China and Pakistan are close allies in the same way the United States and Israel are; their mutual interests in economic development and regional stability allow them to coordinate in projects and in military cooperation. One such project they are prioritizing is the 45+ billion USD project known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This project will serve as the model for Xi Jinping’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, which aims to revive the ancient Silk Road and economically link China with more than 60 countries throughout Central Asia, Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. CPEC will connect Balochistan, considered by some to be Pakistan’s least developed province, to Xinjiang, a province in China that is also fairly low in terms of development. The project will be performed in phases, the first of which is the completion of the Gwadar International Airport and the Gwadar Port by the end of 2016. Additionally, they plan to create a fiber-optic cable to strengthen bilateral communication and upgrade the Karakoram Highway that connects the two countries. The CPEC’s connections will create a myriad of new jobs for Pakistan and China in these less developed areas, contributing to development of these regions. Additionally, the port will be able to help satisfy China’s growing energy needs, as fuels can be transferred along the highway. These benefits relate to the idea that the CPEC project, as well as the OBOR project, all are mutually beneficial for China and other parties involved. This does not mean that the project is without problems however.
Issues with terrorism, opposition from the local government, and worries about the project alienating India all create insecurity within the region about its success. This project, in part, will fight terrorism by creating opportunities for people to turn to rather than terrorism, but it still faces terrorism issues from now until these jobs are actually created. Additionally, the opposition will halt the project, as it requires mutual cooperation between China and Pakistan. Relating to India, relations between India and China have improved in the last few decades, however China working so closely with Pakistan creates the risk of polarization of China and Pakistan against India and its allies. All of these issues are not unlike other issues in areas the OBOR will pass through: security threats with terrorism, in the Middle East, and piracy, in Africa, may threaten investments in these regions that would otherwise ensure a successful initiative. Additionally, just as the CPEC threatens to alienate India, OBOR threatens to alienate the United States as China gains more influence and trade deals. This could potentially lead to an economic polarization of countries, as the USA and China compete for trade deals with different countries.
Among the objectives of the CPEC and OBOR, development is one that will have a major influence. Economic development through investment leads to the creation of new jobs. These new jobs will attract young people away from terrorism and towards the greater opportunities of work. Instead of struggling to find work after graduating from university, a young Afghani has a greater chance of finding work in a relevant field. The young Pakistani will be able to reach his or her dreams of becoming an engineer, a doctor, or a politician. The beauty of the initiative is that it not only benefits China through securing energy resources and trade deals, but it establishes cultural connections and promotes economic development in areas that really need it.
Written by Kevin Sonukan