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China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Conference to be held

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China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Conference to be held

Screen Shot 2020 11 15 at 1 12 59 PM
Photo: THOMAS PETER/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Starting today, Chinese and Pakistani political and business leaders will convene a three-day conference on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the Pakistani port-city of Gwadar.

CPEC, an $87 billion development project initiated by Beijing, is the flagship initiative of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for global Chinese-backed infrastructure development. Since its inception, CPEC has been drastically scaled back with only 32 of 122 projects worth $20 billion having been completed. Due to Chinese persecution of Uighur Muslims, CPEC projects have become targets for domestic Islamist groups. CPEC has also faced criticism for promoting Chinese “debt trap diplomacy,” specifically in regards to the Chinese-built port in Gwadar. Moreover, most completed projects focus on energy infrastructure—a strategic Chinese interest—rather than Pakistan’s desire for higher-value export manufacturing.

Today’s conference will attempt to secure Beijing’s commitment to finish the full slate of CPEC projects; Beijing has been scaling back Pakistani investment in light of the US-China trade war in an attempted pivot to stabilised relations with neighbouring India. CPEC has consistently served as a foil to further stabilisation between New Delhi and Beijing. If Beijing decides to favour New Delhi over Islamabad, expect no major investment commitments from this conference.

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