GT Voice: Foreign slander against CPEC won't hit China-Pakistan ties
Published: Feb 12, 2023 08:59 PM
View of Gwadar port in Pakistan Photo: VCG

View of Gwadar port in Pakistan Photo: VCG

Against the backdrop of severe economic challenges in Pakistan, some Indian and Western media outlets have once again focused their attention on hyping the possible setbacks facing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship cooperation program between China and Pakistan that has seen major achievements in recent years.

A report published by Indian news outlet ANI asserted that "China's CPEC projects in Pakistan face slowdown due to economic crisis," citing a report from Foreign Policy, a magazine. The ANI report further claimed that "the reality is Pakistan has been slow to complete infrastructure projects and China has been slow to fund new ones."

While data about China's financing for Pakistani projects under the CPEC over the past year is not available, it is important to note that the construction of CPEC projects has been proceeding in an orderly manner in accordance with the blueprint. Since the official launch of the CPEC program in 2013, the construction of a series of infrastructure projects have been implemented and gradually completed.

As of September 2021, the 22 prioritized projects under the first phase of the CPEC, which are aimed at addressing two major bottlenecks hindering Pakistan's economic development - energy shortages and lack of transportation infrastructure - have been completed. By the end of January 2022, the total capacity of energy projects completed under the CPEC had reached 5.32 million kilowatts, greatly alleviating the shortage of power supply in Pakistan.

Moreover, among the first phase of the CPEC construction, other key infrastructure projects, such as the Gwadar Port, the Lahore rail transit orange line project, the Karakoram Highway Phase II project, and the China-Pakistan cross-border fiber optic cable project, are also of great significance to boosting Pakistan's economic development.

With the gradual completion of these projects that offer a near-term return on investment, the construction of the CPEC program has actually entered a new stage of high-quality development, with the priority focused on how to provide more momentum and support to help Pakistan achieve self-driven economic development. For instance, when it comes to Pakistan's food shortage problem, beyond Chinese aid, it is essential to help Pakistan establish a self-sufficiency system in agricultural production by sharing relevant agricultural technology and cooperation.

So the new focus of the next phase will gradually shift toward expanding industrial and agricultural cooperation between the two countries, so as to help Pakistan improve its development levels in terms of manufacturing and agriculture and facilitate its ability to participate in the global division of labor. 

If anything, this is also a key direction for the future development of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative after years of infrastructure construction. In the case of Pakistan, the next phase of the CPEC development is expected to not only create more jobs in the country, but will also be greatly conducive to improving its economic fundamentals.

Of course, it needs to be acknowledged that Pakistan is facing multifaceted challenges in terms of economic and other uncertainties. The country is struggling to service high levels of external debt, in addition to its foreign exchange reserves held by the central bank falling below $3 billion. And its key financial bailout talks with the IMF remain stalled. Also, the security situation in Pakistan has become complicated recently amid the worsening economic crisis, according to various media reports. 

The difficult situation, which may have inevitably affected the CPEC, once again reveals the importance of economic development to the country. A sound economy is the basis for addressing all types of major social and political issues. It is at such time of crisis that economic and trade cooperation between China and Pakistan has also become more important and necessary than ever.

The CPEC program represents an important aspect of economic and trade cooperation between the two countries, involving huge economic interests. It is never easy to develop such a huge program as the CPEC. Therefore, it certainly requires constant efforts on both sides to overcome obstacles. And the crux is to improve the stability and facilitate economic growth through cooperation.

Above all, external attempts - whether from India or other Western countries - to slander and disrupt CPEC and the broader China-Pakistan ties cannot and will not succeed. China and Pakistan must firmly and steadily carry out cooperation as planned.