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CPEC in changing political landscape of the world

Pakistan Observer


Mohammad Jamil

In the whole world, Coronavirus has killed more than hundred thousand of peoples so far, and the world economy is collapsing. Two months ago, China was the most affected country, and analysts and pundits presaged that its projects especially One-Belt One-Road and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would be adversely impacted. However, the epidemic situation in China has now been effectively controlled. So even if there was a little impact, it proved temporary. There is every possibility that the construction of the CPEC will continue to advance smoothly as planned; rather it will be resumed with renewed vigour after the victory over Coronavirus. The first phase of the construction of the CPEC had been very successful. After 22 major energy and transportation infrastructure projects having been put into operation, Pakistan’s socio-economic development was on trajectory of rapid development. Prime Minister Imran Khan is keen to see implementation of CPEC on a priority basis.

With the successful experience in the first stage, China and Pakistan are jointly working, and promoting the construction of the second stage. Recently, Pakistan government approved the establishment of 10 Special Economic Zones in the four provinces. The working on the ongoing project under CPEC in South Punjab had been stopped in January in the wake of Coronavirus fear. Anyhow, the world is watching the changing political landscape of the world, and many analysts see America losing the sole super power status. UK’s daily ‘The Independent’ carried an article written by Patrick Cockburn who stated: “The US is losing its world superpower status due to its failure to lead on the Covid-19 crisis – and this time, it might not recover. The US may be reaching its “Chernobyl Moment” as it fails to lead in combating the Coronavirus epidemic”.

The fall in US influence was visible at virtual meetings of world leaders where the main US diplomatic effort was devoted to an abortive attempt to persuade the others to sign a statement referring to the “Wuhan virus”, as part of a campaign to blame China for the Coronavirus epidemic. The author went on to state that the decline of the US is usually seen as the counterpart to the rise of China – and China has, at least for the moment, successfully got a grip on its own epidemic. It is the Chinese who are sending ventilators and medical teams to Italy and face masks to Africa. Italians note that the other EU states all ignored Italy’s desperate appeal for medical equipment and only China responded. A Chinese charity sent 300,000 face masks to Belgium in a container with the slogan “Unity Makes Strength” in three languages – French, Flemish and Chinese.

Although the Chinese government was heavily criticized for its failure to slow the spread of the virus in December and January, yet it came out of it much faster. Beijing has extended its aid campaign to overwhelmed European governments. In March, China sent masks, gloves, ventilators and medical experts to help Italy, Spain, France, Greece, the Czech Republic and other countries to help them deal with the outbreak. As supplies were unloaded from a Chinese plane in Italy, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio noted that the aid demonstrated that “we are not alone; there are people in the world who want to help Italy.” Experts from across Europe and the United States react to China’s growing Coronavirus outreach in Europe and the implications for Chinese-EU relations. However, they are likely to fail.

Dimitar Bechev, non-resident Senior Fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Centre; Research Fellow, Centre of Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill stated: “Never let good crisis go to waste. There is no better illustration than the medical supplies and crews of doctors China has been supplying to Italy and other European countries battling COVID-19. Ian Brzezinski, resident Senior Fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative and Scowcroft Centre for Strategy and Security stated: “China’s global Coronavirus rescue campaign is well underway. A key focus is Europe. Last week, Beijing sent millions of surgical masks (including 200,000 advanced masks) and 50,000 testing kits to Europe. Chinese medical experts have been sent to Italy. Alibaba and the Jack Ma Foundation airlifted shipments of medical gear to Belgium, Ukraine and Spain. And the list goes on.

Since the US is facing the killer Novel Coronavirus, it is too much absorbed and has hardly anything to offer to the European countries that are wary of American attitude. The Trump Administration has been trying to mobilize Europe against China’s geopolitical strategies, and pressured European states not to partner with Chinese firms in developing 5G telecommunications networks, and called for NATO to play a greater role in meeting the rise of Beijing’s power. After initially resisting entreaties from Brussels, the Administration now seeks to enlist the EU and Japan in a common front against, what it says, Beijing’s unfair economic practices. Yet many European countries remain worried about aligning too closely with Trump against China, because he will eventually cut a bilateral deal with Beijing. Just as important, any US-European cooperation against China is occurring in a broader context in which the US has often worked against a united Europe.

Trump has his reasons for this approach. He believes that the US can get a better bilateral trade deal with a post-Brexit UK, and seems to think that America can maximize its influence with individual European countries by weakening the EU. The leaderships in EU countries understand the Trump’s machinations, and would not like to be used in his plans against China. It appears that the political landscape of the world will drastically change. It is possible that the focus will be on the human beings that were neglected and exploited by the capitalists and erstwhile colonialists.

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