suicide bombing at a luxury hotel in Quetta, Balochistan killed four people, including two Chinese nationals.

According to ChatGPT, as of 2021, there are over 1,000 Chinese companies operating in Pakistan, according to the Chinese embassy in Islamabad. They work in energy, infrastructure, telecommunications, agriculture, and manufacturing and their numbers are closely linked to Sino-Pak economic ties through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. CPEC works on Pakistan’s infrastructure and energy sectors, and has attracted significant investment from Chinese companies.

China ramps up foreign investment

Chinese firms have accelerated their foreign investments this year as major contracts in countries that participate in the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) saw considerable growth, official data showed Monday, according to China Central Television, March 27, 2023.

In the latest development, Reuters reported that: Chinese state-owned telecom firms are developing a $500 million undersea fiber-optic internet cable network that would link Asia, the Middle East and Europe to rival a similar U.S.-backed project. The plan is a sign that an intensifying tech war between Beijing and Washington risks tearing the fabric of the internet.

China’s three main carriers – China Telecommunications Corporation (China Telecom), China Mobile Limited and China United Network Communications Group Co Ltd (China Unicom) – are mapping out one of the world’s most advanced and far-reaching subsea cable networks, according to the four people, who have direct knowledge of the plan.

Known as EMA (Europe-Middle East-Asia), the proposed cable would link Hong Kong to China’s island province of Hainan, before snaking its way to Singapore, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and France, the four people said. They asked not to be named because they were not allowed to discuss potential trade secrets.

The surge in non-financial outbound direct investment (ODI), referring to the expansion of business operations into foreign countries, is driven in part by major construction and energy projects, including the building of parts of Saudi Arabia’s massive eco-tourism site known as the Red Sea Project, as well as the installation of 40 wind turbines in eastern Brazil.

Meanwhile, ODI into countries that cooperate with China through the BRI bumped up to 26 billion yuan (around 4 billion U.S. dollars), a rapid increase of 27.8 percent from last year.

The turnover of projects contracted by Chinese enterprises in BRI countries was 10.25 billion U.S. dollars, and the value of newly signed contracts was 12.28 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for 56.2 percent and 49 percent of the total amount in the same period, respectively. 

With input from Dr Ammar A Malik, Reuters and wire services

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