The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) holds a central position within the strategic partnership between these two nations. Its inception occurred in 2013 via an agreement signed between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif. CPEC stands as an all-encompassing endeavor that connects Pakistan’s Gvadar Port to China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and encompasses a diverse range of infrastructure projects. This particular corridor represents a pivotal element within South Asia, and is an integral component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Additionally, it serves as a significant contributor to the ongoing development of China-Pakistan relations.
Pakistan, with its strong ties to China, provides robust backing for the Belt and Road Initiative. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) offers a vital opportunity to ameliorate the region’s underdeveloped conditions and address its energy deficit. The corridor includes various components, such as infrastructure investments and industrial centers, which are implemented in accordance with commercial applicability. Furthermore, the establishment of special economic zones is aimed at bolstering Pakistan’s economic cooperation with the world. Overall, CPEC ushers in a new era of geopolitical significance in South Asia.
The primary objectives of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are multi-fold and encompass various aspects of socio-economic development. These objectives include but are not limited to the following:
- Infrastructure Development: Firstly, the CPEC aims to modernize and enhance Pakistan’s infrastructure by undertaking the construction and improvement of a diverse range of infrastructure projects such as roads, ports, railways, power plants, and communication networks. This will not only facilitate the smooth movement of goods and people but also create new job opportunities and boost economic growth.
- Economic Growth: The CPEC seeks to stimulate Pakistan’s economy and enhance its growth potential by strengthening regional links and increasing investment and trade opportunities. The project aims to leverage the strategic location of Pakistan to create a regional hub for trade and commerce, which will help Pakistan emerge as a major economic player in the region.
- Energy Security: The CPEC aims to address Pakistan’s energy security concerns by reducing its dependence on external sources of energy. To this end, China has provided financing for a number of energy projects in Pakistan and has increased cooperation in the field of energy.
- Regional Integration: Finally, the CPEC aims to promote regional integration by enhancing trade and economic ties between China, Pakistan, and other neighboring countries such as Central Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East. This will not only facilitate cross-border trade but also promote cultural and people-to-people exchanges, which will help build trust and promote peace and stability in the region.
Benefits of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC):
- Economic and Trade Opportunities: The CPEC project harbors tremendous potential for bolstering economic and commercial prospects, envisaging the establishment of a more profound nexus between the two nations. This initiative holds the capacity to amplify investment influx and promote exports, ultimately leading to the expansion of both countries’ economies.
- Employment Opportunities: The construction of infrastructure projects in Pakistan has the potential to catalyze economic growth through the generation of novel employment opportunities.
- Energy Security: The CPEC has the potential to enhance the energy security of Pakistan by granting access to novel sources of energy that can cater to the country’s energy requisites.
Key Challenges and Criticisms:
- Security: The implementation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has presented certain regions with security risks, which has become a major concern. The occurrence of terrorist attacks and ethnic conflicts has heightened the possibility of posing a threat to the project.
- Environmental Impacts: Moreover, the execution of major infrastructure projects such as CPEC can lead to significant environmental impacts, including the destruction of natural habitats.
- Transparency and Local Participation: Additionally, there have been criticisms regarding the transparency and participation of local people in the implementation of CPEC. The lack of transparency and participation has led to a lack of confidence and trust in the project.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a significant manifestation of the strategic alliance between the two nations. Its goal is to enhance Pakistan’s economic growth and regional ties, and it recently celebrated its tenth year in July 2023. Overcoming the challenges mentioned above and implementing a lasting strategy are critical to the project’s success. Pakistan’s energy deficit is a pressing issue, which can be addressed through CPEC. Several energy projects, including coal, hydro, solar and wind energy projects, have been designed to cater to Pakistan’s energy needs. CPEC also focuses on infrastructure development, with investments in road and railway, oil, gas and information communication infrastructures. Such projects enhance Pakistan’s transportation and communication network. CPEC projects benefit both China and Pakistan by promoting economic growth and employment. They generate income and employment, and create economic opportunities for people living in underdeveloped areas.
The noteworthy impact of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is evidenced by its effects on the three dimensions of social well-being, namely education, health, and housing. Projections indicate that the growth rates of these dimensions will be 3.85%, 4.74%, and 8.6%, respectively, leading to a substantial improvement in living standards throughout Pakistan. Of all the regions affected by CPEC projects, Balochistan, Sindh, and Punjab are expected to experience the greatest positive changes, including significant reductions in poverty and unemployment rates and improvements in overall quality of life. However, it is important to note that restructuring the education sector and ensuring regional stability represent major challenges that must be addressed to ensure the success of the project on the Pakistani side. Specifically, economic growth and stability and the restructuring of education are necessary prerequisites for achieving the desired outcomes.
The implementation of the project in Pakistan encounters difficulties, especially due to internal security concerns. Fundamentalist groups supported by external actors in the region from China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to the Afghanistan border contribute to instability and security issues in Pakistan, including attacks on personnel and infrastructures. The Pakistani government has taken measures to address these problems, such as military operations and the formation of a special security unit, but a long-term resolution requires ending foreign intervention, socio-economic development, and improving education and employment in underdeveloped regions. The 10th anniversary of CPEC is celebrated despite increasing terrorist attacks in Pakistan, with some militant groups becoming more active along the Afghan border. According to Şevket Abbas, a senior officer in the counter-terrorism unit, measures must be taken to combat these groups.
The United States is motivated by the long-term strategic implications of CPEC. The project’s geostrategic and political implications affect US regional policy and interests. The regional influence of the US may decline significantly due to China’s rise and changing geopolitics.
Kerem Gökten, “Çin-Pakistan Ekonomik Koridoru ve Yeni Güney Asya Jeopolitiği”, Fiscaoeconomia, 3(1), Güz 2019, s. 160.
 Shehryar Khan-Guijian Liu, “The China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC): Challenges and Prospects”, Area Development and Policy, 4(4), Güz 2018, s. 466.
Rashida Haq-Nadia Farooq, “Impact of CPEC on Social Welfare in Pakistan: A District Level Analysis”, 32nd Annual General Meeting and Conference, 13-15 Aralık 2016, Munich.
 “Pakistan: DEAŞ Tarafından Düzenlenen Saldırı”, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/31/world/asia/pakistan-bombing-isis.html, (Erişim Tarihi: 01.08.2023).
Khalid Manzoor Butt-Anam Abid Butt, “Impact Of CPEC On Regional And Extra-Regional Actors: Analysis Of Benefits And Challenges”, International Conference on CPEC Held at GC University, 9-10 Aralık 2015, GC University, Lahore, Pakistan.