I was once part of a government delegation to Italy to partake in a conference being held by energy industries world wide. Most of the conference was dedicated to the exhibitions where different industries set up their booths which would offer company products and services to prospective clients.
However, the company employees knew Pakistan, short of resources, was “small fry”. So we Pakistanis were largely ignored by the American and European executives who were more interested in the big fish like Saudis, India, China, Brazil etc. We just mostly meandered about.
During one of our strolls, we passed the Chinese delegation. All serious, taking notes, being engaged by an Italian woman who was explaining some kind of product to the head of the Chinese delegation.
We stood a bit to the side and listened in politely, when the head of the Chinese delegation caught our eye, offered a friendly smile and handshake and asked if we were waiting for them to finish up.
“Oh no, please continue.”, we replied. “Just wanted to say hi, we’re from Pakistan.”
The Chinese gentleman’s face lit up instantly. “Pakistan!” He shook my hand warmly “Our brother!” he exclaimed.
It was quite a moment. I remember every tiny detail from it even till today. The Italian lady’s surprise at how warmly we were being greeted. The other booth employees turning around to see what all the fuss was about. Their own looks of surprise at how the small fry, largely ignored Pakistani delegation was being treated so warmly by the most watched delegation of all, the Chinese.
It’s these small moments, these isolated incidents of human magic that people tend to miss out when they get confused over why China is so well liked by many of the developing world nations. Over the course of the conference, I interacted with other delegations from Africa, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and so on and they all had the same respect and positive impression for the Chinese delegation. Whether it was a delegate from Africa or Asia, no matter what their country’s size and importance, they were treated warmly and with mutual respect by the Chinese as if their country was the same as China in size, importance and power.
From what I have experienced, Chinese partners came to our country and worked with us side by side through day and night, rain and snow. Together, we suffered the mosquito bite, lived, ate, played football and exchanged films in USB.
Perhaps many people can not dawn on what I said because of their lack of personal experiences. Pakistan has always been associated with poverty, violence, terrorism and instability. But Chinese still consider themselves as one of us. Not imperial overlords or racial superiors or strict masters and so on. But comrades to the developing world, partners in our struggles and a developing country just like us who share in our troubles, concerns and visions for a mutually beneficial future.