China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor: A French per­spec­tive

The Diplomatic Insight - - News - Raphael Lis­sil­lour

The Chi­nese em­bassy in Paris in­tro­duces the eco­nomic cor­ri­dors as the be­ing the “first chap­ter of the One Belt One Road sym­phony,” thus putting the ac­cent on the way it will con­trib­ute to har­mony in south Asia. Two eco­nomic cor­ri­dors are cited, namely the the “Steppes Road” con­nect­ing China with Mon­go­lia and Rus­sia, and the China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor (CPEC). If a con­struc­tivist anal­y­sis of the norms and val­ues pro­moted by Pek­ing may pro­vide some in­sights on the cred­i­bil­ity and dif­fu­sion of the Chi­nese credo, it seems a re­al­ist per­spec­tive it more jus­ti­fied in this con­text. Chi­nese for­eign pol­icy is bet­ter un­der­stood as a tool to de­velop an in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­ment able to con­trib­ute to its eco­nomic

ex­pan­sion and to pre­vent con­tain­ment. Such grand strat­egy is elab­o­rated and en­acted with “in­stru­men­tal ra­tio­nal­ity,” thus sys­tem­at­i­cally look­ing at get­ting asym­met­ric rel­a­tive gain. This pa­per will re­view the diplo­matic style which char­ac­ter­izes the Chi­nese for­eign pol­icy be­fore an­a­lyz­ing more closely the gen­eral frame­work within which the China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor project un­folds. It is ar­gued that the CPEC re­sponds to both in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal ra­tio­nales, whereas ex­ter­nal fac­tors such as bal­anc­ing In­dia and op­ti­miz­ing oil im­port seem to pre­vail. This pa­per in­tends to pro­vide a tex­tual anal­y­sis on the China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor re­ly­ing on French re­sources. It does not have the am­bi­tion to re­flect the gen­eral opin­ion of the French peo­ple, nei­ther to re­veal the cur­rent of­fi­cial voice of the French gov­ern­ment, but rather re­lies on a tex­tual anal­y­sis of doc­u­ments pub­lished in French lan­guage, ei­ther by the gov­ern­ment, the academia, or the press. Re­cent ar­ti­cles from in­flu­en­tial French news­pa­pers, namely Le Monde, RFI,

L’Opin­ion, and Cour­rier In­ter­na­tional, have been se­lected and an­a­lyzed. The in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the press has been crossed with texts pub­lished by the French gov­ern­ment and by prom­i­nent French re­search cen­ters, such as Asia

Cen­tre and the . In the mean­time, for­eign lit­er­a­ture is also in­cluded in the anal­y­sis to con­tex­tu­al­ize and con­trast the French lit­er­a­ture. The French min­istry of Econ­omy and Fi­nance stresses that de­spite the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor (CPEC), the For­eign Di­rect In­vest­ment (FDI) of Pak­istan re­mains weak, less than 1% of its Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct (GDP). But this fig­ure will be likely to change when the CPEC will re­ally take shape, which will fur­ther re­as­sure China of the vi­a­bil­ity of its in­vest­ment. The China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor project fore­sees a global in­vest­ment of 46 bil­lion dol­lars into Pak­istan, within which 36 will be in­vested into the en­er­getic sec­tor. Ac­cord­ing to the French Min­istry of Eco­nom­ics and Fi­nance, the main fac­tor that ex­plains the weak FDI is the lack of at­trac­tive­ness of Pak­istan, notably be­cause of the un­cer­tainty linked to its po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic in­sta­bil­ity, which in turn has a neg­a­tive im­pact on the as­sess­ment of rat­ing com­pa­nies. Le Monde re­minded also that the pre­vi­ous sym­bols of the Sino-Pak­istani co­op­er­a­tion such as Karako­rum road, which has been in­au­gu­rated in the 80’s, and Gwadar har­bor, in­au­gu­rated in 2007, had so far not brought the suc­cess­ful eco­nomic re­ward which were ex­pected. This il­lus­trates that, ac­cord­ing to Con­fu­cian tra­di­tional val­ues, the ra­tio­nal of the Chi­nese for­eign pol­icy for Pak­istan is not quick fi­nan­cial re­turn, rather a long term project in line with key con­cerns which struc­ture its for­eign pol­icy. Ac­cord­ing to Duchâ­tel and Racine from French re­search cen­ter Asia Cen­tre, Pak­istan ben­e­fit from a key po­si­tion in South Asia which can be in­stru­men­tal in se­cur­ing an en­vi­ron­ment fa­vor­able to Chi­nese geopo­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic devel­op­ment. In­deed, Pak­istan could con­trib­ute to bal­ance against In­dia and the USA in the re­gion. The ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion of China to the nu­clear ca­pac­ity of Islamabad il­lus­trates how im­por­tant this re­gional bal­ance of power is for China. An­other strong illustration is the pur­chase of eight diesel sub­marines Yuan type 041 by the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment for the amount of 5 bil­lion dol­lars. The de­ci­sion was an­nounced as Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping last vis­ited Pak­istan in 2015. It was the first time China ex­ported such mil­i­tary de­vices. On the other hand, China does not want to rely only on Pak­istan to safe­guard its geopo­lit­i­cal in­ter­est in South Asia. Ac­cord­ing to Re­search Di­rec­tor at French Na­tional

