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Accepted Paper:

Creating 'the Chinese' in the Desert: Local Encounters with Global China  
Asad Abbasi (University of Sussex)

Paper Short Abstract:

Based on 13 months of fieldwork in Pakistan, I explore how locals, despite limited engagement with the Chinese apparatus, construct the image of China. This gives a glimpse on shifting position in Thar, in the southeast of Pakistan, after the arrival of the Chinese funded coal mining projects.

Paper Abstract:

Several economic ailments had engulfed the Pakistani economy in 2013 but none were more prominent than the energy crisis, which had led to incessant blackouts throughout the country. Thus, when the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, was announced, all political parties and stakeholders celebrated the deal.

Thar, a desert region in the southeast of Pakistan, became the sight of numerous Chinese funded extraction and power generation projects as a result of the CPEC deal. The British Raj had imagined Thar as a ‘periphery’ and hence ‘unimportant’. The culture and the economy of Thar remained unaffected even after the independence of Pakistan in 1947. In the 1971 war, when the Indian forces took control over tracts of Thar, did the Pakistani state start to give importance to Thar, but only so far as treating it as a border state to be under constant vigilance. But since 2013, with Chinese funded coal operation, Thar has, for the first time in its history, become integral to the economy of the country.

For the locals in Thar, the dietary habits, the skin complexion, and the work attitude of the Chinese has become a source of intense and constant discussion and speculation. Based on 13 months of fieldwork in Pakistan from Aug 2021- Sept 2022, I explore how locals, despite limited engagement with the Chinese apparatus, construct the image of China which gives a glimpse on shifting position in the region after the arrival of coal mining projects.

Panel P064
Temporal encounters with global China
  Session 1 Wednesday 24 July, 2024, -