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Beijing welcomes Riyadh in CPEC

Source: Express Tribune
By Mohammad Zafar
Published: October 11, 2018

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing has said China has no objection over inclusion of Saudi Arabia and other countries in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects and would welcome Riyadh’s investment in Pakistan.

“We will welcome Saudi Arabia and other countries’ investment in CPEC projects. China wants to expand CPEC up to central Asian states via Afghanistan,” the Chinese ambassador said while speaking to businessmen and journalists at two separate functions in Quetta on Wednesday.

Chinese ambassador also confirmed that CPEC projects are being revisited in view of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led new government’s vision, adding that new development projects will be included in the project with consensus.

Yao said reviewing the CPEC agreement is natural as the new Pakistani government which came into power after the July 25 general election has its own agenda and vision.

The envoy said the new Pakistani government wants to give all attention to socio-economic sector and in reviewing of CPEC agreement the desire of the Pakistan’s new government would be considered.

“Both China and Pakistan governments have agreed to further expand the CPEC,” he said, adding that taking decision with mutual understanding and consensus is part of the CPEC agreement.

He said both the governments have decided to continue work on ongoing projects launched under CPEC in Pakistan and particularly Balochistan and these projects would be completed on time.

Yao said Pakistan and China have very cordial relations since long; they are not only partners in CPEC but have lots of other ties and projects in which they are helping each other. “China and Pakistan are strategic partners,” he said.

He said that the main objectives of CPEC include establishing road-network, construction of highways and motorways, power generation and developing agriculture sector.

Yao Jing said in the next phase, China will focus on joint ventures and will give attention to socio-economic sector, which is also vision of the new Pakistani government.

“Under CPEC it was decided that more resources would be provided to the western provinces of Pakistan. It is our desire to link the mega project to Central Asian states via Afghanistan and under CPEC will open new ways of development and prosperity in the entire region,” he said.

The Chinese ambassador said CPEC has entered “a new era” and that jobs would be created for the people of Pakistan through its various projects. “Balochistan offers numerous opportunities to investors in terms of agriculture, livestock, mines and minerals,” he said.

At the chamber of commerce, businessmen urged the Chinese ambassador to establish a Chinese consulate in Quetta to address their business needs. The ambassador promised the business community that their request would be discussed with Chinese high-ups.

Responding to a question about Balochistan’s share in CPEC, Yao Jing said Balochistan is an important part of CPEC and the second phase of the project would be more important for Balochistan.

He said that though entire Pakistan is equal for his country, China wants to work for the development of different sectors of Balochistan on priority. “China will help in developing agriculture, industry and other sectors in Balochistan,” he said.

The envoy said he is very much inspired with the vision of new federal and Balochistan governments as they want to develop socio-economic sector. “Balochistan should be main beneficiary of CPEC. Chinese investors would find out new trade and investment opportunities in Balochistan,” he added.

Yao said Balochistan has great potential in mineral resources, mining, livestock, and fisheries and there is need to work for the promotion of these sectors. He said China will extend all help and assistance to the local people for sending fruit, vegetable and seafood to international market.

He said he had a meeting with Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal and observed that new provincial government is more interested in the development of the province and providing maximum facilities to its people.

To a question, he said the Chinese universities are open for Pakistani students and these universities offer scholarships in March every year and students could apply for admission online. However, he said, Balochistan students would be provided assistance in applying for admission to the Chinese universities.

URL: https://tribune.com.pk/story/1823109/1-beijing-welcomes-riyadh-cpec/

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CPEC debt servicing to commence in year 2021, says official

Source: Profit by Pakistan Today
By: Mian Abrar
Date: 11 October 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday said that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) related debt servicing to China is to commence from the year 2021, while the benefits of these investments to the Pakistani economy far outweigh the scheduled payments.

Talking to Pakistan Today, the focal person of the CPEC project said that CPEC does not impose any immediate burden with respect to loan repayments and energy sector outflows.

“CPEC outflows (debt servicing to China) would start from the year 2021 and spread over 20 to 25 years with a maximum in the year 2024 and 2025. The resultant benefits of these investments to the Pakistan economy would far outweigh these outflows (debt servicing),” the official said.

Meanwhile, another official linked to the CPEC project said that only one project under the CPEC loan umbrella – the Pakistan China Optical Fibre Project, had matured.

“We don’t have to pay anything to China immediately. The debt servicing would start by 2021 and since these loans are long-term and concessional in nature, Pakistan would not face any issues in paying outflows. However, the benefits of these projects to Pakistan would be manifold,” the official said.

When asked about the recent western media reports about debt burden on Pakistan, the spokesman rubbished the same and said that the western media’s recent reports regarding CPEC are based on incorrect information, distorted facts and one-sided opinions of individuals.

“CPEC finances are divided into government to government loans, investment and grants. The infrastructure sector is being developed through interest-free loans,” the source said.

Asked whether a parallel could be drawn between CPEC and the Chinese overseas investment in Sri Lanka or Malaysia, the spokesman said no comparison could be drawn between the two.

“Look, CPEC is the flagship and the most active project of the Belt and Road Initiative. We have actualised 22 projects of worth $28 billion over the past four years since CPEC was launched. Hence, CPEC cannot be compared with Chinese overseas investment in Sri Lanka or Malaysia as CPEC’s framework and financial modes are altogether different in nature,” the spokesman said.

