CPEC key to developing western China and consolidating regional security

By Wang Peng Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/26 18:48:39

The leaders of China and Pakistan reached an agreement in 2013 to jointly promote the construction of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a landmark in the history of bilateral relations. With the implementation of the CPEC project in the last five years, the traditional political and strategic relations between the two countries have transformed into a continuously deepening pragmatic partnership with an economic win-win strategy. The construction of CPEC is of strategic and economic significance to both China and Pakistan as well as South Asia.

It is universally acknowledged that security is the core of national interest, as the political, economic and cultural interests of a country can barely be safeguarded if its national survival is under threat. Currently, China, Pakistan, India and many other countries are all confronted with the threat of the "three forces" of extremism, separatism and terrorism.

According to statistics, a significant number of terrorists in China have infiltrated from abroad. On the other hand, some local Chinese citizens, deceived and brainwashed by extreme religious ideas, embraced extremism, joined terrorist organizations and came back to China to launch terror attacks.

To crack down on the "three forces," international cooperation is of prime significance, especially coordination among countries in South and West Asia and Central Asia, which serve as the main gateways for infiltration and escape of Chinese terrorists. From this point of view, the joint efforts made by China and Pakistan in combating terrorism and the "three forces" are not only conducive to maintaining the common security of the two countries, but also beneficial for the stability of Central and South Asia.

The "three forces" are bred by a combination of many factors, among which underdevelopment of specific areas is the most important. China has always held that one of the necessary conditions to fundamentally remove the breeding ground for terrorism is to vigorously promote the coordinated development of regional economy and society.

In 1999, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China formally proposed the Western Development strategy. During the past 20 years, the central and western provinces have made remarkable progress, but the speed and quality of development still cannot match that of the coastal provinces or cities in southeastern China. The urban development index and income level of residents in provinces and regions including Xinjiang, Tibet, Qinghai, Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Guizhou, etc, are far lower than those in the coastal provinces. The reasons for the gap are varied, but the absence of ports in inland cities is undoubtedly a major disadvantage.

Considering that sea transportation is comparatively cheap and safe, China must attach great importance to the construction of the south route of the Silk Road, that is, to connect the CPEC with the Silk Road Economic Belt, and to make supporting the economic and social development of Pakistan as the top priority of the Silk Road strategy.

There are pros and cons to the development gap between eastern and western China. On the one hand, it poses a serious challenge to the government's efforts to support the development of Xinjiang and Tibet and to eliminate poverty. On the other, it sustains China's demographic dividend and provides a historical opportunity for the "second reform and opening up." The vast central and western regions have got their advantages in terms of labor cost, land supply and natural resources. Therefore, on the basis of access to the Indian Ocean and China-Pakistan Railway, the Kashgar special economic zone, and other western towns are expected to become "inland ports" connecting the oceans, thus re-creating the Shenzhen miracle and becoming the engine of China's second great opening up and development.

Xinjiang and Tibet are China's inherent territories over which the government has full sovereignty. Therefore, as long as western China gets access to Indian Ocean, it will likely take advantage of the surplus capital to support those areas where funds are needed for development. The economic development of Tibet and Xinjiang is bound to greatly increase local employment rates, thereby reducing crime, promoting social progress, transforming social traditions, and ultimately forming a virtuous circle of social transformation and economic development.

The author is an associate research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies of Renmin University of China and researcher of the Charhar Institute. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn



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