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China's Marvelous Human Development and Lessons for Pakistan

Islamabad, Jan. 10: The extraordinary progress that China has made in human development by lifting millions of people out of poverty, despite having the largest population of 1.4 billion, is no less than a miracle. The Chinese top-tier leadership attaches great importance to its human resource development. In the words of China’s former vice-premier Mme Liu Yandong: “investment in early childhood development is a human capital investment with the highest return”. I witnessed their commitment to ‘put children first’ being translated into policies during my recent visit to China’s southwestern province Guizhou.

The Chinese government recognises that having a well-educated and well-nourished population is a requisite to innovation and achieving this gives priority to investing in early childhood development to eliminate poverty. Children’s development is an important part of a country’s socioeconomic development and progress. Promoting children’s development is of strategic importance to improving China’s comprehensive quality and making it a human resources-powerful country.

Early childhood education (ECE) in rural areas, especially in poverty-stricken regions, has been prioritised to increase the national enrolment rate. The Chinese model of village early education centres has made significant progress in popularising pre-school education in the country’s middle and western rural areas and, in particular, to reach the bottom 20 percent of children who are the most underprivileged.

These village early education centres abide by the principles of operational simplicity, reasonable cost, accessible service and guaranteed quality. As is the case in Pakistan, the shortage of qualified pre-school teachers is a prominent problem in ECE development in China as well. These village early education centres solved this problem by recruiting volunteer pre-schoolteachers who teach full-time in exchange for monthly living and transportation subsidies. In addition, the volunteers regularly attend various training courses held by the country’s education bureaus to continually improve their work skills.

Nutrition is the main component of early childhood development interventions and China has demonstrated substantial experience in nutritional supplementation for poor families and children. The State Council has promulgated the National Programme for Child Development in China. This initiative proposes major objectives, strategies and measures with regard to children’s health, education, legal protection and the environment and gives a state umbrella to children.

It has, therefore, enabled remarkable improvements in the environment and the conditions necessary for the survival, protection and development of children. Under this state-sponsored programme, the health and nutrition of children steadily improved and the under-five infant mortality rates were significantly reduced. It provides orphans, children from poverty-stricken families, disabled children, street children and other disadvantaged children more care and assistance to ensure their holistic development.

China is serious and systematic about its human resource development, which starts at the child’s birth. They have unfolded a clear roadmap for early childhood development provisions, such as the One Village, One Preprimary by 2020 initiative, to reach the marginalised population that lives in poverty in the remote rural areas. Through this political will and extensive support, researchers in China are implementing and evaluating a diverse range of early childhood development models. The impact evaluations of various models show that parenting support and community-based interventions have the potential to reach young children who are at risk and promote child development.

The models include the China Rural Education and Child Health (China REACH) programme – the first integrated early childhood education programme in Gansu. This initiative includes nutrition and parenting interventions, arbitrarily controlled trials and follow-up assessments alongside maternal and child health check services and early childhood development screening. Similarly the One Sky Project in Henan reaches the most number of children who are risk in their formative years by training adult caregivers on how to offer the kind of consistent nurturing interaction that all children need and to let them know that their lives matter.

The country with global development ambitions under its One Belt One Road initiative keeps “investment in the human capital” and “putting children first” as its guiding principles. The energy and transportation infrastructure projects that come under CPEC should be expanded to encompass Chinese cooperation. This can be done by fostering Pakistan’s social infrastructure and adopting Chinese models of ECD interventions by associating finances to it.

Since almost 40 percent of Pakistan’s children under five are underweight and 50 percent are stunted – with wide disparities between children from poorer and well-to-do households – investing in our children and future human resources could only be more appropriate now than ever. Most health education and nutrition departments work in isolation, ignoring the benefits of an integrated approach to early child development in Pakistan. There is no state umbrella to look after disadvantaged children between the ages of three and five, which is a critical age for school readiness.

It is time that we realise that investing in early child development is an effective means to eliminate poverty from Pakistan and a key pathway to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In such a situation, an ECD emergency has to be declared and Pakistan needs to commit now to focus on children who are below the age of six by adopting successful Chinese models and strong political commitment to implement policy actions. A legal framework has to be prepared for the state coverage of this age group. An early years’ commission has to be set up to leverage national and provincial governments to redirect policies to focus on children in the pre-primary age group. Social and private sector innovative models should be studied, evaluated, replicated and patronised under the government framework to reduce the fiscal burden on the already underfunded primary education setup.

To prevent the intergenerational transmission of poverty, we must provide access to pre-school education for all disadvantaged children, especially those at the lowest 20 percent of income quintiles. It is only in this way that we can foster their upward mobility and pave the way for sustained socioeconomic development to ultimately transform Pakistan into a knowledge economy.

The writer is the president of the Parwaan National Center of Excellence on Early Childhood Care and Education.