The official said that the Gwadar Port is grant-based which means that the Government of Pakistan does not have to pay back the invested amount for the development of the port.

“Energy projects are being executed under Independent Power Producers (IPPs) mode and finances are mainly taken by the private companies from China Development Bank and China Exim Bank against their own balance sheets, and therefore, any debt would be borne by the Chinese investors instead of any obligation on part of the Pakistani government,” the official added.

The spokesman said Pakistan has opted for Chinese investments under CPEC due to the favourable financing arrangements.

“We need to remember China stepped forward to support Pakistan’s development at a time when foreign investment had dried up, and economic activities were being crippled by energy shortages and infrastructure gaps. CPEC has provided enormous opportunities for Pakistan to grow economically,” the official added.

When asked about the impact of CPEC on Pakistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the spokesman said that CPEC is an engine for economic growth and is expected to increase Pakistan’s GDP growth by two per cent to three per cent.

“CPEC has also facilitated in overcoming crucial energy, transport infrastructure and supply chain bottlenecks. Under CPEC, development of Gwadar would ensure the strengthening of maritime sector particularly the coastal tourism and local fishery industry thereby benefitting the local communities”.

The official said that Pakistan has repeatedly stated that it is fully committed to CPEC, which enjoys complete consensus among all institutions and political forces in Pakistan as CPEC is a key to the future of Pakistan’s socio-economic development.

“Within the broad parameters of the already approved CPEC framework, the present government, with the mutual consultation of the Government of China is broadening the base and expediting the pace of CPEC”.

When asked about the Saudi Arabian investments in the CPEC, the official said that a mechanism is being developed to include third-party participation in CPEC.

“The socio-economic development and poverty alleviation are being included in the CPEC and a separate working group is being established to fast track this dimension of the mega project. Gwadar continues as prioritized and being developed as a standalone project and a trans-shipment hub based on blue economy principles. Industrialization under CPEC has already been fast-tracked and four SEZs would hit the ground soon,” concluded the official.

URL: https://profit.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/10/11/cpec-debt-servicing-to-commence-in-year-2021-says-official/

Hard-working Pakistani students claim a large share of Chinese universities scholarships

For many young people in Pakistan, the friendship between China and Pakistan is not just a slogan but a true emotion, as rising ranks of Chinese universities and job opportunities provided by Chinese firms have brought more and more Pakistani youth to further their studies in China.

“They [Chinese] welcome Pakistani people as brothers and sisters. So for me, China is heaven. China is the second home for Pakistani people,” said Muhammad Furqan Rao, a Pakistani PhD candidate at School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University, adding that he is quite satisfied with his study experience in Beijing.

Furqan noted to the Global Times that the rising ranks of Chinese universities, job opportunities offered by China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Belt and road (B&R) initiative, as well as a friendly studying environment provided by the Chinese government were big factors for him to study in the country.

Furqan is one of the many Pakistani students now seeking higher education in China. According to the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Beijing, the total number of Pakistani students studying in China reached 22,000 in 2017, making Pakistani students the third-largest group of overseas students in the country.

People’s Daily reported in May that currently 5,000 Pakistani students enjoy scholarships in China. It means that over 20 percent of Pakistani students studying in the country get a stipend.

Furqan said that in addition to scholarships, other alluring aspects are the improved reputation of Chinese universities, a friendly studying environment and a lower cost of living for Pakistani students in China.

According to the QS World University Rankings 2018, six Chinese universities are now in the Top 100, with three in the Top 50. Tsinghua University and Peking University are the Top 2 from China.

Pakistani PhD student at Peking University, Hamid Chohan, published six research articles on top international academic journals during his master’s degree program just to get into the distinguished Chinese university, under the Chinese Government Scholarship (CGS).

Pursuing a doctoral degree in Pure and Applied Mathematics at the School of Mathematical Sciences in Peking University, Hamid said 3,500 yuan ($541) per month, including accommodations, tuition fee and medical services are enough for his life in Beijing.

“Chinese Scholarship Council provides me with an opportunity, good facilities and a reasonable amount of money. In return, I am doing serious research and working hard,” he said.

Hamid’s colleagues (Usman, Hu Lan and Fei) say that he is a smart and hardworking researcher. When the Global Times interviewed him, he was fasting for Ramadan and hardly sleeping at night in order to study and conduct research.

As a result, the 28-year-old from More Eminabad Gujranwala, a city of Punjab Province in Pakistan, took only 22 months to complete his doctoral program, which should have taken four years. This sort of hardworking spirit partially explains why Pakistanis receive a higher amount of Chinese scholarships every year.

Zamir Ahmed Awan, a Sinologist at the National University of Sciences and Technology, Islamabad, Pakistan, wrote on China Global Television Network that Pakistani students enjoy a good reputation in Chinese universities. “Their English language skills are very good and research approach excellent; the majority of them are obedient, well-mannered and approachable… hardworking and persistent are two of their qualities.”

There are also an increasing number of self-funded Pakistani students in China, which gives credit to the B&R initiative as well as CPEC.

