Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its flagship project China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC) have inherent global appeal. They have the potential to survive smoothly to unleash torrent of economic vibes to all recipient countries, even beyond them.
At a time when protectionism and Brexit have been taking heavy toll on world economy, both BRI and CPEC stand tall in a tough situation giving a new lease of life to globalisation.
Their economic charisma has attracted everyone. International opinion-making platforms including World Economic Forum (WEF) held in Switzerland this year had to sit up and take notice of their economic potentials and viability against adversaries. Recently concluded Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) also had to take stock of innate resilience and deepening role of BRI and CPEC in shared growth as thrashed out by Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Pakistan team led by Prime Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Minister for planning, development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal highlighted CPEC, its significance and benefits in the face of uncertain political system, economic crunch, energy crisis, security issues, creeping poverty and corruption. Chinese President Xi Jinping also enthralled the audience to build BRI image in true perspective.
The world has set its eyes on CPEC as the latter is believed to be Beijing’s version of Marshall Plan as laid down by United States to rebuild Europe bettered by World Wars. Because Europe after cashing in investment and funding fortunes shaped up its economy, Pakistan is positioned to capitalise similarly from CPEC, healing the bruises of terrorism and channeling its economy in right directions.
Conversely the Marshall Plan that bore NATO’s transatlantic security pact labeled as a tool of American hegemony, CPEC has no imperialistic design.
China institute of International Studies (CIIS) in its research paper buried the disinformation saying “from a Pakistani perspective, however, loans and investment under the CPEC may not be termed as China offering “imperialistic aid” to one of her allies, but the potential of this initiative to help recover Pakistan from the scars of decades-long war on terror makes it equivalent to the Marshall Plan. Any other parallels between the CPEC and Marshall Plan could be misleading.”
Frankly speaking CPEC has improved Pakistan’s global profile and positive image-building. In 2007, it was being considered “the world’s most dangerous country”, now IMF and World Bank forecast it among emerging economies ahead of Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey and Egypt.
Ongoing endeavors and promising prospects not only augur well but also elevate CPEC status in the world. Since the onset of CPEC, poverty rate has dropped by half since 2002 – a whopping fall – according to the World Bank; the middle class surged to 38 percent while a further 4 percent is upper class — roughly equivalent to the entire populations of Germany or Turkey; the Karachi stock market swelled 46 percent in 2017 and the GDP growth is forecast between 5.5 percent to 5.8 percent in 2018-19, enough to put the economy on the right path.
In order to revamp exports which declined from $ 24.5 billion to $ 20.24 billion, deliberations are on cards to export an additional $3.3 billion worth of goods to China if tariffs drop to zero on certain goods under a free trade agreement (FTA).
With capability to leave lasting imprints on global landscape, CPEC has exploitable potential benefit its founder, China. No doubt it is a game changer in both strategic and economic spectrum to China. It is fact that in any crisis at Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Malacca Strait and the South China Sea, Gwadar serves a safe and smooth access of China to the Arabian Sea. The CPEC ensure easiest and fastest direct access to China’s trade cargo to the Indian Ocean region circumventing Malacca that almost shortening the 12,000-kilometer distance to 3000 kilometers. The first pilot cargo got dispatched from Gwadar already.
CPEC enhances China’s strategic value. Gawadar let China to safeguard its supplies at the Strait of Hormuz, one of the important choking points in the region, whereas Djibouti offers unparalleled access to the Gulf of Aden and sits astride the strategic Mandeb Strait, a key global maritime energy transport artery that moved 3.8 million barrels per day of crude oil in 2013, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), making it the world’s 4th busiest maritime energy chokepoint.
Being a driver of economic growth, CPEC has so far dispelled avalanche of controversies engineered by mischief mongers and non-state actors. It has mettle to defeat negative propaganda. Reason is that the epic corridor is not illusory rather is rooted in line with Pakistan vision 2025.
CPEC forms the foundation of its survivability as CPEC Long Term Plan (LTP) and Pakistan vision 2025 have common goals of connectivity, energy, trade and industrial parks, agricultural development and poverty alleviation, tourism.
Both of them stress hard on connectivity to maximise flow of communication, goods and people to materialise the dream of regional and intercontinental cooperation. The construction and structuring of road infrastructure from Kashgar-Islamabad, Peshawar-Islamabad-Karachi, Hakla-Dera Ismail Khan, Sukkur-Gwadar Port and Dera Ismail Khan-Quetta-Sohrab-Gwadar will make a difference.
The development of Gwadar Port City, Gwadar Airport and East Bay Expressway will be having a trickledown effects in regional and national economy opening new avenue of industrialisation, employability and sustainable progress
With the laying down of fibre optic cable revolutionising information technology, CPEC LTP and Pakistan vision 2025 have consensus on electricity production with focus on thermal power, hydroelectric power, coal gasification, renewable energy and modernising the transmission network. Industrial parks and special economic zones would unleash new era of economic growth.
Development of agriculture and livestock on modern lines seeking inspiration from China will increase regional and international competitiveness. As Pakistan vision 2025 promises to blaze the trial in tourism sector, CPEC offers to build coastal tourism across Keti Bander-Karachi, Sonmiani-Ormara, Jhal Jhao, Gwadar and Jiwani routes.
Striking balance between dollar and RMB, Chinese currency, Pakistan will set the tone of economic progress. Usually it is said all is well if ends well but in Pakistan case all is well if Pakistan becomes truly business-minded to watch its own economic interests.
The writer is a senior journalist working for China Today and China Radio International. He also contributes to national mainstreams newspapers on economy, international relation and human rights. He is a fellow of ICFJ and is a recipient of China-friendly Netizen 2017 award.