The flagship project of the BRI initiative in Pakistan by the Chinese government, CPEC has proudly entered into a new decade to further achieve its goals for the CPEC Vision 2025. It has become a landmark of the enduring friendship of China and Pakistan which has been characterized as “All-Weather” cooperation throughout history.
China Pakistan Economic Corridor initially aims to connect Gwadar Port in southwestern Pakistan to China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, through a network of highways, railways, and pipelines to facilitate trade between China and Pakistan. Initially formed as a “1+4” collaboration pattern (featuring the CPEC as the center and four priorities, namely the Gwadar port, Energy, Transport Infrastructure and Industrial Cooperation), entering into 2024, this project brings large-scale infrastructure, economic development and regional connectivity through public sector development projects, energy sector, transport infrastructure, social and economic development project, creating industrial cooperation and special economic zones.
Projects related to the establishment of Gwadar also needs to be mentioned counting in CPEC that serves truly to the vision of President Xi Jinping for a community with shared future. The aims are to create a peaceful and stable world order, where countries work together to address global challenges and promote common development.
Chinese perspective of CPEC aimed to further advance the western development strategy, promote economic and social development in Western China, accelerate the Belt and Road construction, give play to China’s advantages in capital, technology, production capacity and engineering operation, and promote the formation of a new open economic system.
The Pakistani side vision was to fully harness the demographic and natural endowment of the country by enhancing its industrial capacity through creation of new industrial clusters, while balancing the regional socioeconomic development, enhancing people’s wellbeing, and promoting domestic peace and stability. Both China and Pakistan had an international and regional vision to form a new international logistics network and industrial layout based on major transportation infrastructure; elevate the status of South Asian and Central Asian countries in labor division of global economy; promote regional economic integration through stable trade growth, international economic and technological cooperation and personnel exchange. After a decade, more than 33 projects have been completed and operational, 30 are under construction and around 55 are under the pipeline at various stages of either implementation or completion.
All these projects focused on the priorities that both China and Pakistan agreed into the 1-4 pattern of collaboration. Around 31 projects have been initiated under the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP).
These projects under CPEC’s goal are playing key role in transforming Pakistan’s economy by modernizing its transportation systems and connecting Gwadar and Karachi ports to China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and beyond.
Transportation of goods and the energy sector has been witnessing the reduced time and cost to achieve the aim of getting connected to the region by bypassing the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea and becoming crucial outlet for Central Asian countries, connecting West Asia, South Asia, and Central and South Asia.
To spur the rapid economic growth, Special Economic Zones have been established by Pakistan to ensure the continuous monitoring of the progress and development.
The results have been fruitful as the industrial system approximately complete, major economic functions brought into play in a holistic way where new renewable and alternate energy resources are changing the energy landscape of Pakistan and transportation made travel and trade convenient for locals thus it had made the people’s livelihood along the CPEC significantly improved, regional economic development more balanced, indicating progress towards the goals of Vision 2025 of CPEC.
But the road to success has never been easy for China or Pakistan as they had to face a constant scrutiny and severe criticism from regional as well as international actors reflected through the claims that Pakistan might become a Chinese colony or province to the issue of debt-trap, aggravating ethic tension for all the states linked through BRI, creating new world order, environmental concerns, corruption charges and in some instances even challenge the viability of the projects under CPEC.
However, the critics could not challenge the enduring alliance between China and Pakistan, embodied by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). CPEC is a robust testament to their steadfast strategic bond over the past 72 years.
Serving as a transformative vision, CPEC has played a crucial role in Pakistan’s development, with Gwadar port at its core, positioning the country as a regional connectivity hub that strives to be entirely accomplished by 2030.
The endogenous mechanism for sustainable economic growth in place, the CPEC’s role in stimulating economic growth in Central Asia and South Asia brought into holistic play, and South Asia shall grow into an international economic zone with global influence.
Dr. Hina Shahid is an expert on Euroasian Region and Advisor on BRI. Head of Department Arts and Media, Foundation University Islamabad & Member Board of Experts, PRCCSF.