Building Roads: PRC Plot to Buy Off Pakistan?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 5/12/2015 01:30:00 AM
Follow the money trail on the mooted China-Pakistan superhighway.
The Chinese way to winning friends by buying off nations is formulaic by now: The first pillar of this diplomatic outreach effort involves unconditional lending of vast sums of money. To this end, the Chinese like to contrast their "mutual benefit" and "mutual respect" against the laundry list of conditionalities imposed by the likes of the World Bank, IMF or regional development banks. The second pillar consists of infrastructure: If the Chinese have gained experience in any particular area over the past few decades, it's in building structures. You name it--airports, power stations, roads, railways, seaports, even football stadiums--and the Chinese have accumulated vast experience constructing it. In particular, connecting to other countries enables either the smoother process of extracting raw materials necessary for China's massive manufacturing machine and the export of finished goods in the opposite direction.

Governance? Human rights? Quite frankly, China doesn't give a &*^% about any of those things. Hence the Chinese reading of the principle of "non-interference" in others' affairs.

In terms of being chronically hard-up, few countries in the Asia-Pacific come close to Pakistan. This repeat borrower from the IMF certainly chafes at the conditionalities imposed upon it time and again. And for what? The monies provided are not especially large. Into this picture comes China attempting to win friends and buy off nations. You don't need a PhD in economics or political science to figure out how to win the hearts of the Pakistanis after years of having to deal with the loathsome, self-important Yanquis and their assorted minions: shovel wads of cash with few to no strings attached. Build infrastructure while you're at it, too.

To no one's surprise, China is using both pillars in attempting to win over its neighbor:
The focus of spending is on building a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) - a network of roads, railway and pipelines between the long-time allies. They will run some 3,000km (1,800 miles) from Gwadar in Pakistan to China's western Xinjiang region. The projects will give China direct access to the Indian Ocean and beyond. This marks a major advance in China's plans to boost its influence in Central and South Asia, correspondents say, and far exceeds US spending in Pakistan.
Once more, Big Things are planned for Pakistani development:
Is Pakistan on the verge of becoming the Asian Tiger Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said it would become when he was last in power in 1997? China plans to inject some $46bn - almost three times the entire foreign direct investment Pakistan has received since 2008. Many say Mr Sharif's penchant for "thinking big" and China's increasing need to control maritime trade routes may well combine to pull off an economic miracle in Pakistan.

But there are questions over Pakistan's ability to absorb this investment given its chronic problems with militancy, separatism, political volatility and official corruption. China is worried about violence from ethnic Uighurs in its mostly Muslim north-western Xinjiang region and fears hard-line separatists could team up with Uighur militants fighting alongside members of Pakistan's Taliban.
$46 billion! Even $4.6 billion a year would have been mighty impressive in light of the funds provided by the World Bank and other institutions of American hegemony. You have to wonder though if strife-torn Pakistan has the absorptive capacity to productively use so much capital being injected in so little time.

Given Pakistan's history of uncontrolled corruption and insurgency, it may ironically be this country that makes China more aware of the needs for good governance if it turns out that it is throwing away good money after bad on a country that's proven to be a bottomless money pit since its independence. In that case, it would begin to act like any other international lender.