President Xi’s three hours and 23 minutes speech in the 19th National Congress Party meeting on 18th October under the title “To secure a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and strive for the great success of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era” highlighted the achievements and outlined future endeavours. While addressing a total of 2,338 delegates from around the country and representing each segment of the society, he urged on the development and strengthening of the military on modern lines, resolved for fighting corruption, be a “torch bearer” in combating climate change. He also stated that “The Chinese nation has stood up, grown rich, and become strong – and it now embraces the brilliant prospects of rejuvenation … It will be an era that sees China moving closer to centre stage and making greater contributions to mankind”. President Xi spoke of his vision of development and stated that no country can develop in isolation and this speaks well for the future of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). As President Xi Jinping takes China forward on the path of development and growth, this also provides ample opportunities for Pakistan to progress further through CPEC by capitalising on its enormous opportunities and realising inclusive growth it promises.
Keeping in view the challenges faced by today’s world, China’s Belt and Road Initiative aspires for a win-win cooperation, mutual development and shared prosperity with a vision to promote infrastructural development and socioeconomic uplift of the region. CPEC and BRI have similarities in terms of development and progress. The year 2013 was of marked importance that witnessed the signing of MoU on CPEC with Pakistan and announcement of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative by President Xi Jinping. BRI provides an exclusive opportunity to facilitate policy coordination and enable synergy for pursuing inter-connected development to accrue maximum benefits from this mega regional initiative.
Today, CPEC has emerged as the most successful corridor amongst the six existing corridors in BRI. The exemplary pace of CPEC speaks volume about the hard work of our policy makers, engineers, workers and security personnel. The projects in energy sector, transport infrastructure, industrial cooperation and Gwadar will create massive opportunities. Specifically, the improved transport infrastructure through highway projects and Railways Mainline One (ML-I) expansion and up gradation project will change the dynamics of our businesses, transportation and tourism. The introduction of rail based mass transit system in all provincial headquarters will transform the outlook of our major urban centres and lead to improved road and rail connectivity. Resultantly, massive opportunities for our young and skilled labour will be created and meeting the ever-growing need of a healthy and prosperous life.
The beginning of 2018 will mark completion of the Early Harvest Phase of CPEC wherein critical bottle necks of economic growth will be removed incrementally. The next challenges are industrial development, agriculture sector cooperation and timely completion of the Gwadar projects. Importantly, the shifting of reliance from imported fuel to indigenous sources of energy through completion of hydel, solar, wind and Thar coal mining projects will ensure energy security, reduce our import bill of fuel and will also provide cheaper electricity. As some milestones are being achieved, some new time lines are being set. Completion of more projects will transfer the benefits of improved infrastructure and availability of electricity to the masses. This will improve productivity; bring Foreign Direct Investment and foreign tourists to Pakistan, thereby ensuring a well-rounded human development and common prosperity for everyone.
The establishment of the consortium of Business schools between top 10 universities/institutions is the stepping stone towards further engagement and collaboration in the field of research and policy formulation. During the recent visit of the Chinese industrial experts, it was decided to establish vocational institutes across the country. Moreover, a study on developing Special Economic Zones with Centre of New Structural Economics at Peking University will give a much needed boost to our industry and HR development.
The vision, laid out by President Xi Jinping is a realistic plan of growth within its own characteristics, connectivity, and peaceful co-existence. All this supports CPEC and the development it entails. The rise of China to the centre stage of the world promises enormous opportunities to its trusted friend—Pakistan. There is lot we can learn for nation building, improving living standards, education and strengthening military. However, as the Chinese saying goes, the last leg of a journey just marks the half-way point, the CPEC dream has also only entered the first stage and meeting the overall objectives will require hard work, national consensus, participation of all segments of the society and strong sense of responsibility and measured urgency by all stake holders in CPEC