“After the launch of CPEC, there are more business opportunities, more job opportunities and more international companies coming to Pakistan, especially Chinese companies. So if people are studying in Chinese universities, they will have a wider scope in their life,” Furqan said.

CPEC is a framework of regional connectivity which has improved power, transportation systems with frequent and free exchanges of growth and people-to-people contact. Now it has moved to the second phase and will soon start with the establishment of Special Economic Zones that will directly aid the Pakistan population.

Furqan said that, before the launch of CPEC, Pakistanis were not aware of China’s educational system. “They only came [to China] to do MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery). After 2013, Pakistani people from all walks of life and from all majors have been coming here,” he added.

Civil engineering, material sciences and environmental sciences are the most popular subjects among Pakistani students in China at present, said Furqan.

After the B&R initiative was proposed in 2013, a greater number of Chinese corporations moved to Pakistan under the new initiative. Hence, the demand for Pakistani talents who have both professional knowledge and proficient Chinese skills is rapidly increasing. Studying in China and claiming a Chinese university degree on the CV are huge pluses among HR directors.

The CPEC Portal reported in 2017 that the largest transportation project under the CPEC, the 392 kilometer-long Multan-Sukkur Section, would create 9,800 local jobs.

According to the Confucius Institute in Islamabad, Pakistan, the number of candidates who took HSK (Chinese Proficiency Test) was 3,600 in 2017, over eight times the number in 2012 (437 candidates). Hamid agrees that people who can speak Chinese and who have firsthand experience living in China will have a bigger advantage in terms of employment.

“Employers are well aware that a deep understanding of Chinese culture and its market is a big plus for those who want to become the world’s next generation of leaders,” Hamid said.

During his stay in the US, Furqan was asked frequently why Pakistani people love China more than America. He told them that China’s religious freedom and the mutual understanding of each other’s cultures are major reasons.

“Beijing is like my second home because we can find so many mosques here to pray and to perform our religious duties… America is conservative in this regard. A few friends are studying in America, and they have a beard. They are facing different kinds of problems because the [police] check them randomly while they are walking on the streets,” Furqan said.

“I read a piece of news in Western media that Muslims are restricted from fasting or preying like this in China, but there is nothing like that; there are no restrictions for Muslims to fast or perform their religious duties in China,” he exclaimed.

According to Pew Research Center, 84 percent of Pakistanis have a favorable view of China and 80 percent consider China a partner to their country.

Despite some people holding a hostile attitude toward the B&R initiative and CPEC, Furqan defends these joint projects, stressing that they are no threat to Pakistan.

Instead, he emphasized their strategic importance. “Because of these projects, our country’s security is being improved day by day. As Pakistanis, we see the B&R initiative and CPEC as good for the development of Pakistan and other regions as well,” he said.

He also hoped CPEC will open doors in the future to bring the two nations much closer with each other.

Furqan’s friend, Nishat Kazmi who is currently a Yenching scholar at Peking University, echoed this statement, saying “I think it represents another opportunity in the wake of anti-globalization sentiment being expressed in certain parts of the world. The B&R initiative presents an opening-up opportunity for the world, an opportunity to being committed to the idea of free, fair and mutually beneficial trade.”

SOURCE:http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1107687.shtml

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‘CPEC is not a gift’: Professor Jia Yu at the CPEC 2018 Summit

Pakistan should not take CPEC for granted, writes Dr. Jia Yu. Both public and private sectors must take ownership of the opportunities.

 

The economic relations between the two countries have been phenomenal, especially since the turn of the century. Early economic cooperation was based on political and security interests, like Karakoram Highway, nuclear capability, arms trade etc. Also, it was focussed on energy and mining, but there is now a need for diversification. Pakistan has to take advantage of China’s rise on the global scene. There is a tendency towards having even better economic relations based on market forces and there is a lot of under-exploited potentials.

When it comes to win-win cooperation, of course, there is a lot at stake for both countries. Pakistan’s interests lie in promoting growth, private sector investment, employment, exports, technology and transfer of skills as well as in the relocation of Chinese firms. China’s interests lie in overseas production bases, new export markets, energy cooperation, and its need for production capacity relocation.

A successful execution of CPEC will ensure economic progress and stability for both the countries, particularly along the border region.

The two countries signed the FTA in 2006 which came into effect a year later. The FTAs play a major role in the general tendency of increasing trade. Surprisingly, the trade has been relatively low compared to the other neighbors (India, Vietnam, Philippines etc.). And there is a large and widening trade imbalance that needs to be worked on.

There has been a considerable increase in FDI since 2014 which is a positive sign for both China and Pakistan. The main FDI sectors by priority are: power, construction, financial services, and communication. There is, however, very little FDI in the light manufacturing sector.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a $900 billion investment, with finance channels targeting green development. It connects more than 60 countries, 60pc of the global population, 30pc of global GDP, and 35pc of global trade.

CPEC, a central link of BRI, cuts 10,000 miles of shipping by sea, and connects ports from Shanghai to Africa and Europe through Gwadar.

PAKISTAN AND CPEC

If things work out smoothly, Pakistan could use the FDI in its power and transport infrastructure and then in the manufacturing sector with the experience of leveraging SEZs to unlock this trio’s potential for rapid gains in job-rich industrialization. This can be done without unrealistic pre-requirements as the work to lay the foundations for industrialization has already begun.

