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University of California, San Diego

Department of International Studies

THE STATE OF THE ONE BELT ONE ROAD INITIATIVE IN


PAKISTAN AND ITS RAMIFICATIONS FOR UNITED STATES’
INTERESTS IN THE REGION

Author:
Hung Hin (Henry) Chan

Professor:
James Coyle

Academic Year:
2017 – 2018

Presented for the Degree of:


International Studies- Political Science
Introduction

China’s emergence as a rising power has no doubt been one of the most significant events

of the 21st century. Since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 following

a bloody civil war, the country has seen tremendous economic growth, political and social

development, as well as expansion of military power. Initially the Communist party had

struggled to achieve industrialization, improvement of living standards, and higher income

quality among other issues following years of turmoil. In 1960, the nation’s gross domestic

product stood at a mere $30.55 billion.1 The Great Leap Forward, an economic and social reform

campaign led by Mao in 1958, was a disaster that caused widespread starvation and produced

little economic output. The Cultural Revolution following also caused social unrest and the

destruction of the country’s cultural heritage. It is clear that China was not exactly in the best

shape.

The liberalization and opening up of Chinese markets to the world led by Deng Xiaoping

ushered in a new age of wealth for this once glorious nation. Shortly following Mao’s death in

1976, Deng found himself in power in 1978. Having witnessed the carnage wrought by Mao’s

radical policies, Deng sought to reverse the damage done through political, social, and economic

reform.2 The ideological extremism of the Cultural Revolution was stymied, as he believed the

turmoil was detrimental to the country’s capability for economic growth. Not only did he

privatize numerous domestic industries, his diplomatic actions were critical to China’s success

today. Deng was responsible for the Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Japan in 1978, which

introduced Japanese goods and investment, as well as much needed technical knowledge to the

country. His tour in the United States in 1979 was also crucial in opening the country up to the

1"China GDP 1960-2018." Digital image. China GDP. 2018. https://tradingeconomics.com/china/gdp/


survey.
2Vogel, Ezra F. "China under Deng Xiaoping's Leadership." East Asia Forum. September 26, 2011. http://
www.eastasiaforum.org/2011/09/27/china-under-deng-xiaopings-leadership/.
West.3 By 1988, a decade after Deng came into power, China’s GDP had nearly doubled from

$218.50 billion to $407.85 billion.4 The country was well on its path to becoming a global power

in the 21st century.

Foreign direct investment had become one of China’s largest driving factors by 1990.

Large scale capital investment financed by foreign companies went hand in hand with

productivity in growth. In 2005, foreign-invested enterprises made up over half of all Chinese

exports and imports. China had taken its role as the world’s factory, surpassing the United States

as the largest manufacturer in 2010.5 This position fell into place naturally due to the country’s

inherent advantage in its enormous population and low wages. However, as China progressed as

a country, its living standards and therefore its wages rose. In 1990, the average monthly wage

was just $37. By 2016, the average monthly wage would rise to $854, with a 213% increase from

2007 to 2016.6 As a result, numerous firms have pulled out China in favor of cheaper

manufacturing countries. For example, Seagate Technology PLC and Western Digital Corp had

shut down its Chinese operations early 2017 in favor of a larger investment in Thailand.7

China recognized this shift in the economic system and has implemented its policy

accordingly. A domestically centered economy simply would not be able to compete on the

world stage. In 1999, China instituted a Go Out policy to encourage outward foreign investment

and take advantage of the world market.8 This policy has grown and evolved as China’s economy

3Vogel, Ezra F. "China under Deng Xiaoping's Leadership." East Asia Forum. September 26, 2011. http://
www.eastasiaforum.org/2011/09/27/china-under-deng-xiaopings-leadership/.
4"China GDP 1960-2018." Digital image. China GDP. 2018. https://tradingeconomics.com/china/gdp/
survey.
5Morrison, Wayne M. "China’s Economic Rise: History, Trends, Challenges, and Implications for the
United States." Congressional Research Service, February 5, 2018.
6 Ibid.
7Suk-yee, Jung. "China No Longer Manufacturing Powerhouse nor Attractive Consumer Market."
BusinessKorea. March 05, 2017. http://www.businesskorea.co.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=17429.
8Wang, HongYing. "A Deeper Look at China’s “Going Out” Policy." Centre for International
Governance Innovation, March 2016.
has matured. The government has recognized the need for a sustainable economy and thus has

aimed to move China from investment driven manufacturing economy to a innovation-driven

economy. By reaching outward, much needed technology, information, and influence is obtained

to help Chinese firms elevate their status on the global market. They seek to pursue product

diversification, brand recognition, and basically anything they lack domestically. Oftentimes,

firms even acquire entire companies- one such case being Lenovo Group Limited’s purchase of

IBM’s personal computer division in 2005. This outward foreign investment is largely fueled by

the country’s massive foreign exchange reserves, which amounted to $3.1 trillion in 2017 and is

mostly made up of United States debt. 9

Having overtaken Japan as the world’s second largest economy in 2011 after years of

double digit GDP growth, China must find more avenues to sustain its growth rate. The search

for new markets and natural resources has never been vital in the country’s history. According to

the graph below, China’s foreign direct investment outflow was poised to surpass its inflow by

2015. It clearly illustrates the trend of increasing inflow of foreign direct investment following

liberalization in 1990, and a shift in policy and momentum regarding outflow around 2005. 10 In

2015, China’s foreign direct investment outflow was 18% higher than its inflow, at $145.7 billion

versus $135.6 billion.11 This is an indicator of the government’s plans to transition towards a

more sophisticated and sustainable economy.

