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Muhammad Usman

The writer is an Assistant Manager at Wah Nobel Group, Pakistan Ordnance Factories, Wah Cantt. Email: [email protected]

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Hilal English

Belt and Road Initiative: Strengthening Global Ties with Unhindered Trade and Connectivity

February 2024

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) laid the foundation for massive investment and rapid growth and development in neighboring Asian countries and countries around the globe. The success of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is proof of BRI's potential and its efficiency in the region.



2024 marks eleven years since Chinese President XI Jinping's ambitious BRI started. The multibillion-dollar initiative is one of the most ambitious global infrastructure projects ever. It has amassed billions in foreign investment and produced favorable results for the nations involved. As of now, 147 countries1 that account for approximately 40 percent of the world's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has supported or signed projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).  
Besides economic growth, bringing people closer and improving global ties was one of the goals President Xi Jinping aimed to achieve with the BRI. During his keynote speech2 at the Opening Ceremony of the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, President Xi Jinping expressed his desire for mutual growth, "We need to act in the spirit of multilateralism, pursue cooperation through consultation, and keep all participants motivated. By engaging in bilateral, trilateral, and multilateral cooperation, we may fully tap into the strengths of all participants."


During his keynote speech at the Opening Ceremony of the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, President Xi Jinping expressed his desire for mutual growth, "We need to act in the spirit of multilateralism, pursue cooperation through consultation, and keep all participants motivated. By engaging in bilateral, trilateral, and multilateral cooperation, we may fully tap into the strengths of all participants."


Over 3000 projects have been completed under the BRI in the past ten years, with over one trillion dollars invested in different projects. The globally expansive project has signed more than 200 agreements with 151 countries and 32 international organizations, giving way to unimpeded connectivity and global trade. BRI has emerged as one of the most economically profitable global projects in the 21st century, leading to considerable infrastructural developments and better connectivity across the countries involved. With its win-win approach, the BRI transcends physical borders, strengthening bonds across nations.
Over a decade of its growth, the BRI has created 420,000 jobs across the globe and helped approximately 40 million people recover from poverty. By 2030, BRI will further alleviate poverty by helping 7.6 million people out of poverty by increasing global income by 2.9 percent. Keeping in line with China's pledge for transparency, it has released a whitepaper, "Belt and Road Initiative: A Key Pillar of the Global Community of Shared Future,"3 detailing the growth and success of the project in the past ten years. Chinese firms have set up over 300 projects in participating countries to alleviate poverty and provide better healthcare and rehabilitation facilities.  


On October 17-18, 2023, China held a forum celebrating the 10th anniversary of the project. Representatives from over 20 countries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and many more, joined the event.
As of 2023, CPEC has created more than 190,000 jobs, generated 6000 megawatts (MW) of energy, built 510 kilometers of roads, and expanded the national transmission network by 886 kilometres.


Li Kexin, Director-General of the Department of International Economic Affairs of China's Foreign Ministry, lauded the BRI for completing ten years of development and shared growth. While addressing reporters in Beijing, he said, "Over the past ten years, the fruitful results of building the Belt and Road together and the growing circle of friends have fully proved that the Belt and Road does not engage in a closed and narrow circle, transcends the old mindset of geopolitical games and creates a new paradigm of international cooperation."
On October 17-18, 2023, China held a forum celebrating the 10th anniversary of the project. Representatives from over 20 countries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and many more, joined the event. President Putin hailed the diplomatic relationship between China and Russia. The participants chalked out a new development course for the project, further expanding its reach from Eurasia to Africa and Latin America. Projects worth USD 97.2 billion were signed with over 130 countries and 30-plus organizations.


In May 2023, China and Pakistan extended the BRI initiative to Afghanistan, attracting billions of dollars in investment, construction of infrastructure, and development of the energy sector in the country. The extension of CPEC to Afghanistan aims to boost the country's depleting economic resources and infrastructure construction. Afghanistan's participation in the project will become a catalyst for trilateral development.


CPEC, the flagship project of BRI, is a multibillion-dollar project that aims to link China’s Kashgar City, Xinjiang province in the Northwest to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port in the Southern region. The 62-billion-dollar estimated initiative has developed steadily over the past decade with over 25 billion dollars4 already invested in various projects across Pakistan. As of 2023, CPEC has created more than 190,000 jobs5, generated 6000 megawatts (MW) of energy, built 510 kilometers of roads, and expanded the national transmission network by 886 kilometres. 
Over the decade, the initiative has strengthened the ties between Pakistan and China and allowed people to establish healthy relationships with one another. It has greatly benefitted the local population, from roads and railways to job opportunities and economic development. To strengthen ties with the neighboring countries and enhance the region’s ties, Pakistan and China agreed to extend the BRI to Afghanistan.


On October 5, 2023, a meeting between the caretaker Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Jaleel Abbass Jilani, and Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, took place at the third Trans-Himalaya Forum for International Cooperation held in Nyingchi, Xizang, where both representatives expressed their commitment to CPEC to strengthen ties and promote bilateral growth and development.


In May 2023, China and Pakistan extended the BRI initiative to Afghanistan, attracting billions of dollars in investment, construction of infrastructure, and development of the energy sector in the country. The extension of CPEC to Afghanistan aims to boost the country's depleting economic resources and infrastructure construction. Afghanistan's participation in the project will become a catalyst for trilateral development. The Taliban government signed its first contract with China at the start of 2023. The 541-million-dollar project with Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum and Gas Company (CAPEIC), a subsidiary of China National Petroleum (CNPC), is a 25-year contract to extract oil with a 20 percent stake for the Afghanistan government with zero involvement, investment, or risk.
Pakistan and China boast a strong friendship of more than 70 years, and the ties have strengthened further with China's BRI, of which CPEC is a part.
On October 5, 2023, a meeting between the caretaker Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Jalil Abbass Jilani, and Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, took place at the third Trans-Himalaya Forum for International Cooperation held in Nyingchi, Xizang, where both representatives expressed their commitment to CPEC to strengthen ties and promote bilateral growth and development.