The potentials are outlined below along with policy options needed to convert them into actions. At a regional level, Pakistan has been growing steadily in terms of GDP per capita since 2010, according to the World Bank. Investors are very keen to a growing economy. Consistent growth of purchasing power (GDP per capita) really matters for domestic consumption; therefore the growth rate must be maintained to catch up with competitors.

Pakistan is one of the world’s largest reservoirs of human capital and has a tremendous potential consumer base. In 2016, the country was home to 193,203,476 people, being the world’s 6th most populous country. World Economic Forum estimates that it will be among the top five populous countries in the world by 2060.

However, a large population is necessary but not sufficient to attract investors. The population has to be equipped with adequate skills to meet industrialization needs. An effort is also needed to attract global buyers.

Thirdly, China and Pakistan have long hailed each other as “all-weather friends”, or “iron brothers” as close as “lips and teeth” in the words of The Economist. There is already solid trust between the two countries, but the Pakistani officials need to visit China more often to convince the private investors for investment opportunities in Pakistan.

The CPEC will improve road, air, sea, and energy infrastructure. It will ensure land, sea and air security. It will enhance trade and investment facilitation and will establish free trade areas that meet high standards, maintain closer economic ties, and deepen political trust. Also, it will enhance cultural exchanges and promote mutual understanding, peace, and friendship between the people of the two countries.

Having said that, the CPEC should not be considered just a ‘gift’ from China, but the Pakistani government should also establish an FDI Advisory Board that shall promote the new image of the country. This includes visiting China more often and ensuring that investors understand the opportunities and benefits available under the CPEC.

Besides, according to the State Bank of Pakistan in November 2017, the country received net FDI worth $207 million out of which $206 million came from China. Potential investors pay significant attention to first movers, other Chinese investors may follow and eventually stay in Pakistan if the government helps the pioneers to be successful.

In terms of binding constraints, a study case of Malaysia estimates that FDI can effectively contribute to growth if it is at least 3.14pc of GDP. Pakistan should be able to compete. This requires overcoming the binding constraints by addressing security issues and risks, hard infrastructure challenges, especially SEZ-specific constraints like energy, roads to SEZs etc. Soft infrastructure challenges include corruption, rule of the law, coordination among institutions, inadequate capacity and cultural biases. Absorption capacity can be adjusted by setting yearly realistic targets of FDI amount.

There are six steps to identify the right industries, as narrated by Prof. Justin Lin. They include identifying countries with consistent growth, with GDP per capita three times as Pakistan’s or was at the same level as Pakistan 30 years ago.

Next comes investigating the existing private investment in those target industries and encourage its development by leasing the market regulations. Attracting global investors into the target industries which lack existing domestic private investment is the third step, followed by paying attention to new enterprises and supporting innovation in the target industries.

Establishing and developing SEZs to eliminate entering barriers, attracting foreign investment, and encouraging industrial cluster. And, finally, providing policy incentives for the first movers, including tax reduction, foreign exchange access, etc.

THE WAY FORWARD

Development can start from ‘low-hanging fruit’ through SEZs. The government should attract first movers to invest and help the pioneers succeed.

CPEC should not be taken for granted. A proactive and systematic approach is needed for attracting investors, together with strong market factors.

Despite long-term and solid trust at the government level, more mutual dialogues and exchanges need to be enhanced in the private sector. Let the peoples get to understand each other.

CPEC and SEZs are open for all investors, including those from other countries beyond China.

The writer is a professor at the Institute of New Structural Economics (INSE), Peking University, China.

SOURCE: https://www.dawn.com/news/1409721

 

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India refuses to endorse CPEC at SCO summit

India was the only country on Sunday not to endorse a high-profile Chinese project at the end of the 18th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation SCO summit in Qingdao even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed that New Delhi’s priority was connectivity with the neighborhood and between the SCO countries.

All remaining seven members of the SCO summit bloc supported the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project which is part of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a multi-billion inter-continental connectivity mission. The 17-page joint Qingdao declaration said all other seven member countries had endorsed the project and agreed to work towards implementing it. India was not expected to endorse the BRI in the Qingdao declaration which was released soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi speech at the plenary session.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is one of the flagship projects of the BRI. India has stayed away from the BRI – the only SCO country to be opposed to it – saying the CPEC violates its territorial integrity.

Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Modi said India supports connectivity projects that are inclusive, transparent and respect territorial sovereignty.

Speaking at the plenary session of the summit, Modi said India’s priority was connectivity with the neighborhood and between the SCO summit countries in the region. “We have again reached a stage where physical and digital connectivity is changing the definition of geography. Therefore, connectivity with our neighborhood and in the SCO region is our priority,” he said and emphasized the need for inclusiveness and transparency in connectivity projects to be successful.

Published in Daily Times, June 11th 2018.

SOURCE: https://dailytimes.com.pk/252018/india-refuses-to-endorse-cpec-at-sco-summit/

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At SCO summit, India again says ‘no’ to Belt and Road

India on Sunday again said “no” to China’s Belt and Road project, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain merely shook hands on the final day of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Qingdao city.

India, which participated at the Chinese-led security bloc for the first time after being inducted into the grouping last year, did not figure in the list of rest of the member states endorsing Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative in the joint declaration.