Jean-Pierre Cabestan, China is grow­ingly aware that this close con­nec­tion with Pak­istan hin­ders any true strate­gic rap­proche­ment with In­dia. French Di­rec­tor for South Asia pro­gram at Carnegie En­dow­ment

for In­ter­na­tional Peace Fred­eric Grare ar­gues that “the new as­pects of this part­ner­ship re­side in the af­fir­ma­tion of China’s for­eign pol­icy in this re­gion. Pek­ing wants to sta­bi­lize this zone, it will not let Islamabad hin­der its dia­log with In­dia and is now di­rectly in­volved to solve the afghan prob­lem.” In­deed, the past records of Chi­nese in­ter­ac­tions with In­dia cre­ated diplo­matic pat­terns which are dif­fi­cult to solve. For ex­am­ple, the In­dian gov­ern­ment re­sponded as fol­lows to the Sino-Amer­i­can dec­la­ra­tion which was pub­lished af­ter the nu­clear tests that both In­dia and Pak­istan car­ried out in 1998: “We have seen the US-China «Joint State­ment on South Asia». In­dia cat­e­gor­i­cally re­jects the no­tion of th­ese two coun­tries ar­ro­gat­ing to them­selves, joint or in­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­bil­ity for «the main­te­nance of peace, sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity in the re­gion». This ap­proach re­flects the hege­monic men­tal­ity of a by­gone era in in­ter­na­tional relations and is com­pletely un­ac­cept­able and out of place in the present day world.” China pro­vides more and more eco­nomic, mil­i­tary and politic as­sis­tance to coun­tries such as Nepal and Myan­mar, which nat­u­rally con­trib­utes to the In­dian anx­i­ety. Decades of strate­gic bal­anc­ing with In­dia, fu­eled with the Ti­bet is­sue and

bor­der dis­putes may hin­der the prompt devel­op­ment of any trust­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween both gov­ern­ments. The China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor is also mo­ti­vated by in­ter­nal fac­tors on the Chi­nese side. The 12th five-year plan which was de­cided in Novem­ber 2010 adopted a pol­icy for the

devel­op­ment of West­ern China, to which the co­op­er­a­tion with Pak­istan con­trib­utes in two ways. First the CPEC can pro­vide eco­nomic devel­op­ment to th­ese re­gions, which will be­come an im­por­tant lo­gis­tic hub. Then, the col­lab­o­ra­tion with Pak­istan can help to the sta­bi­liza­tion of lo­cal eth­nic group. As the USA with­draw their forces from Afghanistan, the thin Afghan bor­der with China be­came vul­ner­a­ble. In­deed, as Pek­ing fears even­tual Is­lamic epi­demics in West China, Pak­istan proved co­op­er­a­tive at polic­ing the bor­der. Pak­istan re­turned Uighur fight­ers ar­rested in Pak­istan back to China. On the same time, ac­cord­ing to Cabestan, China tries to play a role in sta­bi­liz­ing the re­gion, thus tak­ing ad­van­tage of the West­ern fail­ure in Afghanistan to in­crease one’s own le­git­i­macy as a re­spon­si­ble power. Pek­ing re­newed the dia­logue with the Tal­iban in 2014, in or­der to bet­ter con­trol the Uighur armed forces with bases es­tab­lished on both side of the bor­der be­tween Pak­istan and Afghanistan. In April 2015, Xi Jin­ping vis­ited Pak­istan. This first visit of a Chi­nese Head of State since 2006 has been cel­e­brated by the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment, as it sym­bol­ized the close friend­ship and co­op­er­a­tion be­tween both coun­tries. Prior to 2006, vis­its of head of state oc­curred more of­ten, which even­tu­ally il­lus­trates that the Chi­nese sent a sig­nal to In­dia by al­low­ing less sym­bolic vis­its to Islamabad, while con­tin­u­ing to de­velop strate­gic part­ner­ship with Pak­istan. This last visit has been in­stru­men­tal in en­gag­ing both par­ties in the CPEC project with the sig­na­ture of 51 agree­ments ac­count­ing for 46,69 bil­lion dol­lars. Th­ese projects will all be fi­nanced by loan is­sued by Chi­nese banks such as the In­dus­trial and Com­mer­cial Bank of China (ICBC), Exim Bank of China and the China Devel­op­ment Bank Cor­po­ra­tion, rather than re­ly­ing on In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund or other lib­eral West­ern in­sti­tu­tion, ar­guably too tightly con­trolled by the West­ern pow­ers. Such devel­op­ment shows the con­tin­ued com­mit­ment of China to mul­ti­po­lar­ity in in­ter­na­tional relations, thus pro­mot­ing co­op­er­a­tion not nec­es­sar­ily against the United States, but prefer­ably not with the United States or other West­ern pow­ers.