9Morrison, Wayne M. "China’s Economic Rise: History, Trends, Challenges, and Implications for the
United States." Congressional Research Service, February 5, 2018.
10"Outward and Upward." The Economist. June 27, 2014. https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/
2014/06/27/outward-and-upward.
11Barber, Vaugh, Kevin Kang, and Fergus Naughton. "China ODI Exceeded FDI in 2015 for the First
Time..." KPMG. https://home.kpmg.com/cn/en/home/insights/2016/09/china-odi-exceeded-fdi-2015-
private-sector.html.
!

One Belt One Road Initiative

Now where exactly is all this foreign direct investment outflow going? China has

instituted far reaching plans in order to further its economic and political agenda. The most

significant of which is the One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR), officially unveiled by Xi

Jinping in 2013. The initiative is clearly representative of Xi’s ambitious vision for China’s

future as a key global player. It plans to connect and modernize a series of land and naval routes

that stretch all the way from Western Europe to Africa to Oceania and all the countries in

between. The project will cost an estimated $4 to $8 trillion and will connect 71 countries, 65%

of the world’s population, 40% of world GDP, and an innumerable amount of products and trade

routes.1213 The plan alludes to the ancient Silk Roads, which the government utilizes to portray

the narrative of a country on its path to restore its former glory.

12Ho, David. "Complex Arrangement: Cost of Funding 'Belt and Road Initiative' Is Daunting Task."
South China Morning Post. September 27, 2017. http://www.scmp.com/special-reports/business/topics/
special-report-belt-and-road/article/2112978/cost-funding-belt-and.

Griffiths, James. "Just What Is This One Belt, One Road Thing Anyway?" CNN. May 12, 2017. https://
13

www.cnn.com/2017/05/11/asia/china-one-belt-one-road-explainer/index.html.
A far cry from Deng’s isolationist sentiments, this new and powerful China recognizes

the economic benefits they can reap from their neighbors. The country’s fast rise to the top

inevitably came with growing pains, with domestic overproduction as one of many glaring

byproducts. The OBOR seeks to alleviate that by providing capital investment into countries so

that they can become consumers of your products. In a way, China has adopted what Western

countries had once done for them and implemented it according to uniquely Chinese

characteristics. Many of these countries are in dire need of infrastructure and investment, making

China’s engagements particularly enticing. Unlike most Western nations, China does not require

an extensive vetting process for loans nor do they ask for any political reform- choosing to

remain fairly neutral towards the domestic politics in countries.14

The political benefits associated with the OBOR are carefully hidden behind a narrative

of increased cooperation and trade. China utilizes the plan as an medium for soft power

initiatives across the world, in order to further cement its status as a superpower. Though the

OBOR is classified strictly for peaceful development, its capacity to build connections, improve

dialogue and cooperation upon common goals make it a powerful tool for China to spread its

political influence around the world. With over $300 billion already put into place, the project

currently looks toward a planned expenditure of $1 trillion over the next decade.15 It will be used

to develop six main economic corridors: China-Mongolia-Russia, China-Central and West Asia,

China-Indo-China Peninsula, Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar, and the China-Pakistan

14"Who Benefits from China's "One Belt, One Road" Initiative?" Foreign Policy Research Institute. July
21, 2017. https://www.fpri.org/2016/10/benefits-chinas-one-belt-one-road-initiative/.
15Dreher, Axel, Andreas Fuchs, Bradley Parks, Austin M. Strange, and Michael J. Tierney. "Aid, China,
and Growth: Evidence from a New Global Development Finance Dataset." SSRN Electronic Journal,
2017. doi:10.2139/ssrn.3051044.
Corridor. Of all these, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the most developed,

with the Chinese already having pledged $46 billion into the project. 16

Thesis

In this paper, I will analyze the current state of CPEC, its risks, its rewards, and its

ramifications for the United States’ interests in the region. The proper implementation of CPEC

possesses numerous challenges regarding infrastructure, security, and trade, due to the sheer

scope of the project and complicated geopolitical situation in the region. While its potential to

transform Pakistan into a productive economic hub is ultimately beneficial for the United States,

the regional influence, military advantages, and possible security issues involving neighboring

state actors make it a large risk to the future of United States’ interests in the Asia Pacific Region.

