China-Pakistan Relations: Beijing Pushes For Cultural Soft Power

Reporters work at the office of Hushang, a Mandarin language weekly newspaper, in Islamabad
(Photo: REUTERS/Caren Firouz)

The Pakistani Television Corporation will soon launch a video content of an inter-racial couple sharing about their love story. The release in public of the recorded interview of the Pakistani man and his Chinese bride is part of a nationwide campaign to educate people about China's rich culture and heritage.

The campaign is part of a larger movement to establish China's cultural soft power in Pakistan in support of the $60-billion infrastructure initiative called the China Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC. In China, CPEC is part of President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road project. 

The term "soft power" was coined in the 1980s by Joseph Nye. Soft power means the ability of a foreign country to build influence - cultural, political, and foreign policies -  through appeal and attraction and not through coercion. 

History can reveal how western nations used cultural soft power for other countries to adapt their ways and embrace their influences deeply into their own culture and lifestyle. The strategy has been effective for the United Nations, the United Kingdom, and Spain.

For the Pakistani's, who were shaped by strong British influence, it is now time to learn about China. After all, the Asian powerhouse has more than 5000 years of rich history.  The Chinese, who are about 1.38 billion today, accounted for one-fifth of the world's population.   

Since 2018, Chinese shows and other content have been airing for free across different channels in Pakistan. The country saw its first-ever Chinese cartoon series early this year. The "Three Drops of Blood" had even premiered in  Pakistan National Council of Arts. 

Pakistani's have also been learning Mandarin. The country is home to four Confucious Institutes. Two more of the Confuscious school is set to open in the coming years. To date, there is an estimated 25,000 Pakistanis studying Mandarin inside the country while there are 22,000 Pakistanis studying in China. 

Mandarin has been truly ingrained in Pakistan's daily life with one Chinese print media launched in 2017. Huashang has since become the country's first-ever newspaper written in mandarin. The newspaper has more than 60,000 weekly readers. 

Meanwhile, China has not only spread its soft power in Pakistan but has also started establishing cultural influence around the world. As of 2010, there are said to be more than 40 million people learning Mandarin.

In fact, around the year 2015, it has become widely known that important public figures have actually been speaking Mandarin as their second language. Some of them are former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Facebook Co-Founder Mark Zuckerberg, and Malia Obama.  

© 2019 Business Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Sign Up for Newsletters and Alerts