In the realm of international relations, partnerships and alliances often form the bedrock of a nation’s foreign policy.
China, with its ever-expanding global influence, has nurtured several critical relationships over the years, but one partnership, in particular, stands out as a shining example of unwavering support and strategic significance – the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
While CPEC has garnered attention for its potential to transform Pakistan’s economy, it is equally crucial to delve into why CPEC is vital for China.
The China-Pakistan relationship is a testament to the enduring nature of friendships rooted in trust, shared interests, and mutual support.
The historical foundations of this partnership run deep, dating back to the early 1950s when China and Pakistan established diplomatic ties.
Over the years, they have stood by each other through thick and thin, including during times of war and geopolitical turbulence.
China’s commitment to Pakistan has remained unwavering, particularly on critical matters such as the Kashmir dispute.
This steadfast support underscores the alignment of interests between the two nations, rooted in their shared vision of regional stability and counterbalancing India’s influence.
At the heart of China’s interest in CPEC lies the promise of economic cooperation that benefits both nations.
CPEC, a flagship project of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), seeks to connect China’s northwestern Xinjiang region to the strategically located Gwadar port in southwestern Pakistan.
This vast network of roads, railways, and energy projects has the potential to significantly boost regional connectivity and trade.
For China, CPEC offers a direct land route to the Arabian Sea, reducing its dependence on the Malacca Strait—a maritime chokepoint that is vulnerable to geopolitical tensions.
This route not only shortens the distance for Chinese exports but also enhances energy security by providing access to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea for its oil imports from the Middle East. In essence, CPEC augments China’s strategic reach and reduces its vulnerabilities in the maritime domain.
China’s investment in CPEC projects is an astute economic move. It opens up new markets for Chinese goods, stimulates economic growth in Pakistan, and creates job opportunities in both countries.
As a global economic powerhouse, China is keen on diversifying its trade routes and consolidating its presence in the economically vital South Asian region. CPEC aligns perfectly with these objectives.
While economic interests are paramount, security cooperation between China and Pakistan also plays a pivotal role in the strategic calculus.
Both nations share a strong alignment on military cooperation and key strategic issues in regional security and counterterrorism efforts.
Pakistan’s role as the largest recipient of Chinese arms underscores the depth of their security partnership. Joint exercises, defense collaboration, and the exchange of military technologies have fortified their military ties.
This cooperation is not merely symbolic; it serves as a practical deterrent to potential threats in the region.
China’s support for Pakistan on international platforms, such as its swift call for a UN Security Council meeting in response to border escalations with India, reflects its commitment to safeguarding Pakistan’s interests.
In turn, this contributes to regional stability—a key component of China’s broader foreign policy objectives.
In the context of China’s overarching foreign policy objectives, CPEC plays a pivotal role in ensuring a stable neighborhood.
As China expands its global footprint and faces growing pressure from US-led allies, a reliable partner like Pakistan becomes increasingly valuable.
Pakistan’s strategic location and its potential to counterbalance India’s regional aspirations align with China’s interests.
Moreover, China’s willingness to engage with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and integrate it into Beijing-led regional economic frameworks underscores its desire for a stable and prosperous region.
This would enhance Pakistan’s trade opportunities and strategic state of affairs. This stability serves not only as a regional hub but also as a check on India’s hegemonic ambitions, thus securing Chinese interests in the region.
To fully harness the transformative potential of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan is embarking on a multifaceted journey.
First and foremost, it is investing in the expansion and improvement of its infrastructure networks, such as the construction of highways and the development of the Gwadar port.
These efforts are not just about building physical connections but also about creating gateways to regional and global markets.
Pakistan is fostering economic diversification by introducing reforms that promote a business-friendly environment.
For instance, it has established Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to attract foreign investors and manufacturers, thereby encouraging industrial growth.
Concurrently, Pakistan recognizes the imperative need for skill development, channeling resources into education and vocational training programs.
This investment aims to equip its workforce with the technical expertise needed to thrive in industries boosted by CPEC and would help develop a self-reliant and competitive labor pool.
Simultaneously, Pakistan is also focusing on regional connectivity, enhancing transport and trade links with neighboring countries.
By nurturing stronger ties with nations like Afghanistan and Iran, Pakistan opens up new trade routes and becomes a central player in regional commerce, cementing its role as a linchpin in the CPEC initiative.
Ensuring security and political stability along the CPEC route is paramount. Pakistan continues its steadfast efforts to combat terrorism and maintain a secure environment conducive to investment and growth.
These initiatives, collectively, paint a glowing picture of a nation that is not merely responding to an opportunity but is actively shaping its destiny through strategic development.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is not just an infrastructure project; it holds paramount strategic significance for China.
It enhances economic connectivity, mitigates security risks, and solidifies China’s presence in the South Asian region.
As China navigates the complexities of geopolitics and seeks to safeguard its interests on the global stage, CPEC remains a cornerstone of its foreign policy—a symbol of the enduring and mutually beneficial China-Pakistan partnership.
*The author works as a Senior Researcher at Manzil Pakistan, a public policy think tank. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
**The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Diplomatic Insight. The organization neither endorses nor assumes any responsibility for the content of this article.