Paving the Road ahead for CPEC

In­ter­nal Ob­sta­cles in the Im­ple­men­ta­tion and Pol­icy Rec­om­men­da­tions from a Chi­nese Per­spec­tive

The Diplomatic Insight - - News - Liang Tong

In the historic event of Chi­nese pres­i­dent Xi’s state visit to Pak­istan in April 2015, lead­ers from both coun­tries reached an agree­ment to fur­ther up­grade the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion be­tween China and Pak­istan from an al­ready unique and ex­em­plary All-Weather Strate­gic Part­ner­ship one step fur­ther to an All-Weather Strate­gic Co­op­er­a­tive Part­ner­ship, en­tail­ing a tran­si­tion of our bi­lat­eral re­la­tion from a se­cu­ri­ty­cen­tric strate­gic part­ner­ship into a more com­pre­hen­sive and sus­tain­able bond un­der­lined by sub­stan­tial eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion. One key em­bod­i­ment of the boosted China Pak­istan eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion is the CPEC. Now three years into its con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion and one year into full im­ple­men­ta­tion, rapid progress is be­ing made and a shape, yet there is no room for com­pla­cency and ly­ing on the road of a smooth im­ple­men­ta­tion of CPEC are nu­mer­ous ob­sta­cles, some be­ing ex­ter­nal ones like the ter­ror threats com­ing from re­gional pow­ers hos­tile to Pak­istan in gen­eral and CPEC in par­tic­u­lar, some be­ing in­ter­nal ones, in­clud­ing but not lim­ited to the in­ter-pro­vin­cial dis­agree­ments about the ge­o­graph­i­cal dis­tri­bu­tion of CPEC projects, lack of clar­ity on the key is­sue of what is the cri­te­rion of CPEC project, and loss of sense of pri­or­ity on both sides and a re­treat back to slow mov­ing bu­reau­cracy. With­out the slight­est in­ten­tion of ig­nor­ing the ex­ter­nal ob­sta­cles and in full ac­knowl­edge and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the gal­lant ef­fort of Pak­istan to de­fend CPEC against such threats, this pa­per ar­gues that the in­ter­nal ob­sta­cles are the big­ger and longer-term threat to a smooth im­ple­men­ta­tion of CPEC, and tries to give a brief anal­y­sis to each of those ob­sta­cles, lead­ing to a pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tion from a Chi­nese per­spec­tive. Tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the enor­mous dif­fer­ence in po­lit­i­cal sys­tem and cul­ture be­tween China and Pak­istan, the pa­per lim­its its pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tion to the sphere of aca­demic dis­cus­sion, with­out ar­gu­ing that Pak­istan should make pol­icy changes as fa­vored by China.

1. In­ter-pro­vin­cial dis­agree­ment:

The top-down rather than bot­tom-up de­ci­sion mak­ing re­lated to CPEC with most of ne­go­ti­a­tions with Chi­nese side car­ried out by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has its pros and cons just like any­thing else. While it brought a good amount of only on which fur­ther elab­o­ra­tion would be pos­si­ble, it also came with the risk of fail­ing to bring pro­vin­cial stake­hold­ers the is­sue of se­cret change of “orig­i­nal plan” sur­faced and the dis­con­tent of all prov­inces other than Pun­jab about in­ad­e­quate share of CPEC projects grad­u­ally dom­i­nated the na­tional de­bate about this 46 bil­lion dol­lar mega project. At the height of this route con­tro­versy, par­al­leled was made to the Kal­abagh dam and ac­cess to land was threat­ened to be de­nied for CPEC projects. Ef­forts have been made by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to cool down the rag­ing dis­con­tent and de­spite some lim­ited ef­fect, the in­ter-pro­vin­cial dis­agree­ment has never died down, in­stead, it is tak­ing on new di­men­sions as the CPEC moves for­ward and now we are in a sit­u­a­tion where the CPEC re­lated in­ter-pro­vin­cial dis­agree­ment is no longer lim­ited to the route con­tro­versy, but also ex­tends to the ge­o­graph­i­cal dis­tri­bu­tion of SEZs and wel­fare projects. It would be un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect such a mega project as the CPEC not to stir up any rip­ples in a po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment where pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments are the­o­ret­i­cally speak­ing fully en­ti­tled to make de­ci­sions about eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment within their own ju­ris­dic­tion and all the po­lit­i­cal par­ties run­ning those pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments as­pire to gain as much po­lit­i­cal credit from the CPEC as pos­si­ble in prepa­ra­tion for the next gen­eral elec­tion, but the dis­tur­bances and de­lays such dis­agree­ments cause to the CPEC im­ple­men­ta­tion have al­ready raised some eye­brows in China, which it­self has been too much fa­mil­iar with and even taken for granted a highly cen­tral­ized de­ci­sion mak­ing mech­a­nism and speedy ex­e­cu­tion of the de­cided projects. For more than once China has asked Pak­istan to prop­erly solve its in­ter-pro­vin­cial dis­agree­ments and to cre­ate a fa­vor­able en­vi­ron­ment for the smooth im­ple­men­ta­tion of CPEC, yet de­spite their good faith and sin­cere ef­fort, such a trou­ble-shoot­ing and road-paving is in­deed a tall or­der for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan, which stands at the epi­cen­ter of the con­tro­versy ac­cused of bag­ging too big a share of CPEC projects in Pun­jab prov­ince, the vote bank of the rul­ing PML(N). Also dis­turbed by this in­ter-pro­vin­cial dis­agree­ment is the who of­fered their solution by propos­ing the es­tab­lish­ment of a more cen­tral­ized and pow­er­ful en­tity named CPEC Au­thor­ity. Putting aside the pop­u­lar yet ground­less con­spir­acy

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