The core achievements of the past decade span across economic, social, and strategic domains, shaping the trajectory of Pakistan and China for the better.
Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan
As we mark the 10th anniversary of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the air is filled with excitement and optimism, reflecting the remarkable achievements and boundless potential that this partnership holds.
The visit of Chinese Vice-Premier Hi Lifeng to Pakistan to commemorate this milestone is not merely a ceremonial affair; it is a testament to the enduring friendship and shared vision that underpins the journey of economic, social, and strategic advancement embarked upon by both nations.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was launched in 2013 with the intent of forging an unbreakable bond of economic cooperation and connectivity. Today, as we look back on a decade of progress, it is evident that this initiative has far exceeded its initial aspirations. From enhancing infrastructure and connectivity to propelling economic growth and social development, CPEC stands as a beacon of transformative collaboration.
The recent ceremony hosted at the Prime Minister’s Office, where six significant Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were exchanged, demonstrates the continued commitment of both nations to elevate their partnership. The presence of Chinese Vice-Premier Hi Lifeng and Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif symbolized the depth of friendship and shared objectives that characterize China-Pakistan relations.
The core achievements of the past decade span across economic, social, and strategic domains, shaping the trajectory of both nations for the better. On the economic front, Power Sector and Infrastructure have achieved a stage where the ailing economy can be put on the revival track. CPEC has catalyzed industrial growth, driven investment, and promoted job creation, transforming Pakistan’s economic landscape.
China, on the other hand, has found a reliable partner in Pakistan for its global Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), solidifying its position as a global economic powerhouse. CPEC is crown in the BRI and being a flagship project possesses a huge significance. It is set as a role model and example of BRI’s success story. Many other countries involved in BRI, are following the CPEC model of development.
Infrastructure projects like the realignment of KKH Phase-II, the Main Line (ML)-1 railway project, and the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have not only improved Pakistan’s connectivity but have also paved the way for sustainable economic growth. These initiatives have created thousands of jobs, stimulating local economies and providing a solid foundation for future prosperity.
In the social realm, CPEC has addressed power deficits and brought about a significant reduction in energy shortages, resulting in improved living standards for millions of Pakistanis. Furthermore, the Strengthening Workers’ Exchange Program, initiated between the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) and the Board of Investment, Pakistan, underscores the commitment to nurturing a skilled workforce, leading to increased employability and enhanced socio-economic stability. China has been producing a qualified and skilled workforce for Pakistan to face the challenges of 21 Century.
Currently, there are around 30,000 Pakistani youth studying in Chinese Universities in almost all emerging fields of emerging Sciences and Technologies. They are enrolled in various programs like Undergraduate, Master Level, and Ph.D. Level and Post Doc level etc.
There are also a similar number of Pakistani students who graduated from Chinese Universities during the last four decades and deployed in various civil and private sectors of Pakistan, contributing toward rebuilding the nation in various capacities.
Strategically, CPEC has brought China and Pakistan even closer, fostering a resilient partnership that bolsters regional stability. The unwavering support extended by both nations in times of need exemplifies the profound depth of this relationship. China’s President Xi Jinping’s congratulatory letter to Pakistan on this milestone is a testament to the enduring strength of the bond and signifies China’s commitment to a shared future.
As we venture into the next phase of CPEC, a roadmap marked by high-quality milestones is essential. Building upon the achievements of the past, both countries must focus on fostering innovation, skill enhancement, and sustainable development. Expanding the scope of collaboration to new areas such as rural revitalization, agricultural development, industrialization, green development, and science and technology will ensure a comprehensive and well-rounded approach to progress.
The way forward entails nurturing intellectual exchange, investing in research and development, and harnessing the potential of youth through educational and vocational programs. China’s expertise and experience, coupled with Pakistan’s vibrant and talented workforce, are a winning combination that can drive innovation and create a knowledge-driven economy.
To further facilitate the Chinese and other foreign investors, “Special Investment Facilitation Council” (SIFC) is established, with the aims and objectives of a “unified approach” to steer the country out of the economic storm. By virtue of its composition, the SIFC will serve as a top decision-making forum to push through fundamental reforms in the structure of the economy. The forum will focus on leveraging key sectors such as IT, agriculture, energy, minerals and mining, and defense production.
The apex body constituents are the prime minister, federal ministers (planning, finance, IT & Telecom, food security, power, water resources, industries and production, defense, defense production, and investment), chief of the army staff, all chief ministers, national coordinator (Pakistan Army) and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister shall act as Secretary to the body.
However, the executive committee will consist of the planning minister, national coordinator (Pakistan Army), federal ministers (defense, food security, IT & Telecom, and Power), state ministers (petroleum and finance), provincial ministers (agriculture, mines, and minerals, IT, energy, Board of Revenue, irrigation, finance, planning, and development and investment), SAPM, chief secretaries, director general (Pakistan Army), secretary Board of Investment.
The composition of the Council is obvious to make it a powerful body and objective oriented. Special incentives are being offered like fiscal incentives for coal development, Special Economic zones, Export processing zones, Foreign Private Investment Act 2022, Income Tax Ordinance 2001, etc. A very attractive environment has been created for investors and lucrative packages are offered.
As we celebrate this 10-year anniversary, let us remember that the journey ahead is equally important. The next phase of CPEC calls for continued commitment, vision, and unwavering determination. It is a journey that resonates with the principles of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, emphasizing consultation, contribution, and mutual benefits.
The visit of Chinese Vice-Premier He Lifeng, who was a special representative of President Xi, and the signing of six significant MoUs mark a historic moment in the China-Pakistan partnership.
As we reflect on the achievements of the past and set our sights on the future, let us remain steadfast in our determination to realize the full potential of CPEC. This transformative collaboration, rooted in economic growth, social development, and strategic stability, will undoubtedly shape the destinies of both nations and contribute to a more prosperous and interconnected world.
It is expected the CPEC will be accelerated and the dreams of both countries (China and Pakistan) will be realized. Pakistan will regain its lost status among the nations of the developed world and the people of Pakistan will enjoy a better life soon.
The Write Is the Founding Chair GSRRA, Sinologist, Diplomat, Editor, Analyst, And Non-Residentfelloe of CCG (Center For Chain And Globalization)