The Belt and Road Initiative will help China boost ties with countries and regions along the routes, especially Pakistan, experts said.
“The Belt and Road Initiative is project-oriented.” Chen Fengying, a researcher with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told Xinhua late on April 20.
The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road are international trade and infrastructure projects proposed by President Xi Jinping when he visited Central Asia and Southeast Asia in September and October 2013.
The former is an overland network focused on bringing together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe; linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and West Asia, and connecting China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean. The latter is a maritime network designed to link China’s coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and China’s coast to the South Pacific through the South China Sea in another.
During Xi’s ongoing two-day state visit to Pakistan, which started on April 20, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking southwest Pakistan’s deepwater Gwadar Port with northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, will be high on agenda.
The CPEC is situated at the crossroad of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
The corridor starts from Kashgar, Xinjiang, passes Pakistan’s capital Islamabad and ends at the Gawadar, Qasim and Karachi ports in the south, where it will join the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
“The three Pakistan ports are the only intersection of both the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.” Amin Babar, Consul-General of Pakistan in Guangzhou, said.
The contracted projects under the framework of the CPEC were expected to reach $50 billion, and all welcome the participation of Chinese investors, according to Amin.
“The CPEC is an important part of the Belt and Road Initiative, “ said Amin. Thus, there is potential for huge economic and business opportunities created as a result of the Belt and Road Initiative, he said.
Further, the first project of China’s $40 billion Silk Road Fund for investment in the Belt and Road Initiative was unveiled on April 20 during Xi’s state visit to Pakistan.
Capital will be channeled to China Three Gorges South Asia Investment Ltd., a subsidiary of the China Three Gorges Corp., to support Pakistan’s Karot hydropower project and other clean energy projects, according to a joint statement issued by the two countries.
The two countries set a target of lifting bilateral trade to $20 billion in three years, up from the current $16 billion, according to the joint statement. More than 50 cooperation deals were signed, covering transportation infrastructure, energy, agriculture, trade, finance, health, local affairs, media, ocean sciences and education.
“Pakistan plays a pioneering role [in the Belt and Road Initiative given it has cooperated with China from the beginning, “ said Chen.
Both sides signed the CPEC framework agreement in June 2013 when Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited China.
“Experts in Pakistan believe that the economic corridor will not only benefit the entire Pakistan in terms of improvement of economy and security, but also contribute to regional peace, stability and prosperity,” said Furqan Rao, journalist with The Associated Press of Pakistan and visiting student of journalism in China’s Renmin University.
If China-Pakistan cooperation goes well, it could be a role model in implementing the Belt and Road Initiative, Chen said. After all, “it is a long-term initiative and should be rolled out step by step.”
Countries along the Belt and Road Initiative are facing bottlenecks in economic development, according to Chen. These countries need capital and technology to shore up development while China has experience, capital and technology to share.
“The historic Belt and Road Initiative provide an unprecedented opportunity for the global community to share in the fruits of China’s economic development,” said Amin, adding that the leadership wanted to share China’s hard earned prosperity, particularly with the developing countries of South East Asia, South Asia, Middle East and Africa.