China is the new economic superpower of the world. It has invested billions of dollars in Pakistan. Pakistan and China consider their relations as ‘all-weather friendship’.
At present, Pakistan is important for China due to following reasons:
Rising China needs a more secure and stable supply of trade and energy resources to maintain the momentum of its rise. At present, the only Sea route available to China for this supply is through Malacca Strait. In order to trade with the west and to import Oil from Gulf, Goods and oil have to travel through the South China Sea, Malacca Strait
The Trade route of the Malacca strait is almost 10,000 miles long. Through the Gwadar, China can travel its goods by covering only 2000 miles. If China manages to transport half of the oil supplies through Pakistan, it can save up to two billion dollars annually.
For a country like China, saving two billion dollars is not a big deal. The main reason is safety. Energy security, and particularly oil supply security, has become a major concern for the Chinese government over the past several years. China continuously needs massive oil supplies to run its industries. A little obstruction in the supply can make china’s economy suffer. The strategic location strait of Malacca Falls between Indonesia and Malaysia and has Singapore to its east. Singapore inevitably plays an important role as it is an ally of the USA and India and could possibly be influenced by them. In the background of rising tensions in the South China Sea in recent years and persistent ‘Malacca Dilemma’, China is desperately looking for an alternative Sea route to ensure a safe supply of goods and energy. The $ 62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) launched in 2015, linking China’s Xinjiang province to Pakistan, gives her access to the Arabian Sea through the Gwadar port of Pakistan. Gwadar may be developed in the future as a Chinese naval base. It holds exclusive importance to China.
China has developed a lot in the recent few years. Only eastern China has developed yet. The Western regions of China, like Xinjiang, Yunnan, Sichuan, etc still lack the basic infrastructure. The western region of China is adjacent to Pakistan and roads of the CPEC will pass through the western region of China. China hopes that CPEC with Pakistan and the proposed silk route through Central Asia would spur growth in the Western region.
In the emerging regional and global strategic situation Pakistan holds strategic importance to China. India is a common enemy for both and China-Pakistan strategic coalition may balance the emerging India-US partnership. Also, China would like to confine India in South Asia to undermine its global strategic capability. Both China and Pakistan have disputed territories with India. If the economy of Pakistan gets stabled it can have a better influence in the region, thus it would be easy for China to beat India in the region.
Pakistan also holds economic importance to China. China is the largest trading partner as well as the largest arms supplier to Pakistan. For China, Pakistan presents a huge opportunity for trade, investment, and even employment. Right now 17000 Chinese are working in Pakistan under various projects of CPEC. Over recent Pakistan’s average imports from China was $15 billion.
Now, Chinese interests in Pakistan are permanent and crucial, whereas earlier, though China was close to Pakistan, it had only temporary interests there. If we go by the historical experience of Chinese engagement with Pakistan before 2015, it has been reluctant to be dragged into controversial issues in Pakistan. For example, China did not come to support Pakistan in 1965, 1971, and 1999 military confrontation with India. China has been consistently less committal about her lofty economic commitment to Pakistan in the past. But now conditions have changed for China.
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