By R Ahmad
The challenges and impediments faced by CPEC have been discussed in previous article, in next series of articles we will try to map out way forward from this checkered scenario.
To ensure CPEC success; a prudent master plan which guarantees the ROI, transparency in implementation/ execution to avoid chances of corruption are extremely important. However, the establishment of CPEC particularly in a populous country like Pakistan will not be possible without popular public support/sentiment.
While historically, China has remained the most favorite/loved country in Pakistan, but now this positive sentiment can no longer be taken for granted. Since the announcement of CPEC, hostile powers have launched a multifaceted smear campaign to distort the perception and image of China. A subtle disinformation effort through media, whisper and rumours is well under away to create resentment against CPEC/China.
Unfortunately, both China and Pakistan have not been able to comprehend the scope/ potential/ dimensions of Fifth Generation Warfare, therefore are unable to conceive/develop a compatible response. While obstinate control on flow of information even in this digital age of communication by China has frustrated the hostile subversive efforts. Pakistan lacking sovereignty /control over flow of information is highly susceptible to subversive campaigns.
The above assertion gets further credence by the fact that; focus has been on Physical Security of CPEC. Even a new security force/division comprising 13000 men has been established created to protect CPEC routes. On the contrary, no effort to counter subversive activities is visible. While CNN/BBC have unrestricted access to influence Pakistani’s minds/thinking at will, Chinese News /Entertainment Channel are absent or have limited availability.
In the past PTV having, monopoly, compensated for the said absence. Now with over 100 Private TV Channels PTV’s role and influence has been diminished to a great-extent. Unfortunately, most of the mainstream private TV channels are being indirectly sponsored by Western Powers through buying time for re-telecasting programs.
Even Indians also exercise influence on few channels through dumping entertainment contents. Therefore, China cannot continue to rely on PTV for maintaining its perception/image amongst masses, it needs to take a more proactive role. It may be pertinent to mention that in the past performance by Chinese Cultural Troupe would be telecasted by PTV and watched by all and sundry making a good impact. However, the one visited last week and performed in Islamabad was not even covered by PTV what to talk of private entertainment channels.
The CNN , BBC have always suspected to be a propaganda tool, but President Trump’s allegations have further exposed their role. The western media propagate/projects a negative image of China with news about lack of religious freedom, democracy, corruption, greed and aggressive trade practices. The benefits of Chinese social welfare system that fascinated people around the world and Pakistan in particular rarely mentioned reported. Resultantly new generation does not carry a very positive perception of China.
Media is just one dimension of the Problem. The Fifth Generation Warfare is very complex and multifaceted. News Media is just one such instrument. Countering a subversive campaign needs a comprehensive Policy/Strategy/Mechanism/Agency led by professionals who understands the techniques and tools used by hostile powers.
One of the most difficult aspects of counter effort is to identify the subversive theme, content and sources so as to differentiate between genuine opposition from the sponsored one. Otherwise remedial measures may unwittingly be abetting subversive campaign instead of countering it. There is a need to learn from recent events in Hong Kong in this regard.
Notwithstanding the above no disinformation,subversive campaign can be defeated without putting own house in order. If the perception about the prudence of CPEC master plan (as regards cost investment benefit for Pakistan) and lack of transparency (creating suspicions about corruption) were not dispelled discontent amongst masses would persist, which would facilitate the job of powers inimical to CPEC. It may be interesting to know that Indians are already sponsoring two Newspapers in China.
To Be Continued…