Mid-1960s America saw a phenomenon called the "British Invasion". Anecdotal evidence suggests similar phenomenon, albeit on a smaller scale, is occurring in China with about 100,000 Pakistanis arriving there in recent years. While the growing presence of the Chinese in Pakistan gets a lot of press, there has been relatively little coverage of the movement of people in the other direction---from Pakistan to China. Jalil Shaikh, a Pakistani-American tech executive in Silicon Valley, has observed this phenomenon during his frequent visits to Jiangsu province in China. Jalil is often welcomed as "iron brother" by the people he meets during his stays in China.
Pakistanis in Changzhou, China
Pakistanis in Changzhou:
Jalil saw anecdotal of evidence of "Pakistani invasion" of China in the city of Changzhou in Jiangsu province. Changzhou has a population of about 5 million people which makes it a medium size city by Chinese standards. Changzhou is an educational hub and is home to several universities, including Changzhou University, Hohai University (Changzhou campus), Jiangsu Teachers' University of Science and Technology, Jiangsu Teachers' University of Technology, and Changzhou Institute of Technology. It attracts a large number of foreign students mainly from countries participating in China's BRI (Belt and Road Initiative). China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a flagship project of BRI. There are an estimated 22,000 Pakistani students studying in China. A significant fraction of these students receive Chinese government scholarships to study in the country.
Pakistani Restaurant in Changzhou, China
Pakistanis in Beijing:
Jalil has also travelled to the Chinese capital Beijing for business. During one such trips, he stayed at Oak Chateau hotel where he met dozens of Pakistanis working as engineers. They work as IT engineers at German automakers BMW and Mercedes whose Beijing offices are located just across the street from this hotel.
Food and Music at Changzhou Restaurant:
On a visit to Changzhou last year, Jalil ate at MandS Restaurant, a Pakistani restaurant in the city of Changzou. He met its Pakistani owner and several young Pakistanis attending universities there. He learned that here are scores of Pakistanis in Changzou and most of them are reachable on a WeChat group. WeChat is a ubiquitous smartphone application similar to WhatsApp that serves as both mobile messaging and payment platform. Owned by Chinese social media giant TenCents, WeChat competes with China's e-commerce behemoth Alibaba's Alipay in mobile payments space which has rapidly grown in China. Jalil joined the Pakistani WeChat group in Changzhou and invited its members to dinner and Karaoke singing at MandS Restaurant. About 40 Pakistanis, mostly students, showed up. Many of the Changzhou Pakistanis, including girls, are from families living in small towns and villages in Pakistan. Many get fully funded scholarships with full tuition, room and board as well as a monthly stipend of 1,700 RMB for Master's degree students and 2,000 RMB for PhD candidates. China gets the benefit of the research work and publications produced by them.
A Pakistani girl who had recently arrived had a serious mishap soon after arrival from her village near Multan. She slipped and fell. The fall caused serious spinal injuries requiring hospitalization and surgery. This occurred before her medical coverage started. The hospital demanded payment of RMB 35,000 which is equivalent to US$5,000. Pakistanis helped raise $4,000 and Jalil made up the difference to cover the unfortunate girl's medical expenses.
Muslims in Changzhou:
A large number of Muslims call Changzhou home. There are 5 mosques in the city. Jalil has had the opportunity to attend Friday prayers at packed mosques in the city. MandS Restaurant owner offered free meals to over 200 Muslims as part of Eid Milad un Nabi (Prophet Mohammad SAW's birthday)celebration last year.
More Pakistanis than ever are learning the Chinese language. China with its world class educational institutions is emerging as one of the top destinations for Pakistanis studying abroad. China-Pakistan relationship is becoming a truly multi-dimensional strategic relationship. This new phenomenon is the subject of a Pakistani spice company television commercial featuring a young Chinese woman in Lahore making the popular biryani dish using Shan masala.
China's Strides in Science and Technology:
Why is China becoming a fast growing destination for foreign students, including Pakistanis studying abroad? A story in India's "The Wire" online magazine has explained it in terms of the rapid rate of China's progress in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields as follows:
America's National Science Foundation and National Science Board have recently released their biennial science and engineering indicators which provide detailed figures on research and development (R&D), innovation and engineers. But its true message is in a different direction, “China has become,” concludes Robert J. Samuelson in a column, “or is in the verge of becoming – a scientific and technical superpower. This is not entirely unexpected given the size of the Chinese economy and its massive investments in R&D, even so, he says, “the actual numbers are breathtaking”.
1. China is the 2nd largest spender in R&D after the US, accounting for 21% of the world total which is $2 trillion. It has been going up 18% a year, as compared to 4% in the US. An OECD report says that China could overtake the US in R&D spending by 2020.
2. China has overtaken the US in terms of total number of science publications. Technical papers have increased dramatically, even if their impact, as judged by citation indices, may not be that high.
3. The US continues to produce more PhDs and attract more foreign students. But new international enrollment at US colleges was down for the first time in the decade in 2017. The Trump administration’s anti-immigration rhetoric and actions are scaring away students.
4. China has begun shifting from being an assembler of high-tech components, to a maker of super computers and aircraft and given the pattern of its investments in RandD and technology development, it is focusing on becoming the world leader in artificial intelligence (AI), quantum communications, quantum computing, biotechnology and electric vehicles.
While the growing presence of the Chinese in Pakistan gets a lot of press, there has been relatively little coverage of the movement of people in the other direction---from Pakistan to China. Pakistan-China ties are rapidly growing well beyond the economy and the military with tens of thousands of Chinese and Pakistani citizens regularly traveling between the two countries. Jalil Shaikh, a Pakistani-American tech executive in Silicon Valley, has observed this phenomenon during his frequent visits to Jiangsu province in China. Jalil is often welcomed as "iron brother" by the people he meets during his stays in China. More Pakistanis than ever are learning the Chinese language. China with its world class educational institutions is emerging as one of the top destinations for Pakistanis studying abroad. It is becoming a truly multi-dimensional relationship which will help Pakistan rise with China on the world stage.
Here's a video clip of Karaoke Dinner in Changzhou, China: