China is not only a neighbor but an all-weather friend of Pakistan. There is often exchange of delegations between both countries for various purposes. Despite that, very little is known about China in Pakistan. There are many places in China which have virtually remained hidden from popular imagination of Pakistan. One such place is Weifang city in Shandong province of China.
From 1st to 5th July, I happened to be part of Discover Weifang trip along with a dozen other journalists from around the world. What I witnessed and experienced in this trip made me realize how a common Pakistani is absolutely clueless about most parts of china except Beijing and Shanghai.
Weifang is a prefecture level city of Shandong province. Population of Weifang is over 9 million and it comprises of 4 districts and 6 towns. Weifang is also the hometown of Mo Yan, the first Chinese to receive Nobel Prize in literature.
Weifang is also known as the Kite Capital of the world for its kite production base. Meicun Kite production village in Weifang produces 80 million kites annually that are exported mostly to Europe and North America. Apart from that Weifang is also known for its uniqueness in painting, art, food and culture.
It would be surprising for most people that a cultural hub like Weifang also contains a state of the art high tech zone that spreads on an area of 110 square kilometer. Over 100 companies operate in this zone and their products are in no way less superior than the products of companies in Silicon Valley and other high tech zones in developed countries.
Moreover, another thing which caught my attention was the fact that cities in China were developed with foolproof planning. High tech Zone of Weifang, for example, was developed in 1992. It’s perfectly designed and all the factors are taken into account about the future needs of the area. As a result there are no municipal level problems that are common in Pakistan such as shortage of water, sanitation problems, and pollution issues. Apart from that extra emphasis is laid on keeping the cities clean. Not only government has the necessary apparatus at disposal to collect and dump garbage but people are also educated about the need to keep their cities clean.
That’s not all, Weifang has more to offer. Zhucheng county of Weifang hosts world’s largest collection of Dinosaur fossils. Zhucheng Dinosaur Geopark is an amazing place to visit for any tourist who is baffled by the thought of existence of dinosaurs at a point in time. In most of countries, discovered fossils of Dinosaurs are extracted from the site and then displayed at a museum. In Weifang a museum has been built at the site where fossils were discovered. This has minimized the risk of losing and damaging the fossils during transporting them from one place to another. The way Weifang government has managed the Dinosaur Park is a lesson to be learnt for all the developing countries in protecting their archaeological heritage.
I was impressed by a number of things during my short trip and one of them was the effective management and governance by the Chinese government. For someone who follows governance in Pakistan closely, successful governance in China was nothing short of huge surprise for me. All the aforementioned sites in Weifang were diligently managed by the government. Investment from the state had kept the cultural heritage of Weifang alive and facilitated in making it self-sustainable.
Furthermore, common perception about China is that it’s a totalitarian dictatorship where only one party rules the state. It’s believed that the common people of China are suppressed and kept in darkness. I was shocked to witness that this perception is wildly untrue. Common people of China seemed to be free from any sort of suppression in their daily lives. They all seemed to be happy and enjoying their daily lives and work. There is an overwhelming participation of females in the workforce and there are no issues of gender discrimination. In fact, a common Chinese citizen in Weifang is living a much better life compared to people in India or Pakistan.Traffic system in Weifang was flawless and there were no issue of traffic congestion like we face in Pakistan on routine basis. I noticed there were not many traffic policemen on the traffic signals in Weifang. There were traffic signals with CCTV cameras installed. Any offender of traffic rules is caught on CCTV cameras and penalized accordingly. This is just an example of how modern civilized countries manage their traffic systems.
There is no reason that Pakistan cannot learn from the Chinese model to achieve the same level of success in due course of time. While receiving billions of dollars in investment from China, Pakistan government should also seriously consider borrowing successful governance practices from its neighbor.