By Meng Xianglin
For two years since President Xi Jinping has brought out the initiative, the world can hear the footsteps of the construction of the “One Belt and One Road.”
In January 2016, President Xi wrapped up his state visit to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran, releasing further signals to the world on the comprehensive progress and intensive cultivation of China’s diplomatic layout. The journey to the construction of “One Belt and One Road” is brimming over with vigor and vitality.
In April 2015, Xi paid a state visit to the nation’s “Iron Brother” Pakistan. During the visit, the bilateral relationship was upgraded to an all-weather strategic cooperative partner relationship, and both sides confirmed the cooperative blueprint of “1+4,” which centers on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor（CPEC）, together with the building of Gwadar Port and energy, transport infrastructure and industrial cooperation.
Located at the intersection of Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Marine Silk Road, CPEC is known as a flagship project of the Belt and Road initiative. President Xi emphasized “first deployment, then implementation; China will always keep whatever it has said.” After Xi’s visit, both secretariats of the CPEC joint committee held six video conferences and two working group meetings to implement the deals.
In November 2015, China’s National Development and Reform Commission and Pakistan’s Planning Development and Reform Ministry co-chaired the 5th meeting of CPEC joint committee in Karachi. Both sides reviewed the progress of the key projects over the past year, pushing forward further development of the projects.
On January 15, the government of Pakistan decided to establish steering committee of construction of CPEC under the leadership of Prime Minister Sharif. Members of the committee include the CPEC committee chairman, the Federal Planning, Development and Reform minister, the Water and Power minister, the Rail Minister, the Transportation Minister as well as Provincial chief ministers. Under the principle of “one corridor, multiple passageways,” the west passageway of the CPEC is preferential, and should be completed by July 15, 2018.
Build a true flagship
When opening the world map, one could see that the territory of Pakistan looks like a corridor, which connects China and the Arabian Sea. Moreover, it also serves a bridge to associate China with the rest of the world. The connotation of CPEC is constantly enriched and it will play an exemplary role in building up the shared destiny in China’s neighboring countries.
Since 2015, a number of Chinese ministries and departments have worked together with their Pakistani counterparts to implement projects in construction and priorities project and substantial progress has been made in many aspects.
Zhang Baozhong, president of China Overseas Ports Holdings, said both governments have supplied great support in promoting the project. NDRC and Chinese secretariat played a vital role in coordinating and pushing the project, sparing no effort in solving problems.
On December 21, a financing agreement of the first coal-electricity integration project, with a total investment of more than $2 billion, was signed in Beijing. On December 22, two road projects, Karachi–Lahore Motorway and the second phase of the Karakoram Highway upgrading project were signed. These two projects, with contract value of $2.89 billion and $1.315 billion respectively, will be built by China Construction (CSCEC) and China Road and Bridge Corporation. The two projects, once completed, will greatly facilitate travel in Pakistan.
On January 10, the construction of the Karot hydropower station along the Jhelum River was commenced by the Three Gorges Corp. It is not only the first hydropower project of the China-Pakistan economic corridor, but the first contract financed by the Silk Road Foundation. With 720,000-kilowatt installed capacity and $1.65 billion investment, it will provide Pakistan with 3.174-billion-killowat-hour clean energy after completion. The Three Gorges Corp also wins the development rights of KOHALA hydropower station project, which will be comprehensively advanced this year.
Other noticeable progress includes the commencement of coal-fire emergency power plant in Qasim Port, the first phase of ZTE Energy solar surface power station, Dawood wind power plant, financing wrapping-up of UEP union energy wind power project, signing of Lahore urban railway orange line project, official launch of Thar coalfield and electricity projects.
These achievements reflect the relentless efforts by the CPEC joint commission and both secretariats. It has turned out that CPEC is the most important platform for deepening all-round cooperation between the two countries, and a true flagship project of Belt and Road Initiative.
