BY HU WEIJIA
A controversy has erupted over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the India-based Economic Times reported Monday, saying the Pakistani government had reportedly diverted large sums of Chinese investment meant for the CPEC to other projects.
Practical investigation is needed before any conclusion is reached. The project may encounter challenges, which would be normal for a multi-billion-dollar project such as the CPEC. The key issue is that the two countries must have the desire and ability to resolve such challenges.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is expected to visit China in April, according to media reports. The upcoming visit provides a good opportunity to resolve challenges through coordination.
It is unlikely that China will change its supportive attitude toward projects under the CPEC, including the construction of the China-funded new international airport in Pakistan’s Gwadar port.
It seems Islamabad has a clear intention to make Gwadar port a regional logistics hub with China’s help, as it speeds up the development of an industrial zone near the port and an international airport that can cater to the world’s largest passenger planes. Although no detailed development plan for Gwadar port has been released, most observers believe it will be a large project that will soon play an important role in one of the world’s busiest sea routes.
Some observers hope China and Pakistan can upgrade their free trade agreement during Imran Khan’s upcoming visit, which is expected to help Pakistan double its exports to China. The development of Gwadar port is a crucial prerequisite for Pakistan’s export growth. For example, the new Gwadar airport will facilitate Pakistan’s seafood exports, which are a bright spot in the country’s exports to China.
With airport and special economic zone projects, Gwadar port is likely to make itself into a coastal industrial hub based on export-oriented sectors, stepping up the country’s economic restructuring and GDP growth, as Pakistan seeks to further integrate itself into the global industrial chain.
If this vision becomes a reality, Gwadar port will help reshape economic relationships among countries along the Arabian Sea, as Pakistan becomes a new transshipment hub for trade with China and other major importers in the region.
The port does not strategically target any third party. Rather, it will be a nail hammered into the geopolitical landscape of the region to promote economic integration.
The CPEC is a flagship project of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has also invested in ports in countries including Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Djibouti. Those ports are milestones in efforts to create a new trade route across the world once they’re strung together. China is a beneficiary of the new trade routes, while other countries along the BRI can also use the Maritime Silk Road for their own gains.
As the BRI becomes an engine for economic growth, we believe that economies along the route, Pakistan included, will have a strong desire to resolve challenges faced by some BRI projects.
(The author is a reporter with the Global Times. [email protected])