Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif paid his first official visit to China on November 1-2 during which he reaffirmed his government’s willingness to commit to high quality development of BRI and highlighted the salience of CPEC, a flagship project under BRI, to Pakistan’s economic and social development.
In April 2015, President Xi Jinping of China had paid a state visit to Pakistan, during which the two countries agreed to upgrade bilateral relations to an all-weather strategic cooperative partnership. CPEC, entering the fast-track, attaches greater importance to the development of this relationship and the building of a closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era.
On economic front, CPEC gives a strong boost to Pakistan’s growth. Over the past eight years, CPEC has brought $25.4 billion of investment to Pakistan. In particular, a series of power generation and transmission projects have greatly relaxed the shortage of power supply in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the completion of Karakoram Highway Upgrading and Peshawar-Karachi Highway has enlarged the major road capacity in Pakistan. These projects help Pakistan erase its long-existing constraints of energy and transportation on economic growth.
On social front, CPEC also benefits Pakistani people, having already created more than 70,000 jobs in Pakistan and will create another 500,000 jobs directly or indirectly in the next 5 to 7 years. A series of social welfare projects have been completed, directly serving the local community’s interests in terms of water, medical care, education and professional skills training. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, there was no halt to the construction of CPEC projects, no job cut for Pakistani staff and no withdrawal of the Chinese engineers and workers.
On the basis of a successful Phase I, CPEC has stepped toward a new stage of high-quality development focusing on industrial cooperation, agriculture and social improvement. Meanwhile, a series of Special Economic Zone (SEZ), including Rashakai and Dhabeji, has been launched and injects impetus for the next stage of industrialisation in Pakistan. During PM Shehbaz’s recent visit to China, in line with the leadership’s consensus to accelerate cooperation in the areas of agriculture, mining, IT, socio-economic development under CPEC, the two sides agreed to further build on the health, industry, digital and green corridors launched earlier this year and carry out relevant cooperation.
CPEC’s story is embedded within deep-rooted strategic convergence between China and Pakistan. “As a project of national importance, CPEC enjoys national consensus.” From the perspective of international strategy and foreign policy, China upholds the neighbouring diplomacy of “amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness”, stressing “good-neighbourly friendship”. China pursues shared development and common security with Pakistan as her strategic goal in South Asia. CPEC, guided by the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, advocates an open, inclusive and shared development. China and Pakistan have set up a working group for international cooperation and coordination under the Joint Coordination Committee of CPEC, in order to facilitate third-party’s engagement with CPEC projects. Therefore, CPEC plays no role in the “camp politics” as someone’s concern. From security perspective, China promotes collective security through shared development with her neighbouring countries. CPEC is such a key enabler. From economic perspective, CPEC’s efforts on industry, agriculture and social welfare in Phase 2 matches Pakistan’s need for sustainable development.
CPEC’s success also proves itself by no mean a geo-strategic tool, but reflects the high-level strategic consensus and mutual trust.
CPEC does not try to export any ideology or development model. China has always been supporting Pakistan in formulating and implementing policies in accordance with its own conditions and in pursuing its own development path independently. Also China has no preference on any certain political faction, social group or geographic region in Pakistan for bilateral cooperation.
CPEC is not a gift as subsidy for any strategic intention, but an economic cooperation project based on various formats, including investment and financing, government loans and non-reimbursable aid. Meanwhile, CPEC does not impose any political conditions such as structural reform agenda or fiscal constraint on Pakistan, while it operates under Pakistan’s existing social and economic conditions in accordance with the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits.
Furthermore, CPEC reflects the need for both China and Pakistan to enhance bilateral relations from the political and defence fields to the economic front rather than an attempt to lock down each other’s geo-strategy options.
Through collective efforts over eight years, CPEC has injected momentum to Pakistan’s prosperity and regional connectivity; gained more positive response in both countries and the region; and will play an increasing constructive and responsible role as a game-changer for China and Pakistan, for the region and beyond.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2022.
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