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“China’s Ascent: The CPEC Connection”

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Islamabad (Imran Y. CHOUDHRY) :- Former Press Secretary to the President, Former Press Minister to the Embassy of Pakistan to France, Former MD, SRBC Mr. Qamar Bashir analysis :
China’s astounding economic ascent over the past three decades has left the world in awe. It stands as the global epicenter for mega factories and corporate giants, with leading companies establishing manufacturing hubs within its borders. Boasting a staggering GDP surpassing US$17 trillion, China ranks among the world’s fastest-growing major economies. Its remarkable 5.5% GDP growth in the first half of 2023 positions it on track to meet the government’s annual target of approximately 5%. Anchored by a high savings rate exceeding 40% and an investment rate to match, China wields abundant resources for infrastructure development and growth-oriented ventures. As a dominant exporter of goods and services, spanning electronics, machinery, textiles, and more, China’s economic prowess knows no bounds. With a burgeoning domestic market of over 1.4 billion individuals, Chinese companies enjoy an expansive and ever-expanding customer base that further cements its status as an economic superpower.
In 2023, China shines as a global economic powerhouse, boasting the second-highest number of billionaires worldwide according to Forbes, with an astounding 495 individuals amassing a combined wealth of $1.67 trillion. A remarkable 145 Chinese companies secure spots on the prestigious Fortune Global 500 list, a significant rise from previous years, underscoring China’s rapid economic ascent. These companies span diverse sectors, from energy and finance to technology and manufacturing. As the world’s largest manufacturing economy and top exporter, China wields unrivaled influence. Simultaneously, it has evolved into the planet’s fastest-growing consumer market and second-largest importer. The Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges rank among the globe’s largest, while Shenzhen earns the moniker of the world’s next Silicon Valley, emblematic of its meteoric technological rise.
China’s economic transformation is nothing short of astonishing. From contributing a mere 3% to global manufacturing output in 1990, it has surged to a dominant 27.7% by 2022. This meteoric rise has propelled China to the forefront of several industries, with it now proudly holding the titles of the world’s largest producer of air conditioners, mobile phones, solar cells, shoes, coal, ships, and steel.
Notably, China is also the globe’s chief exporter of Apple products, commanding over 50% of the market. In 2023, its nominal GDP is estimated at $17.73 trillion, securing its position as the second-largest economy globally, while its PPP GDP of $27.31 trillion crowns it as the largest. Further solidifying its economic dominance, China’s exports in 2023 are projected to reach $3.30 trillion, securing its status as the world’s premier exporter. This remarkable transformation is a testament to China’s strategic reforms and relentless pursuit of economic prosperity, a stark departure from its relatively humble economic standing in comparison to many African and Asian nations until 1975. It’s a testament to the nation’s resilience and vision in navigating a remarkable journey from economic underdog to global economic superpower, even outpacing countries like India, which held a stronger position in per capita income until 1990.
Among the myriad factors contributing to China’s astounding progress and prosperity, the development of world-class infrastructure emerges as a pivotal catalyst. Robust infrastructure serves as a foundational cornerstone for fostering a manufacturing hub, encompassing China’s expansive network of highways, roads, ports, airports, and intricately woven supply chains. In 2013, a transformative vision was conceived by Chinese leadership—the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a significant component. These visionary endeavors were crafted with a specific purpose in mind: to extend China’s reach to vital markets and resources essential for fueling its ever-expanding economy. Importantly, this was to be achieved not through subjugation but by pioneering win-win scenarios that mutually benefit China and its partner nations.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) had its genesis in two pivotal speeches delivered by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. The concept’s inaugural presentation occurred during his visit to Kazakhstan, where he unveiled the Silk Road Economic Belt. Subsequently, in Indonesia, he introduced the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. These foundational speeches laid the groundwork for what would evolve into the comprehensive Belt and Road Initiative
The overarching aim of the BRI is to foster economic connectivity, trade, and infrastructure development spanning the vast expanse of Asia, Europe, and Africa. This ambitious initiative seeks to bolster collaboration among nations by constructing an intricate web of roads, railways, ports, and diverse infrastructure projects. Beyond physical connectivity, it encompasses financial cooperation, cultural exchanges, and the nurturing of people-to-people relationships.
China’s motivation for championing the BRI is multifaceted. It encompasses the pursuit of fresh markets for its goods and services, addressing overcapacity in sectors such as construction and steel production, and augmenting its geopolitical influence on the global stage. Concurrently, it endeavors to stimulate economic growth in less-developed regions within China while championing the global expansion of Chinese enterprises.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a subset of the expansive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), was formally inaugurated in April 2015, marking a pivotal moment during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan. Nevertheless, the groundwork for this transformative project had been laid through deliberations spanning several years.
CPEC revolves around the core objective of bolstering connectivity between China’s western province, notably Xinjiang, and Pakistan’s strategically positioned Gwadar Port in the southern region. Its comprehensive scope encompasses an array of infrastructure undertakings, including the development of highways, railways, energy pipelines, and the expansion of Gwadar Port. At its heart, CPEC seeks to elevate trade ties between China and Pakistan, while concurrently providing China with an alternate trade pathway to the Arabian Sea. It assumes a pivotal role in advancing Pakistan’s economic development agenda.
For China, CPEC bears immense strategic significance, as it presents a more streamlined and secure trade route, bypassing the congested South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca. Moreover, CPEC seamlessly aligns with China’s overarching regional and global economic and geopolitical aspirations.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and CPEC collectively epitomize China’s visionary blueprint for fostering economic integration, fortifying infrastructure development, and augmenting connectivity across diverse regions. These grand initiatives have engendered considerable international discourse, spanning discussions concerning their potential advantages as well as apprehensions regarding facets like debt sustainability, transparency, and geopolitical ramifications.
International assessment and monitoring entities, including reputable banks and think tanks, have conducted comprehensive evaluations of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) within the broader framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). CPEC carries the potential to catalyze substantial economic growth and development in Pakistan, with a specific focus on critical sectors like infrastructure, energy, and trade.
The World Bank, for instance, has underscored that CPEC has the capacity to uplift Pakistan’s economic growth by a significant 2-3 percentage points annually. Likewise, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has acknowledged the positive prospects CPEC holds for Pakistan’s economy, provided its execution adheres to sound principles.
Furthermore, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has emphasized that CPEC can play a pivotal role in helping Pakistan attain its development objectives. In parallel, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a respected U.S. think tank, has characterized CPEC as a potential “game-changer” for Pakistan’s economic landscape.
However, it is imperative to heed the cautionary perspective presented by the International Crisis Group (ICG), an institution with a specialization in conflict prevention. They have cautioned that CPEC’s impact on Pakistan could be destabilizing unless its implementation thoughtfully accommodates the concerns and interests of all stakeholders involved.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) stands as a linchpin in China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), signifying a strategically crucial corridor. Within this framework, CPEC plays a pivotal role in advancing connectivity, driving economic expansion, ensuring energy security, and bolstering geopolitical influence. Its accomplishments are intrinsically linked to China’s comprehensive vision of elevating its economic and strategic presence on the global stage.

Specifically, CPEC offers China a more efficient route to the Arabian Sea and holds the potential for substantial economic growth and development in Pakistan. By addressing energy shortages, streamlining trade, and fostering regional connectivity, CPEC promises to generate employment, promote industrialization, and encourage economic collaboration. However, it is not without its challenges, including concerns about transparency and environmental impacts. In totality, the successful realization of CPEC carries profound significance, offering the prospect of economic advantages, fortified energy security, and enhanced regional connectivity for both nations.

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