RFI re­ports that, on the 13th Novem­ber 2016, the Chi­naPak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor is in­au­gu­rated as the first 150 con­tain­ers from China were loaded into the port of Gwadar. The CPEC al­lows China to se­cure ac­cess to the In­dian ocean and more specif­i­cally to Africa and to the Arab Gulf. Such ac­cess will en­sure the easy im­port of oil by se­cur­ing ac­cess to Gwadar port. In­deed, China can then by­pass the Malacca Strait which re­mains the Achilles heel of Chi­nese oil im­port route. The dis­tance of oil trans­port can be re­duced to 2000 kilo­me­ter of in­ter­modal trans­port in­stead of 12900 kilo­me­ters of mar­itime trans­port. 660 mil­lion dol­lars will be in­vested into the devel­op­ment of Gwadar port and the man­age­ment of the har­bor is then con­ceded to State-Owned Com­pany

. The pipe­line net­work will con­nect Iran to China, thus se­cur­ing Ira­nian gas im­port to China. Even if still vastly un­ex­ploited, the re­sources of Pak­istan and Afghanistan will then be­come eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble through the trans­port net­work. The China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor will con­trib­ute to its en­er­getic se­cu­rity and to a sus­tain­able do­mes­tic devel­op­ment. 5,9 bil­lion dol­lars will be in­vested in de­vel­op­ing a high­way net­work to con­nect China and Pak­istan. The ques­tion of which party will ben­e­fit most from the Chi­nese led project is worth ask­ing. Le Monde and RFI re­port the re­sem­blance with the “Mar­shall Plan”, as China seems to se­cure easy and cheap trans­porta­tion for the Chi­nese prod­ucts into Pak­istan, as the Pak­istani in­dus­try is still un­der-de­vel­oped and could hardly com­pete with the world’s work­shop. China can also take ad­van­tage of the cur­rent gov­ern­ment style to get con­tracts signed through opaque pro­cesses. In­deed, Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional who mea­sures the level of cor­rup­tion of all coun­tries ranked Pak­istan 117 out of 167. Courier In­ter­na­tional spec­i­fies that tech­ni­cally, the 923 hectares of land is lent to the Chi­nese SOC by Baluchis­tan prov­ince, thus stress­ing the non-demo­cratic process tak­ing place as many Baluchis­tani’s are against the CPEC. Gwadar is lo­cated in Baluchis­tan, which is the big­gest and poor­est Pak­istani prov­ince, and is pe­ri­od­i­cally shaken by sep­a­ratist or Is­lamist man­i­fes­ta­tions. The Pak­istani gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to re­as­sure the Chi­nese part­ner by im­ple­ment­ing se­cu­rity pol­icy, which led to ex­pul­sions and ex­pro­pri­a­tions in Baluchis­tan, which peo­ple is op­posed to the CPEC. French pe­ri­od­i­cal L’Opin­ion re­port that China would pres­sure Pak­istan and urge Islamabad to en­gage more frankly its army to fas­ten the devel­op­ment of the CPEC project. It is worth re­mind­ing that China con­trib­uted largely to the pro­cure­ment of mil­i­tary de­vice to the Pak­istani army and to the devel­op­ment of the the Pak­istani mil­i­tary in­dus­try. In 2006, both gov­ern­ments de­cided to to fur­ther de­velop the co­pro­duc­tion of JF-27 mil­i­tary jets with Awacs system and elec­tronic system of de­fense. Ac­cord­ing to Cabestan, from that year on­ward, both pow­ers also mul­ti­plied the joint mil­i­tary exercise. The al­liance be­tween China and Pak­istan re­lies sub­stan­tially on the close re­la­tion­ship be­tween Pek­ing and its em­bassy in Islamabad with the Pak­istani

gen­er­als to safe­guard Chi­nese in­ter­ests. Jour­nal­ist Claude Le­blanc re­ports that de­spite dis­agree­ment from the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment, it seems Bei­jing and the gen­er­als suc­ceeded in se­cur­ing that 1% of the to­tal in­vest­ment will be used to fi­nance a spe­cial se­cu­rity force of 15000 men led by re­tired Gen­eral Zahir Shah to in­sure the se­cu­rity of the CPEC area. Jour­nal­ists from ma­jor French news­pa­per Le Monde noted that th­ese in­vest­ment projects will ben­e­fit pri­mar­ily to the

Chi­nese State Owned Com­pa­nies which suf­fer from the slow­down of their do­mes­tic econ­omy. By us­ing the term “big band economique,” Fol­lorou and Petro­letti, ex­press the opin­ion that such big con­tracts do not ben­e­fit much to the

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