Parts of a multibillion-dollar trade route between China and Pakistan have opened, with the first Chinese trade caravan reaching Pakistan’s port city of Gwadar.
The 3,000km trade route, called the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), links China’s Xinjiang province with Gwadar in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.
China is investing $46bn in CPEC and hopes it will lead to easier trade with the Middle East and Africa.
The route cuts across the high road over Khunjerab Pass, situated more than 5,000 metres above sea level.
Once a part of the ancient Silk Route, this road will become a vital link for China to Gwadar. It is being built with Chinese help to become part of a new maritime Silk Route.
“This investment will help to turn around not only Pakistan’s economy but also it will enable Pakistan to become self-sufficient in energy and improve its infrastructure,” Ahsan Iqbal, minister for planning and development of Pakistan, told Al Jazeera.
However, local Pakistani manufacturers, under the Organisation for Advancement and Safeguard of Industrial Sector (OASIS), say the CPEC poses new challenges for the domestic industrial sector.
“The Chinese industry has achieved economies of scale over the years, primarily due to their huge domestic market, industry-friendly policies and multiple incentives by the government,” Atif Iqbal, OASIS executive director, told local Pakistani media on Friday.
Supporters of the CPEC say it is a one-time opportunity for Pakistan to resolve its crippling power-supply shortfalls, and for the first time to establish a nationwide network of logistical infrastructure.