 Earlier in the day, Modi made it clear that New Delhi was all for connectivity projects but could not compromise its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

India strongly opposes Beijing’s multi-billion dollar project, which aims to connect Asia with Europe through a network of roads, ports and sea lanes.

New Delhi’s objection is to the key artery of the project – the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which goes through the Kashmir governed by Pakistan and claimed by India.

“We have again reached a stage where physical and digital connectivity is changing the definition of geography. Therefore, connectivity with our neighborhood and in the SCO region is our priority,” Modi said.

“We welcome any new connectivity project, which is inclusive, sustainable and transparent, and respects a country’s sovereignty and regional integrity,” he said at one of the sessions at the Summit.

This is one of the contentious issues between India and China but both seem to have decided not to let it affect other aspects of bilateral ties.

Like India, Pakistan also became a member of the SCO in 2017 and attended the event for the first time.

“It was noted that the SCO had asserted itself as a unique, influential and authoritative regional organization whose potential had grown remarkably following the accession of India and Pakistan,” the 17-page Qingdao declaration said.

With the inclusion of India and Pakistan, the grouping has expanded into an 8-member bloc. China, Russia, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are SCO’s other members.

Modi, who had bilaterals with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders, just had a handshake with the Pakistan head of state.

The ties between the two countries have plummeted following attacks at Indian Army bases and continuing violence in Jammu and Kashmir.

The bloc vowed to fight terrorism.

“The SCO’s coordinated policy of waging an effective fight against challenges and threats to security remains unchanged. Practical interaction in this area will be facilitated by the adopted Programme of Cooperation between the SCO Member States in Opposing Terrorism, Separatism, and Extremism for 2019-21.”

During the summit, Modi and Xi had a “substantive” meeting on Saturday. India struck major deals like the export of rice and Indian pharmaceutical products to China.

The bilateral trade target of $100 billion by 2020 was another important announcement by both sides.

The Kyrgyz Republic will take over the Presidency of the organization. The next meeting of the Council of SCO Heads of State will be held in the Kyrgyz Republic in 2019.

SOURCE: http://m.greaterkashmir.com/news/world/at-sco-summit-india-again-says-no-to-belt-and-road/287805.html

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To avoid China’s debt trap, Malaysia to re-examine projects under Belt and Road Initiative

Malaysia is not keen to blindly go ahead with projects offered by China under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the recently-elected Malaysian government has said. It also indicated that it would attempt to balance its relationship with Beijing and re-examine the projects that were earlier agreed to by the previous government.

The need to avoid the Chinese debt trap was a topic that was repeatedly underscored in the run-up to the elections in Malaysia by the Pakatan Harapan alliance and its leader and current Prime Minister, the 92-year-old Mahatir Mohamad.

“China comes with a lot of money and says you can borrow this money. But, you must think, ‘How do I repay?’ Some countries see only the project and not the payment part of it. That’s how they lose large chunks of their country. We don’t want that,” Mohamad said, reported news agency ANI.

 Mohamad’s newly formed government would take a look at the projects under the BRI that were agreed to by the previous government led by Najib Razak, Mohamad’s former protégé.

Malaysia is not the first country in which projects funded or built by China have come under the scanner when the government changed after an election. The same thing happened in Sri Lanka in 2015, when the new Maithripala Sirisena government cancelled some of the Chinese-backed projects that had been signed by the previous government of Mahinda Rajapakse.

The Sirisena dispensation, left to deal with the mounting debt because of the Chinese projects, found itself unable to repay the loans. In December 2017, the Sri Lankan government was forced to hand over control of the Hambantota Port to Chinese companies for a period 99 years.

Concerns have also been rising in Pakistan, which has placed its already-precarious economy under further strain of Chinese loans to continue its projects along the troubled China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Mahatir Mohamad’s concerns seem to stem from the spate of agreements that were signed by the Najib government under Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pet Belt and Road Initiative. Among these was the $13.1 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), which aims to link Malaysia’s more industrialised east coast with its less-developed western coast and interior highlands. will run from Port Klang, Malaysia’s main port near the capital Kuala Lumpur, to Tumpat on the border with Thailand, bisecting the peninsula’s hilly interior.

Other projects include a build-and-manage agreement for a deep-sea port and an industrial park near the city of Melaka, a port rebuilding project in the town of Kuantan, and a massive residential project close to the southern border with Singapore.

China has already been accused by a number of countries of using the Belt and Road Initiative as a tool to further its expansionist goals by giving out loans for high-value projects of uncertain viability.

Malaysia’s geography would also provide an attractive strategic positioning for China, given its location along the Malacca Strait, through which a massive portion of China’s energy supplies pass through.

SOURCE: http://zeenews.india.com/world/to-avoid-chinas-debt-trap-malaysia-to-re-examine-projects-under-belt-and-road-initiative-2114262.html

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CPEC: A momentum for prosperity

In a world defined by unexpected conflicts, CPEC and BRI have the potential to push these trajectories into altogether different directions. For Pakistan it will mean trading conflict and insecurity for peace and prosperity, argues the Senate’s Leader of the Opposition, Sherry Rehman.