Regarding the energy sector, the Karot Hydropower project has added 720 MW to the electrical grid. The Pakistan-China Red Chili Contract Farming Project is yielding an estimated 700 tons of dried chili in the agricultural sector. The development in various sectors has ultimately contributed to the country's overall economic growth.


On October 31, 2023, Caretaker Prime Minister (PM), Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar stated, “CPEC is a game changer project under the China-proposed BRI, which helped Pakistan get on the track of development.” The PM further endorsed that the agricultural sector is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy, and the country would seek cooperation under CPEC for modren technology and research to increase production.
CPEC has not only contributed to Pakistan's economy but also led to massive developments in infrastructure as well as industries. The development of railways, roads, the energy sector, etc., has ushered in a new era for the local population. With better job and business opportunities, people have increased their income and improved their living conditions.
The development of Gwadar Port alone has greatly contributed to the country's financial growth. The development of the maritime industry has given locals access to the international market. Similarly, developing local infrastructure has helped create more job and business opportunities. The development of Gwadar Port has welcomed shared growth for people of both countries, allowing both countries to benefit from the road connecting Pakistan and China to the world. The development of infrastructure at the Gwadar Port has attracted more than 30 companies6 to the area, giving way to better employment and business opportunities for the local population.
In December 2020, the Sukkur-Multan Motorway, one of the biggest transportation infrastructure projects, was completed and handed over to the Pakistani authorities. The project opened new avenues in the declining job sector and boosted economic development and better traffic conditions. Regarding the energy sector, the Karot Hydropower Project has added 720 MW to the electrical grid. The Pakistan-China Red Chili Contract Farming Project is yielding an estimated 700 tons of dried chili in the agricultural sector. The development in various sectors has ultimately contributed to the country's overall economic growth.
The two-way exchanges between both countries have proved economically beneficial and allowed the locals to strengthen their bonds by exchanging their cultures and customs. Other areas of cooperation that have benefited the people of both countries include healthcare, education, tourism, technology, sports, disaster relief,  and environmental protection, etc. Chinese governmental scholarships attract more than 10,000 students7 from BRI countries every year. In addition, establishing Confucian institutes and cultural centres in Pakistan has strengthened people-to-people ties. Around 28,000 Pakistani students are currently studying in China, and 20,000 are learning the Chinese language.
China's investment in the textile industry has increased Pakistan's annual textile exports by 4.4 percent in the past ten years. The construction of mobile device manufacturing factories has brought over 126 million dollars in investment and increased local production of mobile devices by 74 percent. The simplification of visa procedures and visa-free agreements under the BRI agreement have given people the privilege of visa-free entry into the country. The establishment of new trade routes, followed by the influx of foreign investment, has also contributed to Pakistan's economy.
With bigger and better opportunities for export and better facilities in general, locals have had the opportunity to increase their income and improve their living conditions. Safe and secure trade prospects and unimpeded connectivity across nations have transformed Pakistan's economic scene. The people of Pakistan have greatly benefitted from the opportunities brought forth by the BRI. While the development of roads and railways has connected people across thousands of kilometres, better economic opportunities have improved people's livelihoods, and the cooperation for mutual growth has further helped establish friendly and healthy ties between people of both countries.
With the global economy facing turbulence due to the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia and Israel and Palestine,  the BRI has emerged as a project that guarantees resilience and continuity. Completing various energy and infrastructure projects as a part of CPEC is a testament to the commitment and dedication of both sides. The fruitfulness of the projects has created a stronger bond between the nations and invited the world to witness the prowess of BRI and cooperation between the neighboring countries.


The writer is an Assistant Manager at Wah Nobel Group, Pakistan Ordnance Factories, Wah Cantt.
Email: [email protected]


1.   Christoph Nedopil, “Countries of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI),” Green Finance & Development Center, 2023, https://greenfdc.org/countries-of-the-belt-and-road-initiative-bri/.
2.   “Xi Jinping, Keynote Speech Opening the Second Belt and Road Forum, April 26, 2019,” USC Annenberg, April 26, 2019, https://china.usc.edu/xi-jinping-keynote-speech-opening-second-belt-and-road-forum-april-26-2019.
3.   The Belt and Road Initiative: A Key Pillar of the Global Community of Shared Future, October 10, 2023, http://www.scio.gov.cn/zfbps/zfbps_2279/202310/t20231010_773734.html#:~:text=The%20BRI%20is%20in%20alignment,cooperation%2C%20civilization%2C%20and%20governance.
4.   “CPEC Brings Pakistan Billions in Direct Investment,” September 24, 2021, https://eng.yidaiyilu.gov.cn/p/188276.html.
5.   “CPEC Creates 192,000 Jobs for Pakistanis: Envoy,” The Nation, January 1, 2023, https://www.nation.com.pk/02-Jan-2023/cpec-creates-192-000-jobs-for-pakistanis-envoy.
6.   “The Belt and Road Initiative Progress, Contributions and Prospects.” April 22, 2019. https://eng.yidaiyilu.gov.cn/p/86739.html.
7.   Building the Belt and Road: Concept, Practice and China’s Contribution, May 2017, https://www.tralac.org/images/docs/11613/building-the-belt-and-road-concept-practice-and-chinas-contribution-may-2017.pdf.

 

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Muhammad Usman

The writer is an Assistant Manager at Wah Nobel Group, Pakistan Ordnance Factories, Wah Cantt. Email: [email protected]

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