Pakistan

Prior to the announcement of OBOR and CPEC, China and Pakistan already had a very

close economic partnership, especially since the construction of the Gwadar Port by the Chinese

in 2006 which was paired also with the signing of a free trade agreement. The volume of trade

between the two nations has grown substantially from $4 billion in 2006 to nearly $14 billion in

2015. Due to the geographical significance of Pakistan as an avenue to the Middle Eastern

market as well as their prior relationship, it would only make sense for China to choose Pakistan

as one of their main partners for the OBOR. The primary aim is to connect the Kwadar Port with

the Xinjiang province, a landlocked region that borders Pakistan in much need of economic

revitalization, through a series of railways, highways, and pipelines, as well as numerous

infrastructural investments. As a country long plagued by transportation and energy issues,

Pakistan has suffered from long periods of stagnation due to poor governance, especially during

16Khan, Orangzeb, Peter Tase, Binoy Kampmark, Said Temsamani, Bahauddin Foizee, Observer
Research Foundation, IDN, and Foreign Policy Research Institute. "China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
(CPEC): Challenges, Prospects And Recommendations – OpEd." Eurasia Review. September 13, 2017.
https://www.eurasiareview.com/13092017-china-pakistan-economic-corridor-cpec-challenges-prospects-
and-recommendations-oped/.
Prime Minister Gillani’s reign.17 Energy outages are routine and last for as long as 12 hours, even

in the country’s capital of Islamabad.18 The Chinese have positioned OBOR as a game changer

that will bring Pakistan to prosperity, stimulate the economy, boost living standards by providing

opportunities, and provide the necessary experience on how to properly manage resources and

the government. Pakistani sentiments of Chinese influence as result have been overwhelmingly

positive, with 75% of Pakistanis having a positive view according to a BBC poll.19 This is

evidence of the effectiveness of China’s soft power initiatives. China’s relationship with Pakistan

signals at its capacity to influence other states, a sign that it may be on its way to becoming a

rival to the United States in a bipolar world.

CPEC Opportunities for China and Pakistan

Much of those positive sentiments are due to the fact that the Chinese have already begun

to improve the conditions of people in Pakistan as they see real tangible results. The most

significant project is the Gwadar Port, and is currently undergoing an expansion project worth

$1.02 billion under CPEC. It includes the addition of nine additional berths and terminals, a

desalination plant for the growing city, a new international airport, energy infrastructure, and

even a joint vocational institute for training locals to work at the port. 20 The CPEC Free Zone

started construction in 2016 and will cost the Chinese $2 billion to create this tax-free and

customs-free economic zone. Over 300 factories are projected to be established in this zone,

"Gilani's Term Was Worst Ever in Pakistan: TIP." Pakistan Herald. July 16, 2012. http://
17
www.pakistanherald.com/Articles/Gilanis-term-was-worst-ever-in-Pakistan-TIP-3023.
18Jorgic, Drazen. "Pakistan Sees End to Routine Power Outages by Year's End." Reuters. February 13,
2017. https://in.reuters.com/article/pakistan-energy/pakistan-sees-end-to-routine-power-outages-by-years-
end-idINKBN15S1L2.
19 Country Rating Poll. Report. BBC. 2014.

Gul, Ayaz. "China Turning Pakistan Port Into Regional Giant." VOA. October 24, 2017. https://
20

www.voanews.com/a/pakistan-china-gwadar-port/4084175.html.
creating an estimated 40,000 jobs.21 The Chinese aim is to transform Gwadar from a fishing

village into a global port city by the likes of Dubai or Hong Kong. The Chinese aim is to

transform Gwadar from a fishing village into a global port city by the likes of Dubai or Hong

Kong. In return for their investment, China will receive 91% of revenue for 40 years, granting

them a long term incentive for developing the area. 22

The majority of the $45.6 billion pledged by China for CPEC will go towards building

energy infrastructure with an investment of $33.8 billion. This will ease Pakistan’s reliance on its

neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia, for oil and gas imports.23 According to the CPEC website,

four coal plants, several wind farms, and a solar farm have been completed, with an energy

production potential of 3790 megawatts. Numerous projects are currently still underway, with a

potential of 5753 additional megawatts once the projects halfway finished or more are

completed.24 Pakistan currently has a total capacity of only 25,000 megawatts. The completion of

CPEC led projects will revolutionize the Pakistani energy sector by providing more than a 20%

increase in energy capacity.25 China has learned from its years of reckless domestic development

which has caused serious environmental and health issues, as well as long term economic

deficiencies. Rather than promoting a policy of short term profits, it has instead chosen to adopt a

more sustainable growth strategy for CPEC by investing in a mixture of renewable and

nonrenewable energy sources. This adds credibility to China’s commitment to assist its allies

21 "Construction of Industrial Free Zone in Gwadar Begins ." The Express Tribune. June 20, 2016. https://
tribune.com.pk/story/1126021/gwadar-development-industrial-free-zone-construction-begins/.
22Khan, Iftikhar A. "China to Get 91pc Gwadar Income, Minister Tells Senate." DAWN.COM. November
25, 2017. https://www.dawn.com/news/1372695.
23Kugelman, Michael. "The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Energy Geopolitics in Asia." Wilson
Center. January 16, 2018. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/the-china-pakistan-economic-corridor-
and-energy-geopolitics-asia.
24"CPEC Project: Energy." CPEC Latest News. July 17, 2016. http://www.cpecinfo.com/energy-
generation.
25GOVERNMENT OF PAKISTAN MINISTRY OF ENERGY (POWER DIVISION). "About Pakistan."
PRIVATE POWER & INFRASTRUCTURE BOARD. June 2017. http://www.ppib.gov.pk/
N_about_pak.htm.
with peaceful development while at the same time distancing themselves from colonialist

tendencies.