The CPEC Summit 2018 was an important event with a distinguished group of thought leaders. In a conference full of unconventional wisdoms and cutting edge info, a lower‑riparian speaker’s job was quite unenviable. In more ways than one, the summit signalled Pakistan’s commitment to change and growth. What it signalled bang in the middle of election year was Pakistan’s agreement across the board on one thing: no one wants to be left out of this momentum.

The first thing that came to mind at a big‑ticket CPEC conference in Pakistan was that we are currently standing at a nodal pivot in Pakistan and China’s long‑established special relationship; but what also came to mind is that we are at an axial point where the world is rapidly turning in a re‑calibration of its priorities. Amidst the noise of dangerous new global conflicts that threaten the peace and prosperity of many nations, and fires that engulf entire regions, CPEC and BRI signal another engine moving relentlessly on, in entirely another direction of growth and peace. We can literally hear the wheels of a bold new order shift its shape under our feet.

We can also see the pulsation of the pointless regional neuralgia this partnership is giving some. My advice to them is that, they really shouldn’t worry, but instead join this enterprise.

It is truly the Asian Century. By linking the Atlantic to the Pacific through BRI, President Xi Jinping’s China is poised to redefine the global economic order as we know it, and change the way we think about the world. As the tracks for new global connectivity reframe human enterprise, with Gwadar as its launching pad, and Malacca not the only option, China becomes a two‑ocean power. This is both commercially relevant and strategically significant. As a key part of the constitution of the Peoples Republic, One Belt One Road (OBOR) has now cemented its place in the wheelworks of China’s long‑term vision of progress through economic partnerships. It is a projection of soft power unparalleled in the 21st century.

All this is relevant to Pakistan obviously in ways no other grand plan for exporting surplus was. Today, as we see China’s investments in Pakistan materialising through CPEC, I am clear that a major part of its success is powered by the groundwork and foundation PPP’s government provided.

Under [the then] President Zardari’s leadership, rooted in Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s revolutionary vision to share the Chinese Communist Party’s goals, and PM Benazir Bhutto’s brilliant championing of this joint vision, Pakistan’s relationship with China has gone into another dimension altogether. President Zardari’s vision was based on a grand idea for pivoting to the East at a time when the rest of the world was still busy calling on other capitals. This vision is shared and will be carried on forward by PPP under Chairman Bilawal Bhutto‑Zardari’s leadership.

PPP understood the grand Chinese dream well. Providing state support and strategic access to our warm waters was part of the vision. Therefore, we knew that Chinese development stewardship for Gwadar Port was pivotal to the CPEC becoming a reality.

CPEC has already created 60,000 jobs and Pakistanis would likely be able to make the most of these opportunities. We need trained manpower though.

Over the years, all of us have worked closely with Chinese officials and investors in facilitating projects, people‑to‑people relationships, cultural exchanges, and, most importantly, ensuring the security of everyone involved in CPEC projects. As we speak, 2,700 students from Pakistan were granted scholarships to study in China with thousands already learning Mandarin across the country. This kind of exchange is as important as big‑scale projects. Because building trust between peoples is what binds countries together in ties that sustain the tests of time, in all weathers and all storms.

As the first container ship sailed into Gwadar in March, CPEC has already started making an impact in all provinces in order to bring prosperity. We have a long way to go in providing safe drinking water and schools to the people of Gwadar, but I am glad to see that social responsibility and signature projects are beginning to complement each other.

This must be something we work on together as early projects start harvesting into reality. Everywhere there is an industrial park or SEZ, a port or energy project, there should be a groundswell of children going to schools, functioning healthcare units and waste‑to‑ energy plants, which China is so good at doing at every level. The responsibility for this lies with Pakistan, and with the provinces too, but I urge our Chinese friends to double their interest and investment in social development as they are doing already in partnership with UNDP in Balochistan.

We are proud to say that the forward‑looking government of Sindh has also been leading the way in renewable energy projects to bring prosperity. Sindh province contributes 930 megawatts of wind energy to the national grid with the help of CPEC projects. In line with this, the federal government should allow the use of renewable energy in Sindh.

As part of our history of joint cooperation, PPP looks forward to continuing to work closely with local and Chinese stakeholders in achieving our common goals and interests for the betterment of our people and the region. Two ports are now operating in their optimal capacities and other commercial ports, including the important Keti Bunder, are under development in partnership with the Chinese.

But CPEC is not a one‑party or one‑province ambition. It is a national project that goes beyond infrastructural development and we will stand by all efforts to create consensus and operationalise this grand ambition. Consensus‑building among political parties and provinces is crucial as the windfall from this venture can change the game for Pakistan.

Pakistan is not equivocal about its relationship with China. Right now, as we see promises turning into projects, the widespread public ownership of the ‘feel‑ good’ factor that China generates in Pakistan continues as do questions about equity transparency spread. With a multi‑billion dollar investment like CPEC, responsibilities and obligations for both Pakistan and China double. Transparency and equitability are the foundations for which an initiative with a scale as grand as CPEC must be built on.

As CPEC rolls out in Pakistan, there are three obvious areas to focus on: economy, environment and security.

