ISLAMABAD: Chinese envoy and Pakistani leaders on Thursday warned of growing threats to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor from fake news and disinformation about the mega-development project and emphasised the need for cooperation in countering it.
The issue was highlighted at the 7th CPEC Media Forum, which was jointly hosted by the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan-China Institute, and China Economic Net, where the speakers talked about the potential of propaganda, misinformation and fake news to polarise public opinion, promote violent extremism and undermine the development project.
CPEC has been widely projected in Pakistan as a game changer that would influence the region’s geo-strategic, geo-economic and geo-political dynamics; and as an answer to its infrastructure shortcomings. But, at the same time media reports spread scepticism about it by pointing to the possibility of Pakistan falling in China’s debt trap, alleged absence of transparency in the projects, and environmental impact of the projects, especially coal-based power plants.
Speaker National Assembly Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, in his keynote speech, underscored the importance of CPEC, saying it was the country’s best bet for becoming the region’s geo-economic hub, but regretted that it had been “a victim of the malicious disinformation campaign” carried out by the “detractors” of CPEC and China.
‘Fake news’ termed a threat to mega project; Baloch communities can fall for anti-CPEC propaganda, warns NA speaker
In an apparent reference to growing attacks against Chinese personnel and projects in Pakistan by the Baloch separatists, Mr Ashraf suggested that extremist and ethnic elements could be exploited to sabotage the project.
He, therefore, called for reaching out to the local communities to address their grievances as they could fall for the vicious anti-CPEC propaganda.
Chinese chargé d’affaires Pang Chunxue also spoke of the seriousness of this challenge.
“False propaganda and disinformation on CPEC are on the rise. Hostile forces are trying to undermine the development of CPEC, as well as the unity and mutual trust between the two countries,” she maintained.
She was more specific about who was behind the fake news and propaganda campaigns against CPEC.
Mentioning the strategic alliances formed by the US to contain China — Quad, which is a group of US, Australia, India and Japan; Aukus, which is a trilateral security pact between Australia, UK, and US; and Indo-Pacific Economic Framework — she said they were targeting China and undermining its efforts for promoting peace and development in the world.
“CPEC cannot progress well in the world full of cold war mentality,” the Chinese diplomat added while reminding about the impact of the global environment on it.
Chairman Senate Defence Committee Mushahid Hussain, who also heads Pakistan-China Institute, described fake news and disinformation as the biggest challenge for CPEC.
He urged the two countries to jointly counter it.
“The journalists not only of the two countries, but from other countries too should promote truth about CPEC and BRI so that people realise which is the way forward,” he said, adding that the path ahead lay in being part of BRI, promoting cooperation and connectivity and bringing countries together in win-win cooperation.
CPEC, he emphasised, was not directed against any other country and said the mindset of cold war and containment of China is rejected.
Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2022