KARACHI: The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will be more beneficial for China than Pakistan, but still, it will be a game-changer for Pakistan, which will also get benefit from it. It was stated by Dr Jean-Francois Di Meglio*, President Asia Centre in France, in his lecture on ‘The Economic, Strategic and Environmental Consequences of the New Silk Roads, at the Alliance Francaise de Karachi on December 21st, 2016.
He said when China announced the CPEC project in 2013, mostly Europeans had had doubt about the fate of this project as it was a 35-year project and it seemed nothing could be gained in short term. Some people viewed this project innovative as in the goods moved from West to East and now China was trying to reverse the direction of that flow.
He said in the late 20th century, Silk Route was just a road, but, now it also has some key points and strategic places, including the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Dr Jean said it was complicated for Europeans to talk about CPEC, but countries like Germany and France had shown interest in it. With regard to negative feedback, some Central Asian countries were of the view that Russia was trying to re-establish links with China and the risk was that “China would be too much present”. But, the Europeans discarded many important factors.
On the Chinese approach to the situation, Dr Di Meglio said [economic] reforms in China started in 1978 and after 35 years, in 2013, they came up with another project. If you looked at the dates, another 35 years added to 2013 would mean the arrival of the year 2048. In 2047 Hong Kong would fully come back to Chinese sovereignty; and 2049 would be the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.
He said reforms brought in 1978 came through a simple process: enrichment. If the people were richer they would be at ease to manage. The Silk Road had the potential of making some countries marginally richer. That could be done by building infrastructure and by linking them up with China.
Dr Jean-Francois said CPEC was not an easy project, but was not the most difficult to achieve, either. There was room for Pakistani companies and politicians to take the initiative and speak to the Chinese for a level playing field, as much as possible. Whosoever was going to benefit more from it, it was a game-changer for Pakistan. He argued that if Pakistan was only benefiting 10 per cent from the project, even then, you had other benefits like “influence” and “footprint”. He said some Europeans thought that Pakistan existed because there was a partition in 1947; they did not realise that Pakistan had an important strategic position.
On China’s ambitions, Dr Di Meglio said while it wanted prosperity and stability, it did not want domination in the region. China knew that in the past empires rose and fell. “The way to last long is not to dominate other countries, but to play with them.”
*Dr Jean-Francois is the author of couple of books including Global Aid and Financial Crises.