As much as China wants to promote the economic integration and prosperity of its

neighbors, one of their primary motives for CPEC is to install a system of gas pipelines linking

the oil rich Middle East to its interior Xinjiang region. The government understands the need to

expand outwards for natural resources in order to sustain its growth. China’s petrol consumption

has risen at an alarming rate, with an additional 690,000 barrels per day demanded in 2017

totaling a consumption of 11.67 million barrels per day.26 Currently, they mainly rely on the

Dubai-Shanghai-Urumqi route for crude oil with over 70% of oil imports originating from the

Persian gulf. It is a naval route that spans a distance of over 10,000 kilometers, passing through

the pirate infested Strait of Malacca and South China Sea. Not only would CPEC pipelines

reduce travel to a mere 2,500 kilometers at sea and 2,800 kilometers on land, cutting the distance

traveled nearly by half, it would also greatly alleviate security risks associated with naval

routes.27 China has committed to assist in building a $2.5 billion gas pipeline stretching over 700

kilometers that links Iran and Pakistan, opening up a new route for oil. 28 Correspondent to the

OBOR’s vision of creating a globally integrated economy, the benefits China will gain from

increased efficiency and cost saving certainly justifies their large investment.

Roadway projects centered on cargo transport are another quintessential component of

the CPEC, which have been divided into three main corridors: the Karakoram Highway, Eastern

Alignment, and Western Alignment. $10.63 billion has been allocated by CPEC towards

26Rapier, Robert. "China's Oil Demand Is Growing At More Than Double Last Year's Pace." Forbes.
September 18, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2017/09/18/chinas-oil-demand-is-growing-at-
more-than-double-last-years-pace/#3417b82c3ec0.
27CPEC. "CPEC to Connect Gwadar and Kashgar through an Oil Pipeline." CPEC Latest News. June 13,
2016. http://www.cpecinfo.com/news/cpec-to-connect-gwadar-and-kashgar-through-an-oil-pipeline/
NTMyNA.
28Shah, Saeed. "China to Build Pipeline From Iran to Pakistan." The Wall Street Journal. April 09, 2015.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-to-build-pipeline-from-iran-to-pakistan-1428515277.
transportation infrastructure.29 The Karakoram Highway is 887 kilometers long and stretches

from the China-Pakistan border to the town of Burhan, which then extends to Islamabad through

the M1 motorway. Also known as the China-Pakistan Friendship Highway, the major roadway

dates back to 1959 and was completed in 1979.30 CPEC recognizes the Karakoram Highway as

the most vital linkage network for Pakistan domestically and has instituted a series of

improvements along sections of the road. The most significant of which has been deemed the

Krakoram Highway Phase 2 Project, which concerns itself with repairs and upgrades to the 487

kilometer section between Burhan and Raikot and also aims to build a 4 lane highway

connecting Burham and Havelian. This was especially needed following the extensive damages

wrought by the 2010 Pakistan floods. Construction had begun on April 2016, with an estimated

cost of $1.26 billion and due to be completed in three and a half years.31 The Eastern Alignment

corridor centers on connecting Pakistan’s Sindh and Punjab provinces, and is considered the

most important as it links Pakistan’s wealthiest and most populated regions. Divided into four

sections, with connections between Karachi and Hyderabad under the M9 motorway, Hyderabad

and Sukkur, Sukkur and Sultan, and Sultan and Lahore. Projects in the Eastern Alignment will

total an estimated $6.6 billion.32 The scope of its Western Alignment, which seeks to connect the

provinces of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Punjab, is considerably smaller. The most

extensive project being a connection between the Karakoram Highway at Burhan to Yarik at an

29Shah, Syed. "China–Pakistan Economic Corridor." MWC News. March 17, 2017. http://mwcnews.net/
focus/politics/64341-chinapakistan.html.
30Hays, Jeffrey. "KARAKORAM HIGHWAY IN CHINA." Facts and Details. http://factsanddetails.com/
china/cat15/sub104/item441.html.
31The Express Tribune. "Pakistan, China Ink Agreements worth $4.2b." The Express Tribune. May 04,
2016. https://tribune.com.pk/story/1096762/cpec-eastern-alignment-pakistan-china-ink-agreements-
worth-4-2b/.
32The Express Tribune. "Karachi-Lahore Motorway: Project to Be Completed in 3 Years." The Express
Tribune. January 28, 2015. https://tribune.com.pk/story/829305/karachi-lahore-motorway-project-to-be-
completed-in-3-years/.
estimated cost of $1.05 billion.33 The completion of CPEC backed roadways will revolutionize

Pakistan by encouraging interconnectivity and opening up many new areas for economic

development.

