Last week China convened an historic gathering. It was barely noticed in our media.
World leaders gathered in Beijing to hear about China’s One Belt One Road initiative. It is a new land and maritime Silk Route to connect the world, with China at its hub. Nearly 70 country heads participated, including Russia’s Putin, Turkey’s Erdogan and most of Asia and Africa. The next gathering in Beijing is slated for 2019. China is flexing its economic might and is budgeting more than a trillion US dollars towards this ambitious plan which it hopes will result in a new paradigm for the world.
Pakistan – A Major Satellite for China’s Ambitions
A key ingredient of China’s initiative is CPEC – the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. China will inject more than $60 billion dollars into building a massive corridor connecting Kashgar, the Himalayan Chinese town in the Muslim majority Xinjiang province, across all of Pakistan to the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar. See map below. The highway starts out as the Karakoram Highway through Pakistani Kashmir (blatantly ignoring India’s legal claim on this disputed land!) and hits all of Pakistan’s major cities before ending up at Gwadar, which is a “node” in the maritime Silk Route.
But China is not just building a giant corridor through Pakistan. It is virtually rebuilding Pakistan. Here are some of the proposed projects:
- Complete overhaul and rebuild of Pakistan’s Electric Energy generation. This includes the largest hydroelectric power plant in Kashmir at the Neelam/Jhelum rivers, a huge wind farm in Baluchistan, 1000 MW of PV solar, several 1000 MW nuclear plants (one of which is already operating under Chinese supervision) and coal based power plants that will supply 1/4 of Pakistan’s power needs!
- A fibre optic high speed internet backbone to provide world-class levels of broadband access and also terrestrial distribution of broadcast TV with a healthy dose of Chinese propaganda.
- Massive industrial penetration of most sectors of Pakistan’s economy – cement, ceramics, textiles, industrial parks.
- A virtual takeover of Pakistan’s agriculture by annexing huge amounts of acreage and instituting new crops, agricultural methods and seed research. Much of this for food export to China.
- The operation and complete control of the port of Gwadar which gives China direct access to the Persian Gulf and shipping lanes to Europe without having to go through the long transit through the Indian Ocean.
- According to the article giving details in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper (a must read) a couple of days ago:
- A full system of monitoring and surveillance will be built in cities from Peshawar to Karachi, with 24 hour video recordings on roads and busy marketplaces for law and order. A national fibreoptic backbone will be built for the country not only for internet traffic, but also terrestrial distribution of broadcast TV, which will cooperate with Chinese media in the “dissemination of Chinese culture”.
- The 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. Its scope has no precedent in Pakistan’s history in terms of how far it opens up the domestic economy to participation by foreign enterprises. In some areas the plan seeks to build on a market presence already established by Chinese enterprises, eg Haier in household appliances, ChinaMobile and Huawei in telecommunications and China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC) in mining and minerals.
Pakistan will become a Chinese neo-colony – another North Korea
China is virtually taking over the governance of Pakistan. They have insisted that no visas will be required for Chines people to travel freely in Pakistan – something they will not reciprocate for Pakistanis traveling to China. Chinese personnel will oversee all projects approved under CPEC.
China will be responsible for Pakistani security both internal and external. The Pakistani civil authorities, like the police, town administrations etc will be directly monitored by Chinese officials who will have sweeping powers. Even the vaunted Pakistani military will take direction from the Chinese. The port of Gwadar will be protected by Chinese authority in control of all security, access, administration and economic issues.
Economically the injection of Chinese capital is expected to modernize Pakistan at a rapid clip and make its projected GDP growth in the 8% range, faster than India. Pakistanis are thrilled at the prospect and Nawaz Sharif, their Prime Minister, who was in Beijing for the One Belt, One Road launching has made giddy statements about the 30 year Sino-Pak pact. However, many thoughtful commentators are seeing this for what it is – a blatant modern-day colonization of a major (but troubled) nuclear power by China. It will create another quasi-autonomous Chinese region like Xinjiang (where the muslim Uighurs live) and the Buddhist Tibet.
The South Asian culture of Pakistan will slowly be strangled. China is not a colonial master that allows much diversity – just look at Tibet. In the Uighur regions, such as Kashgar, that I visited in 2009, I saw first hand China’s phasing out all Uighur language, literature, and customs.
Here is an “informational” video developed by the Chinese about the Pakistani initiative.
China is actually doing all this on the cheap! Much of the money that China will spend will be in soft loans, from institutions like the Asia Development Bank (ADB). Pakistan will have to pay this money back and it will put them in a position of permanent economic slavery to China. China has huge surplus manufacturing and construction capacity that is sitting idle not generating any income. By this ingenious initiative they will be able to deploy their idle construction companies in Pakistan, obtain huge strategic and geopolitic advantages, get fresh sources of precious raw materials and create a new counterweight to India in the region.
A Major Paradigm Shift
In the eyes of many observers this is the start of a major paradigm shift in the world order that has existed since European and Western dominance in the 20th century. Historians will look back thirty years from now and see the launching of One Belt, One Road (OBOR) in 2017 as the turning point of history. China has shown a keen eye to Globalization and great leadership in promoting this as a humanity-befitting world effort.
And yet, we in America, are scant noticing this. Our news coverage is obsessed with trivia. We keep promoting out-dated isolationism, protectionism and nationalism. Watching today’s headlines on American news there is nothing about OBOR. Sad!
(Ashok Vaish is the principal and founder at Balanced Growth Fund. His blog was first published here: Aye, Capitalist: The Capitalist Muse, musings on money matters and other topics: https://ayecapitalist.com/2017/05/21/is-china-about-to-gobble-up-pakistan/)