Is the New Silk Road really an economic corridor for China and Pakistan?

However creative the Silk Road Project may be, it can’t be concluded without bursting cooperation from partner states.

Farooq Yousaf October 26, 2014
While the world is busy tackling the ISIS and its look-alikes in the Middle East, China, on the other hand, has other plans to chase.

One such plan is reviving the centuries old Silk Route, or the New Silk Road – a series of routes that were important in the past for cultural interactions and trade between the East and the West.

As part of this revival, China recently announced working on a high speed train from Lanzhou to Urumqi, capital of the troubled Xinjiang province. It is also rumoured that the train may, in future, reach out to regional states including Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Turkey, along with further reaching out to, and concluding in, Bulgaria (Europe).

With extensive visits to central Asian states by the Chinese president and penning a number of multibillion dollar deals with his counterparts, President Xi Jinping of China has ensured that his vision of the New Silk Road starts off on the right footing.

The progress on the project comes at an ideal phase in the Chinese economy, where the country recently surpassed the US economy in terms of its purchasing power parity (PPP). China’s PPP, in the current year, has reached a mammoth figure of $17.6 trillion or 16.48% of the world’s GDP, while the US stands at $17.4 trillion.

The Silk Road Project consists of three parts. The first part starts from Xian (China) goes through Pakistan and ends in Turkey. The second strand stretches from Bangladesh to Myanmar, whereas the third aims at connecting China’s Fujian coast with the rest of the world.

Luckily for Pakistan and its economic prospects, China plans to expand one of the three Silk Route channels into Pakistan, starting from Kashgar and ending in Gwadar via Karachi.

Source: Xinjiang Regional Development and Reform Commission; China Daily

Funds have already been allocated for preliminary research to measure prospects of building one of the toughest routes that is ought to connect China and Pakistan.

Reviving the Silk Road economic belt was the brainchild of President Jinping, under whose orders research and development work on the project has sped up since the final quarter of 2013. China’s interest of including Pakistan in the project stems from its fears of any drastic US actions that could see Washington cutting of Beijing’s energy supply through various sea routes that it oversees, or controls virtually. That is where Gwadar’s importance kicks in. Controlling Gwadar means that China sits right next to the Persian Gulf, one of the most important oil trade corridors in the world. Also, China, being the largest global oil importer, seems to gain a lot from a fully operational Gwadar port by cutting down thousands of miles in transportation and millions of dollars in costs.

But this can certainly not imply that China is the sole beneficiary of Gwadar. Blueprints of the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor provide hope that the project, as well as the port, could spur economic growth in Pakistan.

India, on the other hand, has already voiced concerns over Chinese ‘ambitions’ of this new project, which it says is aimed at increasing Chinese influence both in the sea as well as on land. These concerns were put to bed by Gao Zhenting, councillor of the department of international economic affairs, who invited India to join this project citing India’s historical importance in the trade route.

Ironically, the United States also came up with its own version of the Silk Road Project seeking to expand its influence in the rapid growing Central and East Asian regions. But it seems that with ample time and cash on hand, China is in a clear lead.

The Silk Road Project’s prospects are also tied to regional stability and cooperation. However creative this project may be, it can’t be concluded without bursting cooperation from partner states. And one major issue at hand, for both China and Pakistan, is the brewing spiral of militancy in Xinjiang and FATA region. China has already expressed its discontent over the presence of Uighur training camps in Pakistan and has thus asked its neighbour to use an iron fist against such facilities.

If security concerns are thoroughly addressed, China’s greater strategic plan encompassing two major continents, while working on bilateral ties with states like Pakistan involved in it, could not only benefit Beijing and give it a long awaited economic hold, but could infuse life into dwindling economies of partner states – especially that of Pakistan.

The Silk Road Project, even with all its complications, presents a good lesson of a concrete economic vision for the long run.
WRITTEN BY:
Farooq Yousaf The writer is based in Australia and holds a PhD in Politics from the University of Newcastle, New South Wales. He has previously completed his Masters in Public Policy and Conflict Studies from Germany. He also occasionally consults Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) and writes for various news, academic and media sources. His areas of interest and research Indigenous conflict resolution, South Asian history, postcolonialism, and counter insurgency. He tweets @drfarooqyousaf (https://twitter.com/drfarooqyousaf)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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COMMENTS (33)

Swapnil Chalke | 3 years ago | Reply | Recommend Pakistan is actually watching daydream that Chinese will create infrastructure for pakistan .Actually China is overambitious country and many ways failed country too, just take a look on current GDP growth of China it is full of managed kind of growth like infusing fund for showing high growth rates.The GDP and economic growth numbers are fake as per IMF and world bank.We have already seen fall of markets resulted into chinese investors lost trillions of dollars .So China is making illusion more than fact.The businesses are badly hampered because of oversupply and substandard quality of products this resulted into increase in bad debts which is more than 30 trillion dollars which is double in number of Chinese GDP.You should think again country which have such a huge debt can make Pakistan rich forget it.The main intension of China for cpec is to gain strategical advantage nothing else.The Chinese illusion over Pakistan is just started so be ready to become Chinese slaves.In future there will not be any major business corridor.As investment in such highly insecured environment doesn't make any sense for investors and Pakistan is not a big market like India so future of cpec is only for strategic purpose .China has already lost its pace of economy since last 3 to 4 years, in upcoming days if China continues over aggression then it will directly affect their businesses eg . The import of raw materials, finished goods will be banned or heavily pitted because of anti dumping duties by all those countries which are unnecessarily targeted by china. So this will also result into slowdown which is already started.China is creating mess with its economy by such unviable investment.
Tabish | 5 years ago | Reply | Recommend even if there is no oil remaining in the gulf, it (The Gulf) will remain to be a consumer market and China is the largest producer market in the world. When the ends of supply and demand meet there will always be economic growth, thanks.
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