Likewise, railways are yet another essential component in CPEC’s plan to promote

economic integration. Pakistan’s rail system is divided into three main lines, with the first one

account for over 70% of traffic. China’s strategy centers on modernizing and expanding the

freight capabilities of Main Line 1, with moderate but similar investment into the other two lines.

Main Line 1 stretches from Karachi to Peshawar, effectively connecting the Southern and

Northern parts of the country.34 The first phase of the project was implemented in April 2018 and

cost $3.2 billion to upgrade four sections of the track. Upgrades consist of the construction more

efficient railway routes, repairs of existing ones, and the introduction of newer trains which all

contribute to a significantly faster travel time between stops.35 The next phase, which is poised to

be completed by 2021, will cost an estimated $8.2 billion and will include an even more

extensive overhaul of Pakistan’s rail system.36

CPEC no doubt has played a huge part in Pakistan’s economic recovery. In 2009,

Pakistan suffered a 1.7% loss to its GDP following the 2008 financial crisis. Although the

economy bounced back to a 4.3% gain in GDP the next year, the country was a long ways away

from being economically stable. In 2018, Pakistan experienced a 5.79% real GDP growth rate,

33Caudary, Zahid. "Rs. 180 Billion for CPEC Projects in Fiscal Budget, Rs. 38 Billion for Western
Alignment of CPEC Route." CPEC Latest News. May 30, 2017. http://www.cpecinfo.com/news/rs-180-
billion-for-cpec-projects-in-fiscal-budget-rs-38-billion-for-western-alignment-of-cpec-route/MzEzOA==.

Sost Today. "Havelian to Khunjerab Railway Track to Be Upgraded under China-Pakistan Economic
34

Corridor." Sost Today. January 15, 2016. http://sosttoday.com/5285-2/#.Wx_RhFMvzdQ.


Yasin, Aamir. "First Phase of Railways Upgrade under CPEC to Begin next Month." DAWN.COM.
35
March 02, 2018. https://www.dawn.com/news/1392546.
36Rana, Shahbaz. "$8.2b Railtrack Upgrade Project Wins Go-ahead." The Express Tribune. June 09,
2016. https://tribune.com.pk/story/1119229/8-2b-railtrack-upgrade-project-wins-go-ahead/.
the highest in a decade.37 Though it is difficult to quantify exactly how much CPEC has

contributed to that growth, it goes without saying that the increased energy infrastructure,

transportation efficiency, and expansions to Gwadar Port among other economic opportunities it

has brought has played a huge part in revitalizing Pakistan’s economy.

CPEC Financing

With all this money and infrastructure flowing into Pakistan, how exactly are they

affording it all? Pakistan is by no means a wealthy nation and cannot dream of taking on a such

an extensive infrastructural overhaul without the assistance of China. Understanding Pakistan’s

weak financial situation and urgent need for capital investment and infrastructural support, an

“Early Harvest” scheme was implemented to take place preceding the main CPEC plans. To be

completed before 2019, the “Early Harvest” portion of CPEC consists of several deals for power

plants which will generate over 10,000 megawatts in order to quickly address Pakistan’s glaring

need for energy. This portion of CPEC is unique in that interests rates are relatively low to

accommodate for Pakistan’s dire situation and to help jumpstart its economy.38

China has shown that it is extremely willing to take risks in order to cement its role in

Pakistan under CPEC. Nearly all of CPEC related projects in Gwadar was financed through a

series of interest free loans totaling $757 million in which Pakistan is only expected to pay back

the principal. Such a deal is still a huge benefit to China due to the agreement that they will gain

control of Gwadar Port for 40 years plus a hefty 91% of profits. 39 Nonetheless, such an

investment carries many risks in the event that Pakistan is unable to pay back those loans. Critics

37 Asian
Development Bank. "Pakistan: Economy." Asian Development Bank. June 12, 2018. https://
www.adb.org/countries/pakistan/economy.\
38 Ahmad, Riaz, and Hong Mi. "China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Its Social Implication on
Pakistan: How Will CPEC Boost Pakistan’s Infrastructures and Overcome the Challenges?" Arts and
Social Sciences Journal 08, no. 02 (2017). doi:10.4172/2151-6200.1000265.
39Khan, Iftikhar A. "China to Get 91pc Gwadar Income, Minister Tells Senate." DAWN.COM.
November 25, 2017. https://www.dawn.com/news/1372695.
have accused China of using CPEC as an avenue for veiled colonialism in Pakistan in order to

economically exploit the country. They point towards the lack of transparency, preference shown

towards Chinese firms, and considerable debt that will be left in the wake of the project if

Pakistan maintains its current level of output. 40 However, we must take into account the

increased productivity that CPEC will bring, especially by solving the energy crisis which was

bringing down the country’s GDP growth rate by an estimated two percent annually.41 Its long

term potential for job creation, poverty eradication, as well as benefits from social, health, and

education infrastructure was not taken into consideration. Furthermore, the credit rating agency

Moody’s gave Pakistan a B3 rating, which looks optimistically on the country’s infrastructural

overhaul programs, despite a slew of problems: high debt burden, wide fiscal deficit, foreign

reserve inadequacies, unstable domestic politics, and geopolitical risk.42 Pakistan must be careful

so as to not follow down the footsteps of their neighbor Sri Lanka. A debt crisis coupled with

irresponsible loaning by China meant that Sri Lanka was unable to pay back $301 million

borrowed at an interest rate of 6.3%- just a fraction of its total national debt of $64.9 billion and

