CPEC: Can Pakistan emerge competitively | By Shahnoor Waqas Malik


CPEC: Can Pakistan emerge competitively

CHINA-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a project between China and Pakistan to create a 3000km infrastructure network within the country – allowing the reduction of passage time, creating a more dominant trade route which stretches not only from Gwadar’s port around the Arabian sea all the way till Karachi, but also to the mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). This unites all provinces of Pakistan with the access to travel all over Pakistan – allowing China at the same time a better trade route to link them towards South Asia, Europe and the Middle East through Pakistan.

The project was established on 20th April 2015, and as of 2022 it is worth an estimated $65 billion with its roots stretching back to the 1950’s between both Governments with the development of the Karakoram Highway, which connected GB and KP to China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. With the vision that it will create upwards of 2 million jobs, an infrastructural network connecting the entire country, and the monetary investment pouring in to the country, the potential that Pakistan holds in its strategic value in the world is limitless.

Unfortunately, with the amount of imports banned in Pakistan, the increasing exchange rate for international currency, the sharp rising inflation, the cost of utilities/petrol increasing and the terms of the deal with the IMF that the country must comply with, the country has found itself in a tight spot – as a result, the people of this nation have felt grossly undervalued, neglected and frustrated – some have lost hope, wishing to go abroad.

Despite the nation’s political turmoil and economic weakness, China has however remained firm, committed and supportive of CPEC – with the long-term value capable of toppling the world trade market and disrupting potential sea route trades, China sees Pakistan as its future and a friend in the present. With fresh loans being received from China, it has allowed reserves to stay afloat in Pakistan preventing what every citizen fears, default. Although these loans come with interest, it shows that even in current times, the Chinese government has always extended a hand to the Pakistani government.

And despite their economic interests in Pakistan, China has also lent support to the security/military wing of Pakistan. They condemn India on the world stage on Kashmir, advocating support for Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir. In both Indo-Pakistani wars of 1956 and 1971, China supported Pakistan’s princpled stand against India. Despite the Communist Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, China supported the alliance of Pakistan and the United States of America against the invasion. Between 2017 and 2021, the largest buyer of major arms from China was Pakistan.

Interestingly, China has also shared agricultural technology and techniques with Pakistan – an industry which contributes 20% to the the country’s GDP and employs more than 40% of the labour force. While CPEC is inevitable – a vision not only to unite Pakistan with itself, but to show Pakistan the value it truly holds competitively by recognising what it has. From having deep sea-ports to a network of motorways, from being blessed with all types of weathers and terrain, Pakistan is truly a very special nation.