Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a flagship project of President Xi Jinping’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI), which would not only help reinforce economic development of Pakistan but also contribute to regional prosperity.
Talking to China-Pakistan Friendship Association President Ambassador Sha Zukang, also a former undersecretary general of the United Nations, he said that the second phase of CPEC would focus on industrialization, agriculture and socioeconomic development.
Prime Minister Imran Khan underscored closeness and depth of relations between Islamabad and Beijing. Underlining that the economic corridor is a transformational project, he invited Chinese companies and businessmen to invest in diverse sectors in Pakistan.
CHINESE TO GWADAR: Sha Zukang, who is leading a delegation of major Chinese companies to explore business potential and investment opportunities, said that Pakistan and China are all-weather strategic cooperative partners and their partnership is aimed at promoting peace, development and prosperity in the region.
He emphasized that the special relationship between the two countries is reflected in expression of warmth by the Chinese people towards Pakistan at every occasion. He stressed that the Chinese investors are confident about Pakistan’s economic potential and hoped the economic relationship would reach the level of their excellence.
The delegation includes companies related to real estate, construction, engineering, textile, information technology and industrial sectors. The delegation visited Peshawar and is also scheduled to visit Lahore, Karachi and Gwadar.
The delegation will meet leading bankers, industrialists, entrepreneurs, financial experts, business chambers, and senior officials to deepen its insights and understanding of the economic opportunities in Pakistan.
CHINA VOWS TO ADVANCE CPEC: During a regular briefing in Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Geng Shuang rejected American reservations, and said it would work together with Pakistan to develop the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and advance the strategic cooperative partnership to bring more benefits to Pakistani people and deliver more benefits to the region and beyond.
Last week, US State Department official Alice Wells had criticized CPEC, a flagship project of Belt Road Initiative and accused it would only benefit China and increase debt burden on Pakistan. Geng Shuang said that the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan had already responded to that accusation.
He said that Pakistani officials including, the ministers for foreign affairs and planning and development, speaker of the National Assembly as well as chairman of the Senate committee on foreign affairs refuted what the US official had said.
He observed that Alice Wells’s remarks were nothing to add anything and she just copied what certain people in the US said to smear CPEC and BRI. Geng Shuang said that both Pakistan and China had refuted such comments and clarified actual situation many times. But certain individuals in the US repeated their accusations, he said.
“Now, since the US is so bent upon repeating their narrative, I will also try to repeat what we usually say.” The spokesperson remarked that China while building CPEC always followed principle of wide consultations, joint contributions and shared benefits putting Pakistani people interest first. Over the five years, important and positive progress had been made in the corridor.
DEBT ISSUE: At least 22 projects had achieved early harvest significantly improving the local transportation infrastructure and the power supply as well as creating 10,000 job opportunities increasing Pakistan’s annual economic growth by one to two percentage points contributing to its national and social development as well as improving the people’s well-being, he said.
“I believe facts have given the best answer to whether the CPEC is good or not.” He said the US ignored facts and continues to use the so-called debt issue to disrupt CPEC development and drive a wedge between Pakistan and China. “This is so malicious and ill-intentioned.” He also said in fact the debts held by Pakistan half of them came from multilateral financial institutions.
In CPEC projects, over 80 percent were directly formed by China and built with Chinese free aid and less than 20 percent used Chinese loans. Referring to data from Pakistan, he said the total debt for CPEC was $4.9 billion which was less than one-tenth of total Pakistani debts. “I am afraid, the problem is with certain people in the US with evil intentions,” he said.
He said if the US wants to help Pakistan in its national development, “we hope the US will honour its commitments with tangible and concrete funding as well as aids instead of paying lip services alone.” The Chinese spokesperson opined that the US did not allow others to do what it failed to do.