It is undeniable that as an infrastructure and investment pipeline, CPEC has the potential of taking Pakistan into a quantum leap of prosperity and peace. It is believed that Chinese investment can stimulate a 15pc increase in Pakistan’s GDP by 2030 and would likely create over a million jobs across multiple sectors in Pakistan which will in return bring prosperity. While still in its very early stages, CPEC has already created 60,000 jobs and we hope that Pakistanis would be able to capitalise on this new job market. We need more Pakistanis trained to hold down these jobs.

However, development does not start and end at infrastructure and economic growth. We must also look into tech‑knowledge sharing and collaborations as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The development of regional value chains, a phenomenon that has entirely reshaped global trade in recent decades, is a particularly exciting prospect. Pakistan is well‑positioned to gain from this shift and CPEC is the perfect opportunity to bring advanced manufacturing and production practices to the country.

We have a responsibility to empower our youth and Pakistan can be a powerhouse of opportunities. Almost 60pc of Pakistan’s population is under the age of 30, making it the country’s most important demographic. To put that in context, three out of five Pakistanis are under the age of 30, full of hope and energy, but most without real employment prospects. Close to 60pc of them are currently in unstable or underpaying jobs and about 35pc are working in unpaid jobs. CPEC has given the millions of young people who enter the workforce every year a renewed hope and prosperity. We have a joint task to find ways in which we can tap into the potential of Pakistan’s youth and expand their growth, and look at ways to accelerate youth employment and skill training and to bring prosperity to this region. I look forward to working with the Chinese leadership on ensuring that more jobs and skills are created for Pakistanis.

As CPEC grows, Pakistan and China must look into a broader range of ventures and issues where we can cooperate and work on, one of which is environmental protection and climate change. Pakistan currently is the 7th most vulnerable country in the world to climate change. Pakistan’s carbon emissions are expected to double in two years and surge 14 times by 2050, which is way more than the global average. Given my travels in China, I know that the People’s Republic is no stranger to challenges brought about by climate change.

The enormous industrial investments and projects that will come with CPEC can be amplified if we prioritise creating a clean energy economy. I can only hope that we safeguard the future of the generations to come and that what we do today, in the name of progress, does not create new challenges for them. We hope that the Chinese government can bring to Pakistan the clean energy initiatives they have strictly enforced at home. We are old friends, and whom else can you ask for more, except from friends. Together, we must resolve to move towards eco‑friendly, sustainable and renewable energy sources.

Let me reiterate, if there is one thing that Pakistanis agree on, it is CPEC’s vision of human security, economic cooperation, reform and joint prosperity. As an economic bloc, South Asia will be one of the wealthiest regions in the world, with markets and growth vectors second only to China. At the same time, the region is also forecast for growing inequality, land hunger, poverty‑based migrations, water stress, and social deficits. These trends can be divisive in a region already crackling with tensions.

We believe that CPEC will create a new engine for reinvigorating innovation and ingenuity not just in both the countries but for the region as well. It is this cooperation, innovation and ingenuity that will drive the project of peace in a world divided by inequities, conflicts and social disorder.

The CPEC Summit once again highlighted the Chinese government’s unfaltering cooperation, support and friendship to the people of Pakistan. The future really does lie in peace through economic partnerships. Let us hope our roadmaps take our young people into a brighter, energised, connected millennium.

The writer is Leader of the Opposition, Senate of Pakistan.

SOURCE: https://www.dawn.com/news/1409514

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China signs deals worth USD 390 bn with ‘Belt and Road’ countries

China has inked trade deals worth USD 390 billion with the countries participating in its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative in the first four months of this year, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce has said.

China has inked trade deals worth USD 390 billion with the countries participating in its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative in the first four months of this year, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce has said.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a pet initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping was proposed in 2013, and five years on, over 100 countries and international organisations have supported and got involved in this initiative.

The BRI aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting economies around the globe along the ancient Silk Route.

 “China and countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative inked trade deals worth USD 389.1 billion in the first four months. It represented a growth of 19.2 per cent year on year,” Commerce ministry spokesperson, Gao Feng was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua in a Global Times report.
 China’s non-financial investment in those countries increased 17.3 per cent from the same period a year ago to USD 4.67 billion, the spokesperson said, adding that business volume of outbound contract projects came in at USD 24.2 billion, up 27.7 per cent year on year.

China held the first round of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with Mauritius and the second round of FTA talks with Pakistan. It also signed an economic and trade cooperation pact with the Eurasian Economic Union. The FTA reached between China and Georgia has become effective.

“Construction of major projects have progressed well with a range of railways and infrastructures going smoothly,” Gao said.

By the end of April, China had built 75 economic and trade cooperation zones along the Belt and Road countries with accumulated investment of USD 25.5 billion, the report said.

More than 3,800 companies have joined the cooperation zones, paying nearly $1.7 billion in tax revenue and generating nearly 220,000 jobs, it said.

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How China’s Belt And Road Just Got A Big Boost From Europe’s TIR Convention

In 2016, China became a member of the UN’s TIR Convention, which enables transporters to ship goods through 73 partner countries by truck with just a single customs inspection, but it wasn’t until this month that their participation officially went into effect.

On May 18th, a caravan of trucks with large blue and white TIR plates departed in a ceremonial launch from Dalian in the northeast of China bound for Novosibirsk in Russia, 5,600 kilometers away. Having already undergone a customs inspection in the Dalian-bonded zone, these vehicles will not need to go through another for the duration of the journey, speeding up their transit time considerably. Why does this matter so much to China and its future economic prospects?

