Pakistan Reader# 599, 18 May 2023
On 17 May, Global Times reported that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The bilateral cooperation between China and Pakistan has created 1,55,000 local jobs for Pakistanis by implementing various energy, infrastructure and industry projects in Gwadar Port and Karachi. China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said that the CPEC has also made significant achievements by developing into regional logistics and industrial centers. Further, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Pakistan's Foreign Minister, acclaimed CPEC as a shining example of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The recent completion of the dam under Pakistan's Suki Kinari Hydropower project highlighted the joint efforts of Pakistan and China in developing CPEC. Approximately 3.21 billion kilowatt-hours of power would be produced per year, improving Pakistan's energy structure and significantly reducing its energy shortages. Similarly, the Thar Coal Block-I Coal Electricity Integration project ensured the electricity demand of 4 million households and reflected the progress made by CPEC. Further, Qin Gang, Foreign Minister and State Councillor of China expressed China’s interest in working with Pakistan in deepening the cooperation in areas like industry, agriculture, and information technology, and assisting in reviving its economy.
However, there are concerns that it would create a burden on Pakistan’s growth and the impact on the environment. It is because the debt under CPEC has been considered economically not viable as Pakistan struggles to repay its debts. This has resulted in the widening gap between imports and exports that forced Pakistan to seek assistance from the IMF. Additionally, the strategic position of Gwadar Port provides another route for China's oil imports, lowering the possibility of disruptions or territorial conflicts in the South China Sea. Additionally, Gwadar is more likely to serve as a center for the re-export of Chinese goods that enter Pakistan through land routes rather than developing into a booming industrial area or megacity. Despite the successful projects under CPEC, the impact on the environment is a major concern of the critics.
Regardless, CPEC is working towards the expansion of BRI. As a result, the Foreign Ministers of China, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to extend the program to Afghanistan. Afghanistan benefited from using Chinese-invested Gwadar Port in Pakistan for future cross-border trade.
“CPEC creates about 155,000 jobs in Pakistan, continues to expand after 10 years,” Global Times, 17 May 2023.
“China-built hydro project in Pakistan achieves dam capping amid steady CPEC progress,” Global Times, 16 May 2023.
Abdul Khaliq, “Pakistan’s debt from China becomes burden as CPEC does not generate enough growth,” Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt, 16 May 2023.