In 2014, China initiated a massive economic development project called One Belt One Road (OBOR). This initiative involves China spending over $3 trillion during the next several decades on infrastructure investments in 68 countries. The goal is to recreate the old Silk Road, which flourished during the Han Dynasty in China between 207 BCE and 220 CE. This ancient Silk Road connected China with the Middle East, Africa, and Europe using caravan routes through Central and South Asia. When completed this new Silk Road initiative will link China to Europe and Africa using roads, railways, airports, fiber-optic connections, and seaports. The initiative will also develop major industrial, agriculture, and energy centers in the participating countries, all linked to Chinese institutions.
One of the most important countries in this initiative, perhaps the most important, is Pakistan. Pakistan borders China’s Xinjiang Province in the north, albeit at an elevation of over 15,000 feet. It therefore provides China with a potential corridor through the Karakoram Highway to the seaport at Gwadar in Baluchistan on the Indian Ocean. The Pakistan part of the larger project is referred to as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, CPEC. China plans to spend at least $60 billion on infrastructure developments in Pakistan itself, although some of this money would be loans to Pakistan, which Pakistan will be obligated to repay.
CPEC will include the construction of industrial parks, agricultural farms, railways, airports, roads, a fiber-optic network, energy-generating projects, including one of the world’s largest solar farms, and a high speed train between Karachi and Peshawar that will travel over 160 km per hour. All of these projects will be built according to Chinese plans, with Chinese labor, and connected to Chinese businesses. The project will also build a new telecommunications network linking Pakistan with China, and through China to Europe. This telecommunications connection will bring Chinese and Western culture, movies, and television to Pakistan.
CPEC also includes a number of initiatives in Pakistan that are not only of an economic nature, but projects that also have cultural and civic implications. The Safe Cities initiative, for instance, is primarily designed to safeguard Chinese workers from Pakistani terrorists, but it will also transform many of Pakistan’s cities. The Safe Cities project includes building new safer buildings in urban centers, training local police and military on anti-terrorist and bomb detection techniques, and the use of lighting and cameras to create safe zones in all Pakistani cities. The project has already begun in Islamabad, but the city of greater concern is Peshawar, where the Pashtun population is particularly militant and which is the center of the Taliban insurgency. Peshawar has experienced a number of terrorist attacks in the past year. While this project will no doubt create safer cities, many are concerned that much of the traditional areas of some of these historic cities will be destroyed to build newer, albeit safer, neighborhoods.
Some of the CPEC projects are already underway. Working on extending and improving the Karakoram highway has begun and Chinese workers are now working on expanding the port in Gwadar. There will soon be over 15,000 Chinese workers in Pakistan. Although the road from the Chinese border to the port of Gwadar is not yet finished, trucks are now travelling from Kashan, Xinjiang Province, China to Abbottabad in Pakistan. Other parts of the project, including the Safe Cities project, are also already under way.
Locate the Document
Farr, G. (2020). Pakistan’s Role in China’s One Belt One Road Initiative. E-International Relations.