After an extremist organization announced it had killed the two Chinese citizens it kidnapped in Pakistan last week, speculation has been swirling among Indian and some Western media outlets that the China-Pakistan bilateral relationship, in particular the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of the Belt and Road initiative, would be affected. They are evidently overthinking the issue.
The atrocity committed by the Islamic State is appalling. But it cannot drive a wedge between China and Pakistan, nor will the construction of the CPEC be disrupted. In fact, it’s doubtful whether the extremist organization targeted the CPEC this time. The two hostages killed were not staff related to the project, but had allegedly been brought to Pakistan by a South Korean Christian organization to conduct missionary work. This tragedy was more likely caused by the conflict between South Korean missionary agencies and local terrorists.
The China-Pakistan bilateral relationship is regarded as a model of relations between countries with different social systems. The Chinese public considers Pakistan as China’s “iron brother.” Pakistan has made great efforts in protecting the CPEC. It has dispatched approximately 15,000 Pakistani military personnel to protect the Chinese engineers, the number of the former exceeding that of the latter. This is known to the Chinese public.
The killings show the appalling atrocity of the terrorists. But the Chinese public is also strongly opposed to South Korean churches recruiting young Chinese people to preach in war-torn areas, exposing them to great dangers.
Balochistan, where the two Chinese hostages were killed, is an area where many Belt and Road projects are located. As for the security loopholes, we believe the Chinese and Pakistani governments will put forward more detailed plans to protect Chinese nationals working in Pakistan. The progress of the CPEC won’t be slowed down because of the complex security situation.
Pakistan is far from having a stable domestic situation, but as the China-Pakistan friendship is deeply rooted in Pakistani society and most political and sectarian forces don’t consider China as an enemy, the security dilemmas facing the country will not impact the bilateral relationship or the CPEC.
So far, no political forces in Pakistan have openly boycotted the CPEC, instead, various regions compete to join the project. There is generally a favorable political and public opinion environment toward the project. The killings of the two hostages are not a signal of any change to the current situation.
Some Indian and Western media intend to exaggerate the impacts of the incident. They aim at badmouthing and disrupting China-Pakistan economic cooperation by linking the terror act caused by religious conflict to the political and economic cooperation between the two countries.
Political stability is still lacking in some countries along the route of the Belt and Road. The initiative will boost the development and employment of these countries, creating more economic and social resources to realize stability.
The CPEC, with an investment as high as $50 billion, will provide an unprecedented driving force for the economic and social development of Pakistan. China and Pakistan will be proven to be good partners to jointly implement the Belt and Road initiative. The two sides are able to address the security concerns along the CPEC and realize win-win cooperation.
The killings of the two Chinese citizens should serve as a lesson. It is necessary for China and Pakistan to understand the situation of South Korean missionaries and radical groups in Balochistan, so as to better protect the safety of Chinese nationals in Pakistan.