China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is being deemed in some quarters as economic as well as political dominance of China. The prevailing perspective in some countries in particular is about the growing influence of China specifically in Poland, Laos, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan and in many African countries. India is overly perturbed by virtue of China’s influence in Sri Lanka in particular and in Asia in general. Some countries in the Western world presume that China is indebting many countries and would ultimately take their strategic assets in its own control. Sri Lanka handed over the strategic port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year lease in December 2017 since it could not pay its debt to the Chinese firms. This has furthered the anxiety of the critics.
The Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad has been a vociferous critic of the Chinese investment in his country ever since he assumed office and has vehemently declared that his country neither needs these projects nor can afford. There is widespread perception in the world that Chinese-funded projects worth $20 billion in Malaysia would be scrapped.
There is widespread suspicion in Africa about the Chinese investment. A news clipping reads, ‘These firms come under the guise of partnership, but this rhetoric, combined with genuine short term benefits masks longer term problems. Chinese investment in Africa could be accelerating debt on the continent and creating economies which are entirely dependent on China. Around $86 billion in loans were issued by China between 2000 and 2014 to finance over 3,000 infrastructure projects in Africa. The reality in Africa is a model of globalization that works only in China’s interests.’
The USA seems on edge and baffled and has alleged China of the theft of intellectual property. The USA has imposed retaliatory tariffs on Chinese goods which has unnerved the entire world trade sentiments.
As regards Pakistan, the investment/loan for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is being viewed as a good omen for the flagging economy of Pakistan and undeniably $50 billion amount is much-needed investment/loan in the given scenario. This seems to strengthen the relationship between Pakistan and China. This could materialize the concept of import substitution which has been the long-awaited demand of some economic managers, business community, etc. The government must ensure that along with the infrastructure development and modernized transportation, the projects under the special economic zones (SEZs) get due attention. The SEZs would be an opportunity for the private sector of Pakistan specifically.
It is sine qua non to derive benefits from the Chinese experience. In retrospect, China determined four decades ago to attain economic strength which it has gained and has proved its critics wrong. China was widely denounced across the world for gross human rights violations when it commenced its program for the reforms and the economic prosperity. China, predominately a socialist economy, came up with the idea of the socialist market economy to progress by leaps and bounds.
China is a success story in the entire world since its economy has been growing at over nine percent incessantly over the decades. The poverty alleviation program of China is a paradigm for the developing and the developed countries since China has lifted over 700 million people out of the quagmire of poverty which is unprecedented. Pakistan could derive benefits from its long-time friend.
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has strategic significance. Pakistan’s economic woes by and large are owing to the shortfall of energy and dilapidated infrastructure and CPEC is the befitting answer for both the conundrums of Pakistan. Investment/loan pouring in through CPEC would circumvent the energy bottlenecks which Pakistan has been undergoing for years.
CPEC could play a vital role in terms of creating long-term employment opportunities for the burgeoning population of Pakistan and also to lift the poor out of poverty which has actually been a daunting task in Pakistan for last many years.