The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is unlikely to be “plain sailing” for both countries and they should brace themselves for “potential setbacks”, a Chinese daily said on Tuesday.
An op-ed in the Global Times said the rising cost of protecting Chinese workers on the $46 billion project in Pakistan was “becoming (a) big problem in efficiently pushing forward the projects”.
The state-run daily also suggested that China should shift its focus from the region to Southeast Asia as “it would be unwise to put all its eggs in one basket”.
The write-up came in the wake of Indian media reports saying some 15,000 Pakistani soldiers were guarding about 7,000 Chinese working on the CPEC in the face of growing number of attacks on the project.
“The CPEC has long been seen as symbolic of Sino-Pakistan economic cooperation. It is unlikely that China will change its supportive attitude on the CPEC in the short term, but the increasing cost of security is becoming a big problem in efficiently pushing forward the projects,” the Times said.
The proposed CPEC, which will connect China’s largest province Xinjiang with Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Balochistan, is key to Beijing’s ambitious One Road One Belt project.
The CPEC passes through Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistani Kashmir — claimed by India — and Balochistan, home to a long-running insurgency.
“It is unlikely to be plain sailing for China and Pakistan in their attempts to push forward the CPEC due to challenges such as a complex regional environment, and people in the two countries should be prepared for potential setbacks,” the daily said.
It warned that Beijing and Islamabad should be ready to cope “ethnic conflicts and confrontations that may arise in restive Balochistan.
“This does not mean that China should give up on the idea of the CPEC because of the present challenges. However, China may not want to put too much focus on the region.
“At the very least, it would be unwise to put all its eggs in one basket.”
The daily, run by the ruling Communist Party, suggested that Beijing should think beyond Pakistan in terms of economic cooperation — its all-weather ally in South Asia.
“Beijing should consider giving more attention to its economic cooperation with Southeast Asian countries.
“The CPEC has long been seen as a flagship project in China’s Belt and Road initiative, but the initiative’s strategic focus may need to shift gradually toward Southeast Asia, where there is a wide infrastructure funding gap but a relatively stable regional environment that will enable China to efficiently push forward ventures under the Belt and Road initiative.
“China may need to start taking more gradual and steady steps in the CPEC, but at the same time the country should be more aggressive in seeking cooperation with various Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam included.
“Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc is currently on a six-day visit to China. Hopefully, the two countries will be able to put aside disputes that arose over the South China Sea and focus on promoting economic development.
“In past years, economic ties between China and Vietnam have maintained good moment,” it added