10 golden years of CPEC- visit of Chinese Vice Premier
Editor's Note: The writer is the Founder of Friends of BRI Forum. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro.
As Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng concludes his three-day visit to Pakistan, the celebration of the 10th anniversary of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) holds immense significance. This high-level visit signifies the unwavering commitment of China and Pakistan to further enhance their "all-weather strategic cooperative partnership" and take CPEC to new heights.
This milestone marks a decade of fruitful cooperation and underscores the enduring friendship between China and Pakistan. A Decade of CPEC has remained an important milestone in Pakistan and its economic development however there were challenges that both countries wholeheartedly faced with the bravery and cooperation.
During the visit, the two countries signed six agreements for the promotion of bilateral cooperation, reaffirming their commitment to further enhancing economic collaboration. The agreements span various sectors, including agriculture and IT, with a focus on enabling Pakistan to export items according to Chinese government requirements and standards, thus boosting economic growth and bilateral trade.
Over the past decade, CPEC has emerged as a transformative initiative, positioning itself as a vital component of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The project aims to upgrade Pakistan's infrastructure and foster economic growth by developing modern transportation networks, energy projects, and special economic zones. As China's flagship connectivity and investment corridor project, CPEC has seen substantial Chinese investment, making China the largest source of investment, loans, and grants for Pakistan.
Vice Premier He engaged in high-level meetings with Pakistani leaders, including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and President Dr. Arif Alvi. The visiting diginatry was also conferred with the Pakistan's second-highest civil award, Hilal-i-Pakistan (Crescent of Pakistan), in recognition of his instrumental role in promoting bilateral ties between the two countries.
CPEC has been implemented in distinct phases, allowing both China and Pakistan to focus on specific priorities at each stage, ensuring steady progress and meaningful outcomes. The first phase of CPEC successfully addressed Pakistan's urgent energy needs and improved connectivity through major infrastructure projects. It achieved remarkable success in boosting power generation capacity, partly putting an end to the nation's longstanding energy crisis. Additionally, the completion of key infrastructure projects, such as the Havelian-Thakot section of the Karakoram Highway (KKH) and the Multan-Sukkur (M-5) Motorway, has enhanced transportation networks from north to south, creating a robust infrastructure comprising ports, airports, roads, and railways.
Furthermore, CPEC's early harvest projects have led to the creation of approximately 200,000 direct jobs, promoting economic growth and livelihood opportunities for local communities. The ongoing development of the Main Line-1 (ML-1) project, which will upgrade and dualize 1,733 km of railway track from Peshawar to Karachi, is set to modernize Pakistan's railway system, ensuring efficient and reliable transportation.
Beyond infrastructure and energy, CPEC emphasizes people-to-people connectivity. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, around 28,000 Pakistani students were studying in China, fostering cultural exchange and strengthening ties between the two nations. These numbers are ever increasing. China has also been offering numerous scholarships and training programs to promote educational cooperation and mutual understanding.
As CPEC enters its second phase, the focus shifts towards industrial development, agricultural cooperation, and socio-economic growth. The establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and emphasis on technology transfer and job creation aim to bolster Pakistan's industrial base and drive economic diversification. Concurrently, enhanced agricultural cooperation and knowledge sharing are set to boost productivity and uplift rural livelihoods. The second phase also emphasizes developing Gwadar port into a strategic maritime hub, fostering regional connectivity and trade.
Vice Premier He Lifeng's visit coincided with the inauguration of the New Gwadar International Airport (NGIA), a testament to the close cooperation between China and Pakistan in modern air transport development. As the second-largest airport in Pakistan, NGIA is designed to accommodate various aircraft, facilitating domestic and international routes. This milestone marks a significant step in enhancing air transport connectivity and contributing to Pakistan's economic growth.