What is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)?

When projects in Gwadar are discussed there will be frequent references to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. It’s frequently shortened to the acronym CPEC and Gwadar is cited by many as the most important part of the organisation.

But what, exactly is CPEC, how did it begin and what role does it play in the development of Gwadar and other regions?

What area does CPEC cover?

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was originally set up in May 2013 and is a collaboration between the two countries – China and Pakistan. The main focus is on developing projects in Pakistan and the pivotal regions in this respect include Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan where Gwadar city is situated.

Projects do extend to China however and the main location as far as the Chinese are concerned is Xinjiang in the north west of the country. While there are, therefore, different focal points in each country, the outcomes of the individual projects are designed to aid both China and Pakistan.

What is the principle role of CPEC?

Pakistan’s official website for CPEC describes this as a ‘framework of regional connectivity.’ As part of a number of projects in the region, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is therefore responsible for improving the road, rail and air links between the two countries.

But those developments in infrastructure don’t just stop there: CPEC is committed to economic regionalisation in its surrounding locations too. Therefore, those upgraded transport links will extend into Iran, Afghanistan, India and the Central Asian Republic. Improved links means easier trade and a boost to the economy for all concerned and it’s that economic development that is at the heart of CPEC’s journey.

What are the specific CPEC projects?

The value of CPEC and the projects that it oversees is increasing all the time. When the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was first formed, the total value of its projects was placed at $46 billion. By 2017, that figure had increased to $62 billion and it continues to grow at a rapid pace.

That same official CPEC website has a helpful and comprehensive list of all the projects that the alliance is currently undertaking. Included in an extensive set of details is a plan for two coal fired power plants at Port Qasim, Karachi and the cost of those comes in at just under $20 million.

Also on that list is a number of wind farms and hydro plants along the length of breadth of Pakistan as energy plays a key role in CPEC.

Where does Gwadar fit into CPEC?

The fact that Gwadar has its own section on the CPEC website underlines its importance to the whole alliance. It is pivotal to the aims of China in particular who see this port city as a route into the Strait of Hormuz whose lanes account for 20% of the world’s petroleum transportation.

No fewer than 12 projects are currently in development by CPEC, the most important of which is the new international airport with construction set to begin in April 2019. It’s a vital organisation with Gwadar at its heart and CPEC is crucial for the economies of China and Pakistan in the months and years that lie ahead.


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