As the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) marks its inaugural decade, it stands as an irrefutable testament to the enduring camaraderie between China and Pakistan and the transformative potency of strategic alliances.
Islamabad and Beijing are jubilantly commemorating a decade of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) this year. To mark the commemoration of a decade of the momentous China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng arrived in Islamabad on 30th July 2023. Throughout his three-day visit, Mr. He, a distinguished member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, held crucial meetings with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and President Arif Alvi. This visit accentuates the profound significance that both China and Pakistan attach to their unshakable “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership,” with the shared objective of fortifying economic cooperation, propelling the high-quality advancement of CPEC, and forging robust trade and investment ties between the two formidable nations.
CPEC has acted as a catalyst in strengthening bilateral ties between China and Pakistan. The two nations have solidified their economic, political, and strategic partnership, laying the foundation for greater cooperation in diverse fields.
Vice Premier Lifeng has been instrumental in enhancing China’s international economic relations and successfully advancing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a prominent flagship project. As Chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission from 2017 to 2023, he orchestrated the planning and execution of multiple CPEC projects in Pakistan. His significant contributions reaffirm mutual support and strengthen the enduring bond between the two nations.
CPEC, a comprehensive collection of infrastructure and development projects initiated in 2013, stands as a transformative initiative across Pakistan. CPEC aimed to establish robust connectivity between Gwadar Port in southwestern Pakistan and China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, facilitated via an extensive network of highways, railways, and pipelines. Its overarching objective was to catalyze economic growth, alleviate poverty, and bolster regional integration. CPEC envisions rapid upgrades to the nation’s essential infrastructure and economic bolstering through modern transportation networks, various energy ventures, and establishing of special economic zones. President Xi said, “China and Pakistan have built a model of economic cooperation for the world to learn from.”
During the 3-day visit of the Chinese Vice Premier, from 30th July to 1st August 2023, Pakistan and China inked six agreements and MOUs to enhance bilateral cooperation. These encompass the joint cooperation committee of CPEC, setting up an expert exchange mechanism under CPEC, and facilitating the export of dried Chillies from Pakistan to China. Additionally, the MoUs entail the realignment of the Karakoram Highway Phase II project feasibility study and an Industrial Workers’ Exchange Program, as reported by Radio Pakistan. The Bank of China (BOC) inaugurated its second Islamabad branch. Mr. Lifeng was also honored with the prestigious civilian award Hilal-i-Pakistan for his remarkable contributions to fostering Pakistan-China friendship and advancing the cause of CPEC.
Islamabad has been the beneficiary of a staggering $25.4 billion in direct Chinese investment, strategically injected into a diverse array of transformative transport, energy, and infrastructure projects under the esteemed banner of the connectivity and investment corridor, an integral component of Beijing’s revered Belt and Road Initiative.
Over the past ten years, CPEC has achieved remarkable milestones, including completing the transformative Gwadar Port, now a bustling international port city. Chinese investment and expertise have catapulted Gwadar into a critical maritime gateway, substantially augmenting regional trade and commerce.
The energy sector has significantly transformed through CPEC, establishing various power projects spanning coal, wind, solar, and hydroelectric sources. These efforts have bridged Pakistan’s energy deficit, mitigated load shedding, and ensured stable power supply to industries and households, bolstering energy security and fostering a greener, more sustainable future.
Moreover, CPEC has been instrumental in propelling industrialization and economic diversification in Pakistan. Creating Special Economic Zones (SEZs) has attracted domestic and foreign investments, spawning new employment opportunities and stimulating economic growth. The transfer of technology and expertise from Chinese companies has significantly enhanced Pakistan’s industrial productivity and competitiveness.
These CPEC-linked investments stand resplendent alongside the colossal financial benevolence manifested in monumental loans and an illustrious currency swap arrangement totaling CN¥30 billion, thoughtfully extended by Beijing over the past decade. Such gracious financial aid has bolstered Islamabad’s ailing economy, alleviating the burden of faltering debt repayment capacity and diluting reliance on the mighty dollar for trade to safeguard its foreign exchange reserves.
The CPEC’s remarkable ten-year transformative journey is an unparalleled exemplar of strategic collaboration, forging unbreakable diplomatic ties and nurturing an economic alliance that resoundingly thrives, ushering in an epoch of unwavering mutual trust, a shared vision, and prosperity. As this significant milestone beckons, it offers a crucial juncture for both nations to reflect on their achievements and propel economic connectivity to unprecedented heights.
The Author is associated with The China-Pakistan Study Centre at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad and is a graduate student of International Relations from the School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. Her areas of interest include the International Politics of China, the Politics of South Asia, and Non-Traditional Security threats. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . She Tweets @thesaherrajput