These activities were later reframed as part of the so-called “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” (CPEC), which was only officially launched in April 2015 while China’s president Xi Jinping visited Pakistan. Emphasis shifted towards power generation in Pakistan, and estimated costs ballooned to 46 billion USD. The two governments then drew up a “Long Term Plan,” starting in 2017 and drastically expanding the projected timeline for implementation up to 2030. Projected costs moved up to 62 billion USD, and Pakistani officials have since mentioned even higher numbers.
CPEC projects (as listed on this Pakistan government website) constitute the bulk of BRI-related activities in Pakistan, and its stated goals align with those in China’s main BRI policy documents. CPEC, however, does not cover all joint Sino-Pakistani infrastructure efforts that can be seen as furthering BRI goals. CPEC projects, moreover, do not always involve China directly. In line with the methodology behind the MERICS Belt and Road Tracker, we have chosen to include non-CPEC projects when they fall within the range of BRI goals.
Grand geo-strategic designs should not be overstated
Through CPEC, Islamabad seeks to leverage Chinese capital, production capacity, and know-how in order to upgrade Pakistan’s infrastructure and build a “mechanism for sustainable economic growth.” In return, Beijing gains a connection to the Arabian sea, providing a contingency trade route to the risk-prone Malacca Strait in Southeast Asia. However, as with the wider BRI, there are multiple drivers, and the importance of grand geo-strategic designs should not be overstated.
Chinese wisdom holds that state-driven investment in infrastructure creates economic growth, social stability, and an improved security environment. As a counterweight to India in South Asia and a potential training ground for Uyghur militants from Xinjiang, the stability of its “all-weather” ally is a major concern for Beijing, and so CPEC was deemed a necessary strategic commitment.