Islamabad, 3 June 2022 (TDI): The issue of anti-CPEC propaganda was highlighted at the 7th CPEC Media Forum on Thursday, which was jointly hosted by the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan-China Institute, and China Economic Net.

The speakers talked about the perspective of advertising, misinformation, and fake news to create a rift in public opinion, uphold violent extremism and challenge the development project.

It is commonly believed in Pakistan that the CPEC will be a game-changer that will shape the region’s geostrategic, geo-economic, and geopolitical dynamics; and that it will provide an answer to the country’s infrastructure deficiencies.

However, at the same time, stories in the media are spreading suspicion about it by alluding to the danger of Pakistan sliding into China’s debt trap, the claimed lack of integrity in the enterprises, and the environmental consequences of the projects, particularly coal-based power plants.

CPEC: Victim of Malicious Campaign

In his keynote address, Speaker of the National Assembly Raja Pervaiz Ashraf emphasized the importance of CPEC, stating that it was Pakistan’s best bet for becoming the geo-economic hub of the region.

However, he expressed with regret that CPEC had been “a victim of the nefarious smear campaign” carried out by “detractors” of CPEC and China.

Pervaiz Ashraf appeared to be making a reference to the increasing attacks against Chinese personnel and projects in Pakistan by Baloch separatists when he made the suggestion that extremist and ethnic elements may be utilized to undermine the project.

As a result, Speaker advocated for reaching out to the local populations to address their concerns, as he believed that they were susceptible to the cruel propaganda that was being spread against CPEC.

Spread of False Propaganda around CPEC

Pang Chunxue, the Chinese Chargé D’affaires, echoed similar sentiments regarding the gravity of this obstacle. Pang Chunxue said, “There is an increase in the spread of false propaganda as well as disinformation around CPEC.”

Pang Chunxue further highlighted that there are hostile elements working to disrupt the growth of CPEC as well as the unity and mutual trust between the two countries.

Pang Chunxue provided further particular information regarding the individuals who were behind the fake news and propaganda activities that were conducted against CPEC.

Pang Chunxue mentioned the strategic alliances formed by the United States to contain China, such as the QUAD, which is a group that includes India, Japan, the US, Australia, and AUKUS, which is a trilateral security agreement between Australia, the UK, and the US.

Likewise, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework comes in the same category. She stated that these alliances were targeting China and undermining its efforts for promoting peace and development around the world.

Pakistan-China to Jointly Counter Anti-CPEC Propaganda

Fake news and disinformation have been called the most significant obstacle facing the CPEC, according to the Chairman Defence Committee of the Senate, Mushahid Hussain, who also directs the Pakistan-China Institute. He urged the two countries to jointly counter it.

“Journalists from both nations and others should convey the truth about CPEC and BRI so that people recognize which is the way forward,” Mushahid Hussain said, adding further that the way forward was to join BRI, develop collaboration and connectivity, and bring countries together in win-win cooperation.

Mushahid Hussain further stressed that CPEC was not intended to be used against any other nation, and he stated that the mentality of the Cold War and the confinement of China is not acceptable. 

CPEC, with Beijing’s cooperation, might help Pakistan’s economy recover. But if it proceeds forward without any more thorough debate and votes in parliament and provincial legislatures and consultation with the people, it would intensify the tension between the federal capital and the perimeter, roil regions already ignored, widen socioeconomic divides, and ultimately create new causes of violence.

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