What is the TIR Convention?

Founded in Geneva in 1975, the Transports Internationaux Routiers (TIR) or International Road Transports convention is a multilateral treaty facilitated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to improve road transportation throughout the continent by removing en route customs inspections and on-site duty payments for approved carriers departing from select locations. This essentially allowed trucks to traverse dozens of European countries without needing to be checked at each border, which greatly improved the speed and efficiency of trade, decreasing the lead time of a journey by up to 80%.

With the creation of the European Single Market in 1993, TIR was rendered moot for intra-European transit. However, as globalization kicked into high gear throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the TIR was expanded to include countries outside of the EU, eventually attracting 73 member states across Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and East Asia, making it the go-to customs arrangement for international ground transport which is currently speeding up 1.5 million border crossings per year.

The TIR has also been adapted from its original vision of being solely for road transport and has become truly multimodal, allowing for rail, river and sea legs to be included if at least one part of a journey is done by truck.

Now that China is part of the TIR picture, goods can be shipped from some of the biggest manufacturing centers in the world more rapidly and cheaper. Going the other way, the TIR allows manufacturers from other member states to get their products to China’s booming middle-class market by land more efficiently than they ever could before–in theory, anyway.

“As well as opening up new, more efficient and cost-effective trading routes for China’s manufacturers to the rest of the world, the TIR Convention will open up reciprocal trading routes for external manufacturers into the country,” said Umberto de Pretto, the Secretary General of the IRU, a major international road transport organization with over 100 member countries.

Why this matters

Hard infrastructure—roads and rail lines and airports—mean little without the soft infrastructure which makes them viable. Countries don’t only need to “build it” but they need to come up with policies and agreements with other countries to maximize the potential of these new infrastructural offerings. Some of these agreements come in the form of trade organizations, customs zones and multinational economic areas, while others are along the lines of initiatives like China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) or conventions like the TIR. As we previously covered on Forbes:

The first stage of China’s Belt and Road initiative, which aims to create a network of interconnected trade stations across Eurasia, is customs. Getting rid of the red tape to allow goods to traverse this massive land mass as efficiently as possible is key to making these routes sensible and profitable. The aim is to make land borders nearly as easy for goods to flow across as the open ocean, and this is being done step-by-step.

Later this month, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is going to have its summit in Qingdao, and it should not go without notice that every member of the group has already ratified TIR.

How the TIR Convention helps China’s Belt and Road

IRU press photo

Truck with TIR plates departing from Dalian.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a large-scale endeavor to create and enhance economic and political corridors across Eurasia and Africa, and programs such as the TIR Convention ultimately provide a major boost towards these ends. According to the IRU, the TIR convention has the potential to increase the volume of total trade between China and the other countries of the Belt and Road by $13.6 billion.

It currently takes between 8-12 days to transport products door-to-door by truck between an inland city in China and Europe. This is roughly four times faster than shipping by sea and around 50% faster than rail. Now with China being a full-fledged member of the TIR, shipping overland between China and Europe becomes an increasingly attractive option for manufacturers looking to get their products to the other side of Eurasia.

Production moving deeper inland

The impact of the TIR convention and China’s participation in it is magnified many-fold by the geographic redistribution of manufacturing to inland areas throughout Eurasia.

Beginning in the early 2000s, China’s “Go West” policy saw the all-out rebuilding of the country’s transportation infrastructure and the large-scale migration of companies inland from the prosperous cities of the east coast to then-backwaters like Chongqing, Chengdu, Zhengzhou, Wuhan and Xi’an.

Chongqing City, China. (Photo by: Prisma Bildagentur/UIG via Getty Images)

This movement has gained momentum in recent years with the Belt and Road Initiative, and even cities in China’s far west, such as Horgos and Kashgar, have been primed to become major manufacturing centers.

These development gave new relevance to overland trans-Eurasian transport, as the places where goods were being manufactured in China were suddenly very far from any seaport and significantly closer to their target markets in Europe, so it no longer made any logistical sense to truck products thousands of kilometers east in order to ship them back west again.

It is no coincidence that most of the TIR gateways in China are emerging BRI transport hubs:

Dalian: a major multimodal transport hub on the Pacific.

Erenhot: a new city and trade station on the border of China and Mongolia that sits at the heart of the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor.

Horgos: a massive conurbation of development that extends across the China/Kazakhstan border.

Manzhouli: a major BRI hub on the China/Russia border.

Suifenhe Port: another China/Russia trade hub.

When you add to this picture the emerging special economic zones in other parts of Eurasia–such as those on the Kazakhstan side of Khorgos, Alyat in Azerbaijan, Malaszewicze in Poland, and dozens of others–along with mega-transportation projects like the Western Europe-Western China Expressway, which runs from the east coast of China all the way to the Baltic Sea at St. Petersbur–it is looking as if the the geospatial distribution of manufacturing and the way goods are moved across Eurasia could have the potential to be significantly altered in the near future.

SOURCE: https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2018/05/31/how-chinas-belt-and-road-just-got-a-big-boost-from-europes-tir-convention/#34ab6f8a2517