CPEC: Past and Future Challenges

By Shirin Naseer
Senior Research Analyst, Spearhead Research

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an enormous $62 billion bilateral developmental project between Pakistan and China, is hailed as a “game changer” in the geopolitics of South Asia. The economic corridor will connect Pakistan’s Gwadar Port in Baluchistan with Kashgar in the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang through several extensive networks of roads and various other infrastructure projects. This project has become a “flagship project” of China’s Silk Road Economic Belt. Launched in 2015 and intended, at least on paper, to be finished by 2030, the economic corridor has of late figured regularly in Pakistan’s economic and national security discourse.

Many hope the project will prove to be a win-win for both countries. China is expected to save millions of dollars every year through increased access to the Indian Ocean and the creation of a shorter route for energy imports from the Middle East. The project holds great potential to not only boost China’s domestic economy, but also enhance its geopolitical clout, and improve regional stability.

Pakistan is also understandably pleased. The excitement felt among political and economic circles stems to a large degree from Pakistan’s wobbly economic performance in recent years, where the country has been failing to meet its GDP targets. For the Pakistani government, the project promises an economic boost and a potential solution to the country’s feeble socioeconomic structure. Many hope CPEC will result in: an expanded infrastructure in the country, the introduction of large-scale hydro, solar, thermal, and wind-driven projects fit to tackle the country’s severe energy crisis, and perhaps also a transnational rail system. Moreover, this project will help Islamabad elevate its strategic partnership with China.

Fortunately, sharing genial relations with a regional superpower may also reduce the threat of diplomatic isolation currently facing Pakistan. As Pakistan battles extremism, terrorism, and rampant corruption, several observers not only expect Pakistan to profit economically under the patronage of China but also hope CPEC will help mend Pakistan’s international image.

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