$8 billion to China. As a result, Sri Lanka had to hand over a 99 year lease on its Hambantota

port to China.43

It is true that CPEC greatly benefits China politically and economically, but ultimately it

is a bilateral economic initiative that is a win-win situation for both countries. Without the

infrastructural investment that China is dumping into Pakistan, they simply do not have enough

40Venkatachalam, K.S. "Can Pakistan Afford CPEC?" The Diplomat. June 16, 2017. https://
thediplomat.com/2017/06/can-pakistan-afford-cpec/.

Houreld, Katharine. "Pakistan Government, Frustrated by Power Crisis, Changes Tack." Reuters.
41

November 10, 2015. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pakistan-power-idUSKCN0SZ1AP20151110.


42Moody's. "Moody's Affirms Pakistan's B3 Rating, Maintains Stable Outlook." Moodys.com. July 11,
2017. https://www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-affirms-Pakistans-B3-rating-maintains-stable-outlook--
PR_368847.
43Chaudhury, Dipanjan Roy. "China May Put South Asia on Road to Debt Trap." The Economic Times.
May 02, 2017. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/china-may-put-south-asia-
on-road-to-debt-trap/articleshow/58467309.cms.
capital nor other strong economic alliances to stimulate and develop its economy. Yes, Pakistan

does lose some of its sovereignty when it agrees to a deal like allowing China to control Gwadar

Port for forty years. Despite that, as a rational actor, Pakistan recognizes that the benefits

outweigh the costs. Under neoliberal political theory, nations that cooperate with each other gain

more than by acting by themselves. It is clear that Pakistan sees this and thus takes great

advantage of their alliance with China.

Internal Security and CPEC

Pakistan’s history is ripe with conflicts and continues to be so in recent history. In 2017, a

series of bomb attacks across the country perpetrated by the Islamic State killed over 80 people.44

The country’s risk of violence and its proximity to Afghanistan poses as the most significant

challenge to effective implementation of CPEC. The success of the initiative depends greatly on

peace and stability in the region. To account for this, the Pakistan military has initiated a force of

over ten thousand dubbed the Special Security Division whose main job is to protect Chinese

workers under CPEC. Nevertheless, the Taliban and other militant groups present a serious

security issue which hinders economic progress. One such example of this is the cancellation of

the $14 Diamer-Bhasa Dam, motivated partially by fears over security in the region.

China and Pakistan must take this opportunity to act on cooperative security solutions so

as to further develop and strengthen the relationship and understanding between the two

countries while protecting mutual economic interests. Security crisis’ create considerable tension

between countries, such when an unfortunate Chinese worker was killed by a lone gunman in

Pakistan on February 2018.45 The war against terrorism is multi faceted issue that can only be

44Ibrar, Muhammad, Jianing Mi, Muhammad Rafiq, and Arodh Lal Karn. "The China-Pakistan Economic
Corridor: Security Challenges." DEStech Transactions on Economics and Management, no. Apme (2017).
doi:10.12783/dtem/apme2016/8730.
45"China Tells Pakistan to Improve Security after Chinese Killing." The Economic Times. February 06,
2018. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/china-tells-pakistan-to-improve-security-after-
chinese-killing/articleshow/62804445.cms.
solved through transparent communication and joint programs. China’s choice to take their place

in the backseat regarding the domestic politics in other nations could hurt them in the future.

Pakistan’s political instability presents the serious risk of a regime change jeopardizing the future

of CPEC and other Chinese investments in the region. 46 Nevertheless, Pakistan has placed great

importance on combating terrorism and protecting Chinese investments by beefing up military

spending. It is also the hope that economic growth from CPEC will consequently stabilize the

region. The Baluchistan province, the poorest in Pakistan, will benefit especially from economic

stimulus as much of the violence and unrest in the region stems from poverty, with just under

half of its population living below the poverty line.47

Political Implications

Although CPEC is an economic initiative, a project of this scope no doubt comes with far

reaching political implications beyond the borders of Pakistan. A series of domestic violent

incidences perpetrated by Muslim groups in 2009 and 2013 signaled to Beijing the importance of

stability in neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan.48 In this increasingly globally integrated

world, China understands that events thousands of miles away can have far reaching domestic

consequences. Influence and security may not be easily quantifiable but that does not them any

less important under the scope of OBOR and CPEC. Economic stability in Pakistan could mean a

stable social situation domestically.

