Pakistan is the most influenced by China, according to a new study that measures Beijing's expanding global sway.
The China Index - a database relaunched by DoubleThink Labs, a Taiwan-based research organization - ranks Pakistan atop a list of 82 other countries around the world, saying that its links to and dependency on Beijing in terms of foreign and domestic policy, technology, and the economy make it particularly susceptible to Chinese influence.
Behind Pakistan, Southeast Asia features prominently in the rankings, with Cambodia and Singapore listed in second and third, followed by Thailand. The Philippines is seventh and Malaysia is 10th.
South Africa is the first African country at No. 5, where it is tied with Peru, the highest-ranked South American country.
"A major goal of (this database) is to raise awareness around the world about the different aspects of Chinese influence and what that can actually look like," Min Hsuan-Wu, the co-founder and CEO of Doublethink Labs said.
"We've taken a much broader and nuanced look at what influence can be, which can tell us more about what Beijing is actually doing and the different ways it can apply pressure."
In compiling the China Index, the research team focused on nine categories to track influence around the world that include higher education, domestic politics, economic ties, foreign policy, law enforcement, media, military cooperation, cultural links, and technology.
Wu says that this type of system leads to a more subtle understanding that challenges some assumptions about the levers of Chinese influence, most crucially around economics and trade.
"There's no one clear pattern for how China influences a country, but from the data we compiled, the economy isn't the determinative one," he said.
"You can be economically independent but be tied in other ways, like with the military or a large Chinese diaspora that can be more influential," quoted Wu was quoted as saying.
Islamabad is home to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a centrepiece of Beijing's globe-spanning Belt and Road Initiative in which Chinese entities have funded and built hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of infrastructure projects in the last decade.
Shahzeb Jillani, a veteran journalist who helped compile research on Pakistan used for the database, says that many Pakistanis may be surprised to see their country ranking so high, but he hopes the findings will lead to greater debate and reflection about Islamabad's deepening ties with Beijing, RFE/RL reported.
"One can only hope that this will encourage Pakistanis to debate the pros and cons of the relationship and what it could mean for the future," he said.