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Twitter: @MehnazAkberAziz

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May has pushed the development of the Belt and Road initiative to a higher stage. In the past four years, the Belt and Road initiative has not only enhanced China's economic prowess but also manifested its national culture. This has mainly been embodied by the building of China's national image, the dissemination of cultural concepts and the promotion of international discourse power.
At present, countries along the Belt and Road have realized in-depth strategic integration with China and gained the economic benefits of the win-win cooperation the initiative brings. The importance of the development of Belt and Road projects has extended to cultural exchanges and cultural cooperation.
 
The countries and regions along the Belt and Road have showed more understanding of the initiative's humanistic aims, which has offered a good opportunity for the initiative to enhance China's cultural soft power.
 
The Belt and Road countries and regions have their own various ethnic groups, cultures and religions. The Middle East and Central Asia are areas with frequent terrorist, separatist and extremist activities. Strengthening cultural exchanges and people-to-people exchanges is vital to reducing cultural and religious conflicts and implementing the Belt and Road.
In the past four years, the initiative has gained substantial achievements in cultural transmission and trade.
Gansu, an important Chinese province on the ancient Silk Road, has highlighted the historical and cultural aspects of the initiative.
It developed its cultural and creative industries and created economic benefits by displaying large art and historical exhibits and holding events such as the Silk Road International Cultural Expo in 2016.
The countries and regions along the Belt and Road own age-old historic and cultural resources. They also have special regional and national cultures. These regions can make good use of their cultural resources by holding cultural exchange activities, developing cultural trade and strengthening educational exchanges. In this way, they can share their cultural heritage, art and literature.
The Belt and Road can help promote the friendship and affection of countries and people with different religious beliefs, cultures and social systems. This will lead to new Belt and Road common cultural memories, give rise to new cultural symbols that respect cultural differences, and link China to the world.
As of April this year, China has signed mutual recognition agreements on academic degrees and diplomas with 24 countries along the route. At present, more than 100 Confucius Institutes and 100 Confucius classrooms at primary and middle schools have been established among countries along the Belt and Road, effectively promoting the transmission of Chinese language and boosting the recognition of Chinese culture.
In addition, various cultural exchange activities have strengthened the understanding between China and other Belt and Road countries.
During the development of the Belt and Road initiative, China has always adhered to the spirit of tolerance and harmony, making efforts to build a civilized, prosperous, pluralistic and symbiotic cultural landscape in the world, and seeking reconciliation among different civilizations with mutual respect and tolerance.
In the 21st century, the spread of the information age and networking have deepened the cultural exchanges among different countries. An increasing number of countries have realized the coexistence of different civilizations and the importance of cultural exchanges and mutual learning.
The Belt and Road initiative, upholding traditional Chinese cultural concepts such as "great harmony," has created opportunities and platforms for cultural integration. Chinese civilization has promoted the positive gain of the diverse cultures of the world, and helped crack the dilemma of the clashes of civilizations to realize the coexistence of civilizations.
In the past four years, the development of the Belt and Road has won the world's attention, displayed the confidence of Chinese culture, shaped China's image during the transformation of international discourse power, and enhanced China's national cultural soft power in the process of promoting cultural exchanges and aggregating value consensus.
The author is a PhD candidate at the School of Marxism at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

There Is More Than Enough Room For China And India To Co-Exist And Thrive In Asia And In The World

BEIJING, July 21 (Xinhua) -- Behind the ongoing border standoff caused by Indian troops' trespass into Chinese territory, is an ill-conceived notion of dragon-elephant rivalry that has grown into a major global topic.

Where does the confrontational idea come from?

The China-India comparison emerged as early as in the 2000s, and was elaborated by scholars and media from the United States and Britain.

The book "The Dragon and the Elephant: China, India and the New World Order", written by Sunday Times journalist David Smith, formally presented the idea to the world. The Financial Times even has a special page for "dragon-elephant rivalry."

It is fair to say that the concept of China and India being nemeses to each other was cooked by the West, a smart move, pitting the two biggest future competitors of the West against each other.

So who stands to win from a possible India-China war?

At least no one in Asia. Obviously the two would pay a heavy price first of all. Even Japan, the U.S. ally who relies heavily on the Chinese market, would suffer an economic blow, which could turn into a domestic crisis.

Most economies, including those in the West, will find themselves negatively affected by an India-China war in a globalized and intertwined world today.

The only beneficiaries, sadly, will be opportunists, short-sighted nationalist politicians who don't really have the people's interests in heart. And the dream of an Asian century would become a puff of wind.

What is the true nature of the China-India relations?

Being the world's oldest civilizations with a time-honored history and brilliant culture, China and India have long engaged in exchanges and mutual learning.

As the two countries are the world's biggest potential markets, each with over a billion people, they could develop complementary industries and cooperate in protecting common security.

Working together, China and India could build something unprecedentedly wonderful for not just themselves, but the whole region and the world.

The recent border issue between the two countries shows a lack of strategic trust on the Indian side. What is holding India back is not China, but common problems facing developing countries like corruption, a lack of quality education, healthcare and reforms.

Both China and India need to enhance communication and nurture trust between them, first by recognizing that the two are not born rivals and that harboring ill will against each other is dangerous.

