Increased ties with Southeast Asia don’t detract from China’s goals in the CPEC

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/13 0:23:39

After a series of attacks targeting projects along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan has deployed 14,503 security guards to protect 7,036 Chinese nationals working on the ventures, the Times of India reported Monday.

The CPEC has long been seen as symbolic of Sino-Pakistan economic cooperation. It is unlikely that China will change its supportive attitude on the CPEC in the short term, but the increasing cost of security is becoming a big problem in efficiently pushing forward the projects.

The economic corridor, linking Kashgar in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Gwadar Port in southwest Pakistan, passes through some turbulent regions, Kashmir included. It is unlikely to be plain sailing for China and Pakistan in their attempts to push forward the CPEC due to challenges such as a complex regional environment, and people in the two countries should be prepared for potential setbacks. The CPEC is a long-term project and its implementation calls for patience and effective measures to cope with ethnic conflicts and confrontations that may arise.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was reported as saying last month that projects under the CPEC were the top priority for Pakistan's government. However, given the difficulty of protecting the personnel that are working in Pakistan, projects under the CPEC may need to be implemented and assessed step by step.

This does not mean that China should give up on the idea of the CPEC because of the present challenges. However, China may not want to put too much focus on the region. At the very least, it would be unwise to put all its eggs in one basket.

Beijing should consider giving more attention to its economic cooperation with Southeast Asian countries. The CPEC has long been seen as a flagship project in China's Belt and Road initiative, but the initiative's strategic focus may need to shift gradually toward Southeast Asia, where there is a wide infrastructure funding gap but a relatively stable regional environment that will enable China to efficiently push forward ventures under the Belt and Road initiative.

China may need to start taking more gradual and steady steps in the CPEC, but at the same time the country should be more aggressive in seeking cooperation with various Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam included. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc is currently on a six-day visit to China. Hopefully the two countries will be able to put aside disputes that have arose over the South China Sea and focus on promoting economic development. In past years, economic ties between China and Vietnam have maintained good momentum.

These efforts to promote economic cooperation between China and Southeast Asian countries do not need to detract from the goals in the CPEC. Upgrading infrastructure in Southeast Asia is an important component of the efforts to initiate new trade channels in the region, a move which can benefit countries throughout Asia.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

Posted in: Eye on The Economy

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