China today denied reports that its ambitious USD 50 billion economic corridor in Pakistan, as well as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects in a host of other countries, were bogged down with problems. Questioning the veracity of the media reports from many countries including Pakistan, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the projects are going on smoothly. “I wonder how you arrive at this conclusion and what basis and evidence do you have,” Hua replied when asked about media reports that BRI projects were bogged down with problems in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos and Singapore. President Xi Jinping’s ambitious project ‘BRI’, which includes China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has been included in the Constitution of the ruling Communist Party of China in the just concluded once-in-a-five-year Congress.
According to officials, the Chinese firms so far have invested USD 560 billion overseas under the BRI since 2013 and paid over USD 100 billion in taxes and created millions of jobs. In Pakistan alone, China is reported to have committed to invest over USD 50 billion and some estimates even put the amount at more than USD 60 billion in the CPEC, connecting China’s Xinjiang province with Balochistan’s Gwadar port. India has objected to the CPEC as it is being laid through the disputed territory and boycotted a high-profile Belt and Road Forum organised by China in May. “China’s high-stakes Belt and Road project in Pakistan has sucked it into the vortex of a power struggle between Pakistan’s elected government and its military on the one hand and an increasingly bitter geopolitical row on the other as the US and India join forces,” according to a recent report in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
While pushing the CPEC “in a massive vote of confidence in its all-weather ally, Chinese officials have quietly encouraged their Pakistani partners to facilitate the success of the project by abandoning its decades-old pursuit of strategic objectives in Afghanistan and Kashmir through the support of non-state jihadis,” the article said. This created problems because these terror outfits have for years been a major bone of contention between Pakistan’s powerful military and its civilian government, it said and attributed deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s subsequent loss of power and a host of court cases against him as a result of this.
Brushing aside reports of any problems, Hua quoted the Chinese Commerce Ministry as saying that the BRI projects have been going on smoothly.
“I don’t know how your Reporters arrive at such conclusion,” Hua said, asserting that projects in Pakistan and Laos are going an smoothly. The BRI was high on agenda of China after Xi took over power in 2012 as Beijing made expansive plans to better utilise its over USD three trillion foreign exchange reserves as well as to enhance its global influence.