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Asia's Game of Thrones
Pakistan: China’s Next Economic Colony?

An official Chinese document recently leaked in Pakistan, detailing Beijing’s long-term plans for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)—and it’s causing serious concern in India. The Hindustan Times has more:

According to the details, thousands of acres of agricultural land will be leased to Chinese enterprises to set up “demonstration projects” in areas ranging from seed varieties to irrigation technology, and a system of monitoring and surveillance will be built in cities from Peshawar to Karachi, with 24-hour video recording of roads and busy marketplaces for law and order.

A national fibre-optic backbone will be built for Pakistan, not only for internet traffic but also for terrestrial distribution of broadcast TV, which will cooperate with Chinese media in the “dissemination of Chinese culture”.

The Dawn reported the plan envisages a deep and broad-based penetration of most sectors of Pakistan’s economy and society by Chinese enterprises and culture. Its scope has no precedent in Pakistan’s history, in terms of how far it opens up Pakistan’s economy to participation by foreign enterprises.

CPEC is the $46 billion flagship of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, and it’s been causing India anxiety for some time now, combined with Beijing’s other recent overtures to Islamabad. Indeed, New Delhi went so far as to boycott this weekend’s Belt and Road Forum in protest over CPEC. India’s objections were partly about specific projects—one that runs through Kashmir in particular, and another that will lease Pakistan’s Port of Gwadar to a Chinese state firm for the next 40 years. Its more fundamental complaint, though, is that China’s strategy amounts to an immense debt trap, intended to ensnare neighbors like Pakistan in order to bring them into Beijing’s orbit and encircle India.

The leaked document is certainly reinforcing that perception within India. In a typical reaction, the India Times claims that China’s proposals “would do the East India company proud,” turning Pakistan into an “economic colony of China” and amounting to a “virtual ring-fence of India.” From New Delhi’s perspective, Beijing’s plans threaten to create an unholy alliance between its two main strategic rivals, allowing China to project influence deep into India’s backyard under the guise of a benign infrastructure push.

It’s of course still an open question whether Beijing’s grandiose plans will ultimately come to fruition. Many Pakistanis, after all, also object to the scope of China’s ambitions in their country, and local unrest has already caused early headaches complicating China’s best-laid investment plans. The Chinese document itself acknowledges as much, citing Pakistani security concerns, terrorism risks and tribalism as obstacles to the realization of China’s ambitions. (Some even suspect that Modi himself is exacerbating tribal tensions to frustrate Beijing’s goals.)

The thing is, China’s initiative doesn’t even have to succeed for it to shape events in India’s neighborhood for the foreseeable future…

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  • IAF101

    This is good for India – for without a sense of urgency and a constant kick in the pants India will become quite complacent and insular – as is its tendency.

    The more ominous the dangers, the more the pressure to perform and the more India’s people and leaders needs to step up their game – and that is a good thing for 1.3 billion Indians and for democracy in general.

    • Nevis07

      Agreed. Increasingly, China’s push to remake the world order and power centers will likely wake India up. But India needs to figure out how to streamline their bureaucracy and remove a lot of corruption, which hampers so much of their military and economic potential.

      This neo-colonialism – and I do believe that is a valid definition of what China is pursuing in Asia and elsewhere – increasingly makes India’s historical independent foreign policy untenable in the long run. IMO, they would be well served to create an alliance system in East Asia and further increase ties with Russia, Israel and the US, militarily.

  • FriendlyGoat

    We are certainly aware that Islam does not get along too well with western culture, values and ideas of government. Over a long period, will the people of Islam like Chinese culture, values and ideas of government better? You never know. They might.

    • Most Chinese people would never consider giving up alcohol and pork, two staples of their culture since ancient times.

      • FriendlyGoat

        That’s true, but the west doesn’t either. So, are there other factors on which Islam might prefer the Chinese? Like lack of interest in proselytizing?

  • D4x

    A genuine leak! Wait for the Pakistanis to find out that China’s State-owned Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, cited in that Hindustan Times report “…to bring in mechanisation and scientific techniques in livestock breeding, development of hybrid varieties and precision irrigation. …” will be using irrigation technology from Israel.