China’s rising influence on the world stage also incentivizes them to build a considerable

international network of allies built on soft and hard power, just like the United States’, should

they ever hope to challenge their place as the most powerful nation on Earth. Although China

46"Pakistan's Internal Security and CPEC." Daily Times. January 22, 2018. https://dailytimes.com.pk/
186619/pakistans-internal-security-cpec/.
47 Ibid.
48Hameed, Maham. "The Politics of the China―Pakistan Economic Corridor." Nature News. June 05,
2018. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-018-0115-7.
vehemently espouses a narrative of non interference in domestic matters under OBOR, growing

influence is simply inevitable as China becomes more economically integrated with those

countries. The non transparent nature of many CPEC agreements suggests underlying political

and militaristic motives.49 The geopolitical incentives that come with an economic initiative with

Pakistan look to be too enticing to ignore. The country’s proximity to Afghanistan, Iran, and

India, all of which China have a significant vested political interest in make Pakistan an

irreplaceable ally. Their shared interests regarding other nations, especially India and the United

States present unseen political implications.

United States and Pakistan

The United States and Pakistan have had a history of good relations until recently when

jihadist groups have created tensions between the countries. In 1947, the United States was one

of the first in the world to establish diplomatic relations with Pakistan who had just achieved

independence from Britain. Pakistan became an important military ally during the Cold War

when the United States rented out Peshawar Air Station in order to spy on the Soviet Union.

Diplomatic relations between the countries remained fairly cordial until the 2001 September 11

attacks. Pakistan’s border to Afghanistan meant that it was a key strategic location in the United

States’ war against terrorism. Pakistan was reluctant to let the United States’ and allies to use its

countries as a base of operations and were not exactly given a choice. Unintended Pakistani

civilian and military casualties from drone strikes furthered tensions. The breaking point came in

2011 when the United States accused Pakistan of not doing enough to fight terrorism and

49 Ahmad, Riaz, and Hong Mi. "China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Its Social Implication on
Pakistan: How Will CPEC Boost Pakistan’s Infrastructures and Overcome the Challenges?" Arts and
Social Sciences Journal 08, no. 02 (2017). doi:10.4172/2151-6200.1000265.
subsequently ended $800 million in military aid.50 The United States still holds considerable

interest in Pakistan particularly due to the ongoing war on terrorism.

Pakistan and United States relations have not fully recovered since, greatly boosting

China’s attractiveness as an ally. Although China and the United States are not exactly

adversaries, the two share a complicated relationship as the world’s leading economies. They are

not exactly friends either but rely on each other to survive as each other’s largest trading

partners.51 An increasingly close economic partnership between China and Pakistan could pose

some threat to their dominance in the Asia-Pacific region. As China continues to take on a more

global role, the United States will inevitably lose some of their influence. China’s first military

expansion internationally through its naval base in Djibouti, which neighbors the Unite States’

base, shows that China is increasingly taking tangible steps towards becoming a world

superpower.52

United States and CPEC

The impact of CPEC on the United States’ interests in the Asia-Pacific region remains to

be seen according to how CPEC develops in the future. A wealthier, better connected, and more

stable Pakistan as a result of CPEC can lead to higher trade and integration. A healthy economy

is one that is attractive to foreign investment of all kind, and as the sixth most populated country

in the world with rich natural resources- Pakistan represents a market with great potential.53 At

the same time though, a very close economic partnership between China and Pakistan could

50Erickson, Amanda. "Analysis | The Long History of Incredibly Fraught Relations between the U.S. and
Pakistan." The Washington Post. January 05, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/
wp/2018/01/05/the-long-history-of-incredibly-fraught-relations-between-the-u-s-and-pakistan/?
noredirect=on&utm_term=.aa2322bda2be.
51Gray, Sarah. "These Are the Biggest U.S. Trading Partners." Fortune. April 3, 2018. http://fortune.com/
2018/03/07/biggest-us-trade-partners/.
52Oladipo, Tomi. "Why Are There so Many Military Bases in Djibouti?" BBC News. June 16, 2015.
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-33115502.
53United States Trade Representative. "Pakistan." Countries & Regions | United States Trade
Representative. 2018. https://ustr.gov/countries-regions/south-central-asia/pakistan.
mean that the United States would get shut out of deals in favor of their closer ally. Although

China currently has not instituted any trade restrictions on Pakistan, this could change in the

future especially if Pakistan is unable to pay China back like Sri Lanka. The loss of sovereignty

from poor borrowing practices could mean that China will impose some sort of exploitative

economic policy that prevents Pakistan from trading with the United States.

The Trump administrations criticisms of Pakistan and withholding of aid has already

directly led to increased trade with China, with an official adoption of the Chinese yuan as the

currency of trade between China and Pakistan just a few days after Trump’s Twitter out lash

towards Pakistan.54 United States trade with Pakistan has diminished in recent years from $5.8

billion in 2011 to $5.5 billion in goods traded a year two ways in 2017.55 Meanwhile, Sino-

Pakistan trade has grown considerably from $7 billion in 2011 to an incredible $20 billion in

2017.56 Recent behavior by the administration has only driven that divide further as the country

risks losing its dominant position in the Asia-Pacific region to China.

The most significant geopolitical tool China has gained from CPEC is definitely the

Gwadar port. It effectively grants China a naval presence in the Arabian Sea, an area the United

States is especially interested in due to the sheer volume of oil that is produced in the region.

China will be able to position itself to better defend its interests and engage with the United

States. Once the pipelines and infrastructure is set, CPEC also grants China a significant tactical

military advantage. Currently, China faces a security weakness deemed the “Malacca Dilemma.”