Ambassador of Pakistan to China Masood Khalid spoke highly of the CPEC. “The corridor will help optimize China, Pakistan as well as regional trade and energy cooperation and will benefit 3 billion people in China, South Asia and the Middle East. The corridor will serve as a catalyst for regional economic integration and benefit regional peace and stability.”
Build consensus in development and prosperity
CPEC runs northeastward from Gwadar port to Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which not only represents the important consensus reached by leaders of China and Pakistan, but also reflects the fundamental interests and destiny of both peoples.
As a corridor of unity, it will unite peoples in all regions in Pakistan to pursue common prosperity and development. As a result, all the people of Pakistan hope the corridor runs through their own region. Pakistan’s former prime minister Shaukat Aziz said that people in every region would agree that the corridor passes through their region in order to enjoy the giant economic benefits.
Through reasonable layout of industrial park construction, the corridor will be built into an economic development belt and drive the economic growth of Pakistan.
Currently, the total installed capacity of electricity in Pakistan is 23.7 million kilowatts. During the signing ceremony last April, energy projects occupy half of the agreements: 21 cooperative projects in the fields of solar, water, wind, coal and so on, with a total 17.04 million kilowatts installed capacity. In the near future, the largest photovoltaic plant in the world will be built, along with other energy projects, in Pakistan.
As a result, the planned energy and infrastructure construction of the corridor will definitely bring Pakistan a thriving future. For example, the Qasim coal-fired power plant in the Qasim port industrial park, will greatly improve the local power supply.
Cai Bin, Qasim branch general manager of Power Construction Corp of China, said that he has witnessed the true all-weather friendship and all-round cooperation. Since the signing of the contract last April, all the civil work has been carried out smoothly and would be completed in March. “The speed of the construction was unprecedented, I was deeply moved by the friendship between China and Pakistan.”
During the ground-breaking ceremony of Qasim power plant, Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif said he hopes each city and each village will be lit with energy from the plant; at the same time, employment opportunity and prosperity would be brought to the entire nation.
Historically speaking, Pakistan has provided China an air corridor linking to the world, supporting China’s returning to the UN; and now, the economic corridor would penetrate all over Pakistan and bring development and prosperity to each corner of the South Asian nation.
The 900-megawatt photovoltaic surface power station, the first such power station in Pakistan is located in Jinnah industrial park, is a priority project of China-Pakistan economic corridor, and was officially launched during President Xi’s visit to Pakistan.
CPEC, a long-term and systematic project, needs scientific planning and progressive implementation. Cai Bin said the schedule of the construction of Qasim coal-fired power plant had encountered some problems such as the registration of land leasing agreement, electricity delivery and custom clearance. However, NDRC and China Foreign Ministry were helping communicate and coordinate; the problems are believed to be solved satisfactorily.
With the construction of the CPEC in full swing, many Chinese engineers and technicians have made it their mission to “build CPEC, bring benefit to people of Pakistan, and enhance China-Pakistan friendship.”
Constructors have become the witnesses of China-Pakistan friendship. A Pakistani proverb says: “Wind not always blow the way as the sailor wishes”. CPEC, as President Hussain has said, would not only change the look of Pakistan, but also have a profound impact on the whole region.
Project benefits future generations
A joint statement signed in last April noted, “The development and planning of CPEC will cover every district of Pakistan, bring benefit to all people of Pakistan, and facilitate the common prosperity of China and Pakistan as well as other countries in the region.”
CPEC is not only a strategic project, but also a significant project for the interests of people. Chinese enterprises should remember to fulfill their social responsibilities when developing local projects. The image of China is well established after a series of projects involving local people’s livelihood are carried out.
On November 11, a ceremony was held in Gwadar on the construction of a public primary school, thanks to the funds from the China peace and development foundation.
Zhang Baozhong said, “we donate school buses to local schools, set up scholarships, build public primary schools, and plan to build a children’s park this year; we approach the local people through public welfare projects, and make Chinese brands win the support of the local people.”（The Daily Mail – People’s Daily news exchange item）
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