The CPEC is entering into the second phase

By Imran Khalid | Gwadar Pro Aug 2, 2023

Editor's Note: The writer is a freelance columnist on international affairs based in Karachi, Pakistan. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro.

“To build a China-Pakistan community of shared destiny is a strategic decision made by our two governments and peoples. Let us work together to create an even brighter future for China and Pakistan,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping in his congratulatory message on the 10th anniversary of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Similarly, a high-powered Chinese delegation under the leadership of Vice Premier He Lifeng also visited Pakistan recently, to participate in the commemoration of the 10th anniversary CPEC, which stands as a flagship project within the Belt and Road Initiative. 

Both countries are jointly celebrating this pioneering and ambitious project which is aimed at stimulating economic growth, alleviate poverty, and strengthening regional connectivity.

The CPEC project, initiated by the signing of Memorandum of Understanding during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Islamabad in 2013, reached a major milestone in April 2015, when Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inked 51 agreements, propelling the project's value from $46 billion to a formidable $58 billion by 2020.

The CPEC marked the genesis of a momentous vision, forging an unyielding bond between Pakistan and China in their joint quest for shared prosperity, connectivity, and lasting camaraderie. China's awe-inspiring commitment of $58 billion to revitalize Pakistan's infrastructure, energy, and production sectors arrived at a critical juncture, when traditional international donors hesitated, and Pakistan's economy stood on the precipice. Projections of creating 2.3 million jobs from 2015 to 2030 and a commendable 2 to 2.5 percentage points boost to annual economic growth elevated the corridor to the status of a potent catalyst, poised to effect a profound metamorphosis in Pakistan's economic landscape.

In the last ten years, China’s generous financial assistance has served as a formidable bulwark, fortifying Islamabad's financial health, enhancing debt management capabilities, and alleviating the burden of repayment obligations. The CPEC's expansive network of roadways deftly intertwines rural and urban landscapes, forging a harmonious synergy that resonates with the momentum of progress.

The strategic positioning of nine Special Economic Zones (SEZs) along these vital road links has proven a stroke of genius, beckoning substantial investments towards Pakistan's shores. With the completion of first phase, four out of the nine designated SEZs under the CPEC are expected to become operation soon. The remaining five SEZs are projected to become fully operational by 2030, underscoring the transformative potential of this grand endeavor. Besides, CPEC's unwavering focus on energy projects has immensely helped in tackling Pakistan's chronic energy scarcity, encompassing a diverse array of coal, hydro, solar, and wind power plants.

This visionary initiative not only fulfilled immediate energy needs step by step, but also laid the foundation for a sustainable and greener future. A commendable total of 14 power projects, amassing an impressive 8,000 megawatts of installed capacity, now stand as a testament to the successful endeavor of resolving Pakistan's long-standing power shortages.

The Gwadar Port, a pivotal player in this grand endeavor, has undergone a remarkable transformation, emerging as a fully functional maritime hub that links Pakistan to the global stage. As the Gwadar Sea port approaches full operational capacity, the tangible dividends it yields will fuel the economic growth of both nations. The Gwadar International Airport, generously financed by China, cements the city's stature as a vibrant trade and logistics hub. The inauguration of its airbase infrastructure on July 27 by PM Shahbaz Sharif heralds an era of elevated connectivity and trade opportunities in the region. Gwadar's strategic location, coupled with cutting-edge facilities, primes it to realize its full potential as a pivotal gateway to global trade and commerce.

In the last ten years of its first phase, the CPEC has expanded its scope enormously: spanning energy, infrastructure and industrial cooperation. Its transformative impact stretches across borders, fostering regional integration and trade while fortifying connectivity between China, Pakistan, and neighboring nations, marking its role as a pivotal Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) linchpin. Transport infrastructure enhancements have expedited travel and facilitated the smooth movement of goods and people.

During Chinese Vice-Premier He Lifeng's visit to Islamabad, the two countries signed six documents on the Joint Cooperation Committee on CPEC; a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on establishing an export exchange mechanism within the framework of CPEC; a protocol of phytosanitary requirements for the export of dry chillies from Pakistan to China and a document on the final report on the feasibility study of realignment of KKH Phase-II. Both sides also signed through diplomatic channels an MoU on the industrial workers exchange programme as well as minutes of the 21st conference of a technical committee to promote the strategic ML-1 project.

All these explained that beyond a mere conduit of connectivity, the CPEC stands as a paradigm of enduring partnership, unlocking the vast potential of shared prosperity and progress. As both nations embark on CPEC's second phase, it promises to kindle investment, progress, and prosperity for Pakistan and the entire region. This phase underscores a focus on high-quality development, envisioning a growth corridor with completed special economic zones, industrial and green corridors, and enhanced openness and connectivity.

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