The dilemma stems from the fact that 80% of Chinese oil is imported through the Strait of

54Iyengar, Rishi. "Pakistan Cozies up to China on Trade after Trump Tweet." CNNMoney. January 3,
2018. http://money.cnn.com/2018/01/03/news/economy/pakistan-china-trump-trade-yuan-dollar/
index.html.
55United States Trade Representative. "Pakistan." Countries & Regions | United States Trade
Representative. 2018. https://ustr.gov/countries-regions/south-central-asia/pakistan.

Kumal, Junaid. "Dynamics of Pakistan’s Trade Balance with China." April 2017. http://
56

www.sbp.org.pk/publications/staff-notes/Pak-China-trade-balance.pdf.
Malacca in the Persian Gulf. Its potential adversaries, such as India an the United States have

shown that they are capable of blockading it through their extensive naval presence in the region.

An effective embargo coupled with a naval blockade of the Strait of Malacca could leave China

extremely vulnerable with no direct source to much needed fossil fuels. CPEC essentially

completely eliminates this dilemma by producing a oil route that is both faster and less

susceptible to blockades. 57 By losing a very effective strategy to deal with China, the CPEC

indirectly challenges the United States’ dominant role on the world stage.

The Role of India

India, Pakistan’s arch nemesis and ally of the United States, plays a significant role

regarding CPEC. With CPEC’s development in India-Pakistan’s disputed territory of Kashmir

and their already hostile relationship with Pakistan, it’s no surprise that India vehemently

opposes the initiative. Adding on to all this, Sino-Indian relations have long been tense since the

Sino-Indian War in 1962.58 India views China’s expanding relations with Pakistan as a

significant threat and an example of encroachment onto their sphere of influence. Furthermore,

Chinese backing of Pakistan through CPEC could make the country much more confident in

threatening its power balance with India. Pakistan could take increasingly riskier tactics against

India such as increasing their presence in the disputed territory of Kashmir, especially due to

CPEC development in the area.

India has responded with a comprehensive strategy against CPEC, with its own

international investment guidelines. It has in recent years increased its military spending,

especially in regards to its navy to counteract rising Chinese influence in the oceans.

57Center for International Maritime Security. "Reinforcing China's Malacca Dilemma." September 15,
2016. http://cimsec.org/reinforcing-chinas-malacca-dilemma/28117.
58IndiaToday.in. "India-China War of 1962: How It Started and What Happened Later." India Today.
November 21, 2016. https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/gk-current-affairs/story/india-china-war-
of-1962-839077-2016-11-21.
Additionally, India has also sought to seek stronger diplomatic relations with the United States

and Japan as a means of balancing against the Chinese-Pakistan alliance. 59 It is the perfect

example of balancing as anarchic actors look towards each other for help in surviving an

inherently flawed and ruleless system. CPEC has contributed towards the beginning of the

formation of factions in the region. This poses a significant risk for conflict to the United States

due to their growing relationship with India. If the proper steps are not taken towards

deescalation, a minor spat between the Indians and Pakistanis could turn into all out war as allies

attempt to protect each other’s interests. The pace of Southern Asia’s strategic environment is

ever changing and state actors must correctly assess the situation, adapt accordingly, and be able

to utilize a wide range of tactics. The increased levels of strategic competition and conflicting

interests must be solved through peaceful diplomatic means. A war in the region would not

benefit China, Pakistan, India, or the United States.

Conclusion

China’s path towards the OBOR wasn’t easy but its evolution was natural as China

continues to place its foothold in the world. Building upon their past successes and failures,

China has sought to impart that knowledge to its neighbors to establish stronger diplomatic

relations. The country’s quest towards a more interconnected world through its OBOR initiative

will likely be as tumultuous as its rise as a world power today. It’s flagship component of the

OBOR initiative, CPEC has alerted to the world China’s economic vision and its capacity to lead

large scale economic projects. The extensive development and investment into Pakistan’s ports,

roadways, railways, and energy infrastructure has seen success so far in igniting an economic fire

in the region.

59Markey, Daniel. "Why The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Will Worsen Tensions in Southern
Asia." War on the Rocks. September 28, 2017. https://warontherocks.com/2017/09/why-the-china-
pakistan-economic-corridor-will-worsen-tensions-in-south-asia/.
The OBOR in Pakistan so far has not presented any immediate threats to the United

States. Its potential to transform Pakistan into a productive economic hub is ultimately beneficial

for the United States. Nevertheless, the opportunity for CPEC to curate regional influence,

military advantages, and possible escalation of security issues involving neighboring state actors

make it a large risk to the future of United States’ interests in the Asia Pacific Region. The role of

India is integral to future of consequences that CPEC may bring the United States. It will be

interesting to see the future of CPEC what it holds for Pakistan. Will China be able to transform

a nation with a long list of economic, political, and social issues into an economic powerhouse?

If China were to succeed in Pakistan, its success could be replicated across other developing

nations- thereby accomplishing its goal of establishing strong alliances with state actors. The

world’s movement towards a bipolar system becomes more and more apparent each day.
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