    In 2014: “China group pays $20m for Israeli smart agritech firm: AutoAgronom’s advanced drip irrigation system ‘listens to the roots,’ gives crops what they need to thrive” By David Shamah September 19, 2014, 2:41 pm “…Israel’s AutoAgronom is moving on to the next level —bringing its smart agricultural technology to the vast fields of China. AutoAgronom was bought out this week by Yuanda Enterprise Group, a Chinese conglomerate that does practically everything, including construction, electronics, and environmental technology. …”

    • Isaiah6020

      Those damn Jews again. Why must we always keep hearing about them? Can’t they just stop solving the world’s problems?

      • D4x

        Zvi: You want me to steer Israel towards an arms deal with Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia?
        Charlie Wilson: Yes.
        Zvi: Well, just one or two problems with that, just off the top of my head.
        Charlie Wilson: Zvi…
        Zvi: Afghanistan and Pakistan don’t recognize our right to exist, we just got done fighting a war against Egypt, and everyone who has ever tried to kill me or my family has been trained in Saudi Arabia!
        Gust Avrakotos[CIA]: That’s not true, Zvi. Some of them were trained by us.
        “Charlie Wilson’s War”, 2007

  • Fat_Man

    We need to take advantage of this move to stop sending aid to our enemy Pakistan. We need to side with India against Pakistan.

  • They may be welcoming China’s influence now, but in the next ten years, their nation will become the next Africa in China’s arms. There is no free meal in this world, everything comes with a price attached.

  • Dhako

    How China Is Building the Post-Western World —

    “…..The West’s policy cliques, Washington’s in the lead, have four responses to this unfolding world-historical phenomenon. They ignore it, dismiss it as unlikely to work, or mark it down to cynical self-interest or a plot to accumulate power. Barack Obama and Jack Lew, his treasury secretary, gave a perfect example of the first tactic when, in 2015, they refused to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Beijing’s alternative to the World Bank and its Asian affiliate in Manila. A more stupidly arrogant call one cannot imagine. Now our ever-obedient press serves us the impracticality argument and the Trojan horse argument—double scoops this week, with sprinkles on top.

    When opportunities arise, there is the fourth response: Subvert any effort to supersede the liberal Western disorder by all available means, as if by taking hold of the clock’s hands one can stop time. Gandhi said it best (although the attribution is in dispute): First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, and then you win.

    We are now in the third stage of the progression. There is no more ridicule, but the Chinese project as now fully unveiled is fundamentally wrong. It must be: It is not how we would do it. As the fourth and final stage lies in the middle distance, let us consider it in the context of this week’s confab in Beijing….”

    • Isaiah6020

      I mean, Barack Obama sucked. You got us there.
      As for vast infrastructure projects, go right ahead. If you think building a highway in Uzbekistan is a smart strategic play, go for it.

      • Dhako

        It’s not only about building high-ways in places like Uzbekistan. But rather about building supply-chain with its interconnected trading Zone, that encompass and spread across bulk of Eurasia, Middle-East (such as Turkey and Iran) and parts of Africa. And more importantly, it’s about creating a economies-of-scale manufacturing Zones in these interconnected Zones, such as the idea of creating Economical Enterprise Zones (EEZ) in say, in central Asia, and connecting that Zone with rails, ports, high-ways, with each state in that region so that you will create a large markets out of those singular individual states. And then, doing it the same process in places in Africa, where individual states have no cross-border trade with each other due to the lack of interconnecting infrastructure. Hence, its about creating a larger version of NAFTA (to use the American experience) in which individual isolated states can be brought together into a large and created internal market out of them, so that the trade between them will be greater than it would have been in the absence of these interconnecting infrastructure nodes.

        This is the agenda of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Which mean, first create the physical nodes that connects individuals states across regions (either through rails or ports) and then, build Economical Enterprise Zones (EEZs) in these individual states so that collectively they will form an economies-of-scale internal market, and then once the physical market is ready, then write the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) in which these newly created regional markets will trade with each other. I hope you will understand how that is a revolutionary in-terms of what China is planning to do and how that will, a real strategical game-changer. But, still, if you don’t, then, one can say, never mind about it. For others in the rest of the World understand precisely what China is doing. And of course, America’s participation or even understanding of it, was never a condition for these new reality for the rest of the world to be brought into a fruition.

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