China has become a rising state, giving tough competition to the USA in the fields of economy, trade, security, and many different dynamics. China is a middle-income developing socialist state that is also the world’s second-largest economy by nominal GDP. In the past china was the economic giant from the 1st up until the 19th century which is almost 2 millennia, china is the world’s largest manufacturing economy and the exporter of various goods.
China has set its eyes on global governance and to do so china has picked an approach of economic expansion, providing underdeveloped states with prosperity and modern infrastructure.
South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) which was created in 1985 for a more unified South Asia did not bond the South Asian states together. South Asia remains one of the least interconnected regions. China’s flagship project “Belt and Road Initiative” and “Maritime Silk Road” is the epicenter of China’s dream of global dominance through economy so China is vying to change the status of the region through their BRI project as it contains three economic corridors: China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIMEC).
China is currently engaged in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea to further its goals. China holds great influence in South Asia as it aims to be the regional hegemon.
To achieve its goal of global governance china has built a comprehensive manufacturing and supply chain system. With this china has become the largest trading partner with states in Asia. But the China and USA tensions are growing and this has led the Powers in a competition in the region of Indo-Pacific. With this situation of unrest and great competition in the Indo-Pacific region, China is pushed into the Malacca Dilemma, which is that over 60% of China’s oil and gas imports are through the Malacca Strait. To overcome it and not be solely dependent on the Malacca Strait for its energy resources, China has developed bilateral ties with many states including Pakistan.
China’s influence in South Asia: China is aiming to expand its influence and its economic activities throughout South Asia to strengthen its strategic position and its presence. China wants to secure its energy routes and to have control or influence by having India encircled. South Asia is the epicenter of China’s Belt and Road initiative. The location is very important to China as it is an intersection point between the proposed “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “21st century Maritime Silk Road”. In 2013 after Xi Jinping came to power, $100 billion worth of investment contracts were signed in The South Asian region out of which $2.5 billion were paid to Pakistan in 2019 to bolster the foreign exchange reserves amid its debt crisis.
China’s approach towards India and Pakistan disputes increasingly favors Pakistan instead of adopting a more neutral approach. In the recent years, China has increased its support for Pakistan’s position on Kashmir, backing Pakistan which in turn also helps China constrain India. China made foreign direct investments that were almost 31% of the country’s outflows.
The neat term debt that is owed to China by Pakistan is almost 6.7 billion dollars versus the 2.8 billion dollars that are owed to IMF.
Pakistan holds a great place in China’s heart, as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor stated in 2015. It wants to connect Xinjiang to the Gwadar port of Pakistan. China’s initial investment of $45 billion is now at $65 billion. It has pushed Pakistan to new heights as Pakistan’s exports have increased along with its development capacity. China has also provided Pakistan with one-fourth of the electricity.
China’s another positive development for Pakistan is that China along with Pakistan plays an important role in maintaining the security in Afghanistan. As Pak-China believes that for the CPEC to flourish Afghanistan needs to be secure and stable. With Afghanistan being a stable state, it can also benefit from the CPEC as Afghanistan will be able to import and export through the CPEC, which is being built by China as almost all of the projects are being built by China in South Asia, although the development in this region is at the top but still the United States and China do not consider it to be a top geopolitical priority. But they still do consider South Asia as a valuable piece of land.
South Asia has been pushed in an era of great prosperity as seaports and the states being connected economically prove to be a positive factor towards regionalism.
BRI provides a great scope towards economic interconnectedness and development, as BRI provides a helping hand to the developing states. China’s imports and exports with the countries that are involved with China’s BRI project have touched the mark of around $19.1 trillion, it shows how powerful of an impact it holds in the development of South Asia.
The author is an International Relations scholar at Minhaj University Lahore, specializing in Foreign Policy Analysis, Strategic Studies, and Maritime Research. With a keen interest in understanding global dynamics, the author brings a unique perspective to these fields, contributing valuable insights to the discourse on international affairs.