Imran Khan has concluded a speech before the Central Party School in Beijing after which he flew to Shanghai where he will be Chinese President Xi Jinping’s guest of honour at the First China International Import Expo. While Chinese youth are ever more optimistic about the prospects of their future, like all responsible students they also seek to think critically about both domestic and universal challenges. While listening to the Pakistani Prime Minister via a translator, the students were clearly paying close attention to Imran’s words.
Imran Khan by contrast has come from a country where years of poor leadership have allowed vast potential to be squandered and as a result pessimism fomented in many quarters of Pakistani society. Yet when Imran Khan’s PTI party won its first Pakistani General Election this year, it signified a shift in the mentality of the leadership from one of arrogance from a position of weakness to one of strength from a position of dignity. It was in this spirit that Imran Khan addressed young students at the Central Party School in the Chinese capital and explained that when he formed PTI in 1996, he had a single goal of fighting corruption. He further explained the early struggles in leading PTI as he stated that at first “no one took my party seriously”. He then said,
“The only reason I succeeded was because I learned a very important lesson form sports: you only lose when you give up and a champion is a champion who learns from his mistakes, who analyses his mistakes and corrects them”.
After detailing his continued fight against corruption through several highly controversial elections cycles, Imran Khan brought his student audience up to date and explained how Pakistan can learn from China in terms of achieving sustainable development, economic modernisation and establishing a corruption free political atmosphere. Calling the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) a “blessing”, Imran continued to detail the advantages of a close relationship with China from a position of a thinking with far sighted vision. Imran Khan reiterated that he seeks to make the most of an all-weather partnership with the world’s undisputed economic success story – China, and in so doing, help to elevate the long term condition of the Pakistani people.
While some in Pakistan had hoped that the Prime Minister would go to Beijing and Shanghai with a proverbial begging cup, such a crass attitude is insulting not just to the dignity of Pakistan but to the dignity of a Chinese partner that has stood beside Pakistan even when China itself was an impoverished nation. Today, while China has blossomed into an economic superpower thanks to decades of reforms and hard work, Pakistan is approaching China with the dignified spirit of an equal as under Imran Khan, Pakistan seeks to learn from China and regain the spirit of progress that once defined Pakistan in the days of national father Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
With this in mind, one can understand why there has yet to be an inked deal for Pakistan to receive a much needed loan and line of investment from China as Imran Khan is employing long term thinking rather than engaging in a childish mentality motivated by fear. While Pakistan’s finances have been left in a dire state by previous governments, an attitude of panic would only create more needless stress while the calm approach that Pakistan’s new Prime Minister has taken exemplifies the fact that he has already taken a page from China’s geo-strategic playbook which always prioritises long term thinking over tendencies of impetuosity.
When viewed from this perspective, it becomes clear that Imran Khan’s mentality contrasts with that of his predecessors as night contrasts with day. It would have been all too easy for Imran to give in to fear, but just as he showed strength and determination in sport, so too are these the guiding qualities of Imran’s political mentality.