After DAWN published the exclusive CPEC master plan revealing China’s seemingly apparent plans to colonise Pakistan and turn it into its own economic colony, the Indian media erupted with amusing reports. Media outlets claimed that Beijing is taking away the independence that the Pakistanis regained from the British Empire with their blood and sweat nearly 70 years ago. But the idea of China colonising Pakistan and establishing a comprehensive, nationwide control – economic, governmental and military – over Islamabad should not be so amusing to Indians. If it really happens, they would have to worry about the Chinese growing regional might not only on their country’s northern and eastern borders but also the western one.
DAWN released the exclusive CPEC master plan, which has even made some Pakistanis explode with outrage over the alleged colonial appetite of the Chinese during the first One Belt, One Road Summit, which hosted government officials from 57 countries earlier this week. While the master plan does offer a gloomy outlook for the Pakistanis, who are no strangers to struggling with colonialism from foreign powers, let’s not forget that every coin has two sides.
Let’s flip the coin for a second and take a look at the not-so-gloomy outlook for the Pakistani economy and the Pakistani people in general as a result of the implementation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The project is expected to create 2 million direct and indirect jobs in Pakistan alone and boost the country’s GDP growth rate to 7.5%, according to a report by U.S.-based consulting firm Deloitte and Touche.
CPEC improves livelihood of people in Pakistan
Like every development project between two nations, CPEC offers both benefits and negative impacts.
For example, the CPEC master plan cited by DAWN reveals China’s plans to take over “thousands of acres” of agricultural land in Pakistan for “demonstration projects.” But let’s not forget that those very infrastructures, roads and highways developed by CPEC create unprecedented opportunities for poor Pakistani regions which have been surviving below the poverty line for decades.
And while Pakistani governments both past and present have struggled to help those poor regions break free, the foreign investment that comes with CPEC could make a significant difference for the poor living nearby and inside the regions connected to the corridor. It’s not only the estimations that CPEC will create 2 million employment opportunities for the Pakistanis that improve the livelihood of locals, but also the fact that the corridor connects hinterlands with coasts, allowing big businesses to move to neglected regions.
China builds hospitals and schools in Pakistan with CPEC
To quote the DAWN report citing the CPEC master plan, China is set to create a “full system” of monitoring and surveillance for major Pakistani cities from Peshawar to Karachi and is even set to spread Chinese propaganda through the country’s TV, delivering it through fibre optic cables. While China’s vast investments into CPEC open the door for the Chinese to create monitoring and surveillance systems in Pakistan, it’s worth pointing out that the infrastructure projects spurred by the Chinese investment are improving the livelihood of the Pakistani people.
While probably no one can argue against the importance of high-quality hospitals and schools for every country and the livelihood of its people, China is opening medical centres, hospitals and educational institutions in Pakistan. Earlier this month, residents of Pakistan’s southwestern port city of Gwadar saw the opening of a hospital donated by China. Besides the hospital that allows for better emergency medical treatment to Pakistanis, China also built a new school in the port city in September 2016.
More medical and educational infrastructure projects spurred by China’s investments are set to open along CPEC in the coming months and years.
How bad is China’s “colonisation” for Pakistan’s economy?
The DAWN report further notes that the CPEC master plan “envisages a deep and broad-based penetration of most sectors of Pakistan’s economy as well as its society by Chinese enterprises and culture.” While the actual “negative” impact of such “deep and broad-based penetration” is yet to be seen, China’s penetration of various sectors of the Pakistani economy, especially its energy sectors, does not sound like bad news.
Energy is actually the game-changing pillar of CPEC projects and China’s investments in Pakistan. In fact, 11 of the 19 early harvest projects under CPEC have a goal of ensuring an uninterrupted supply of electricity. While as much as $34 billion of the entire CPEC Chinese investment has been allocated to electricity production and distribution alone, the coal-fired plants, hydropower facilities, and wind and solar power farms that are being built in Pakistan are expected to prevent cuts of the electricity supply in the country, significantly improving the livelihood of the populace and helping make the Pakistani economy work more efficiently.
While the DAWN report suggests that Chinese enterprises “will play the lead role in each field” of the Pakistani economy, a “leading role” of the world’s second biggest economy in a neighbouring state that is tightly connected to it already cannot be a negative thing. CPEC connects Xinjiang to Gwadar and Karachi, with pathways of the projects running through the entire country, thus improving connectivity and creating new supply and logistic chains – things the past and present governments of Pakistan have struggled to do without foreign investments over decades.
So is CPEC a BAD THING for Pakistan?
The seemingly apparent colonisation plans brewing in the minds of the Chinese leadership also include being respectful to the locals. The DAWN report says that Chinese enterprises would be advised to “respect the religions and customs of the local people, treat people as equals and live in harmony.”
Most Pakistanis have been living under the illusion that each and every citizen of their country would become wealthy and prosperous thanks to CPEC. But that’s not necessarily true, as the corridor only gives the means for Pakistani people and Pakistani businesses – both small and big – to benefit from the game-changing project and its vast economic opportunities.
The CPEC master plan published by DAWN – to some Pakistanis’ disappointment, it appears – shows yet again that every development project bears both benefits and negative impacts, and so does CPEC. But in no way should the seeming negative impacts of CPEC overshadow the vast opportunities and benefits spurred by the corridor.