India must understand that China wishes what's good for the Indian people and would love to see a strong India standing shoulder by shoulder with China.

Meanwhile, just like China, India must remain sober and guard against wrong judgement and irrational perceptions.

Instead of being rivals, India and China have much more common ground, common interests and common aspirations. Both as developing countries, the two need to work together on important issues like fighting climate change, protectionism and the financial privileges of Washington.

Hopefully, wisdom will guide the two countries to common prosperity. There is more than enough room for them to co-exist and thrive in Asia and in the world.

Source: xinhuanet

China to Confront Financial, Engineeering Challenges in ‘Belt and Road

The ancient “Silk Road” was not well-defined, but rather involved several routes through central Asia and Persia and modern Turkey by which silk fabrics traveled from the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to A.D. 220) as far back as the Roman Republic, over 2,000 years ago. Depending on political developments over such a long distance, the silk trade periodically languished and revived, especially during the early Tang Dynasty (618-907) and again during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), when Mongols controlled most of the route from China to eastern Europe. The Tang Dynasty and again the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) developed sea routes through the Indian Ocean, at least to eastern Africa and the Red Sea, some say even farther. A later Ming emperor not only declined to finance these expensive official voyages but, bizarrely, prohibited even private distant sea-born voyages.

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The risks and dangers of the land route induced the Europeans — led by the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch, British, French and much later, the Germans — to seek a sea route to the Spice Islands of Southeast Asia and to East Asia. From China, they imported not only silk, but also fine porcelain (called “china” in English) and especially tea, which had become a favorite beverage. Lacking the high value of silk, the other commodities were much more economical as well as less risky to ship by sea.

In 2013 President Xi Jinping announced — in Astana, Kazakhstan — an initiative to create a new Silk Road, by land and by sea, linking China with Europe (and Africa). This has been labeled the “Belt and Road” initiative. The initiative was declared four years ago, initially as a slogan, the details of which are still being worked out although much has taken shape in the meantime. It includes some things that were started or planned well before 2013, such as enlarging the port of Gwadar in Pakistan and building an oil pipeline to Yunnan province through Myanmar.

The general concept seems to be to improve Chinese communication — viewed broadly — with Europe and Africa, including intermediate nations, especially the “-stans” of central Asia, by building or improving networks of transportation and optical fibers, including local infrastructure, such as ports, airports, rail lines and highways, but also the generation and transmission of electricity.

The sea route has been well-established since the Suez Canal opened in 1869, permitting ships to avoid the long trip around Africa, but local ports and channels can be improved, such as in Burma, Pakistan and Djibouti.

Modernizing land routes will be much more difficult, both in engineering terms and especially in economic terms. The distances are vast, through relatively poor and lightly populated places such as Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and even Russia’s western Siberia. Also, Russia is notorious for charging high fees for the use of its territory, whether the increasingly ice-free northern sea route or its air space. (The Panama Canal provides a sharp contrast here: Opened by the U.S. in 1914, two years before the trans-Siberian railroad, the canal stipulated that toll charges for all users should cover only operating costs, not profits, and not even interest on the debt incurred to build the canal; the U.S. similarly made the Global Positioning System available to all users free of charge.) And for rail, there is the complication that Russia uses a wider gauge of track than the standard gauge used in China and Europe (installed in the late 19th century for strategic reasons), thus weakening the economics of trans-continental rail travel.

China has indicated a willingness to provide financing for the Belt and Road initiative on a large scale, partly through existing institutions such as the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China, which together have been committed to provide 380 billion yuan ($56.1 billion) to the endeavor, and partly though new institutions such as the multilateral Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund, which is to be augmented by 100 billion yuan, or $14.8 billion. This compares with recent annual commitments of roughly $30 billion each by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Of course, the Chinese pledges are totals, not an annual figure. And it is mainly declaratory so far; they might be increased in future, but reality may also be less generous. Already there are worries in Pakistan about the large debt burden it will incur to China as a result of ongoing Belt and Road activities in that country (many started before 2013), and whether accessible economic gains will be sufficient to service it.

China also explicitly aspires to use the Belt and Road to increase international use of China’s currency, the yuan. This will be natural insofar as loans from China are made to purchases exports and services from China, but other suppliers may be reluctant to accept payment in yuan without adequate channels for even short-term investment in yuan, and debtors may be reluctant to accept long-term debts in yuan without being confident that China’s market will be open to their exports in the long term.

In mid-May, the Chinese government hosted a major conference on the Belt and Road initiative, involving 130 countries and political leaders from 29 of them. Xi opened the meeting with an inspiring speech outlining the mutual gain participating countries could expect from the initiative, not only in economic terms but in terms of peace (necessary for prosperity) and in terms of cross-cultural mutual understanding and mutual respect, and not incidentally casting China as a cooperative and supportive partner in globally constructive endeavors, including preservation and extension of the open world economic order China inherited and from which China itself greatly prospered.

Richard N. Cooper is the Maurits C. Boas professor of international economics at Harvard University.

By Richard N. Cooper

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