The Great Transformation? The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Culture, Economy and Society in Pakistan
Conference jointly organised by Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and the University of Nottingham.
Conference organisers: Professor Katharine Adeney, Dr Filippo Boni, Dr Hasan Karrar, Professor Yunas Samad.
6-8 April 2018, LUMS
One Belt, One Road (OBOR) is a vast infrastructure network that aims to connect China, by land and by sea, to markets in Europe and resource suppliers in the Middle East and Africa. Announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, it is estimated that investments in OBOR infrastructure shall be in the region of $6 trillion.
Pakistan, through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has become pivotal in the Belt and Road initiative; Xi Jinping has declared that Pakistan is where the Silk Road Economic Belt and the twenty-first Century Maritime Silk Road meet. This was echoed by China's Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, who defined CPEC as OBOR's 'flagship project'. Infrastructure and communication projects under CPEC – valued in excess of $60 billion – shall likely have a catalyzing influence on Pakistan, portending a so-called Great Transformation. But there are many unanswered questions regarding the impact of CPEC on Pakistan's social fabric, and on the country's economic and foreign policy. Details about CPEC investment remain opaque with interaction limited to the government-to-government level.
This conference attempts to shed light on some important aspects of CPEC. We seek engagement with critical issues using innovative theoretical and methodological approaches, evaluating CPEC nuances from the Chinese and Pakistani, regional and local perspectives. In order to dissect the challenges and opportunities arising from CPEC, the conference is articulated around thematic panels that reflect some of the key issue areas related to the development of the economic corridor.
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Economic considerations of CPEC
This panel aims at understanding the economic rationale and implications behind such a large-scale investment. Some of the questions addressed include: What is the economic impact of CPEC on the macro, mezzo and micro levels and will it allow local players to participate on a level playing field? Is participation guaranteed for only the privileged few, whoever they may be, or will there be engagement with a range of stakeholders? Will Pakistan be able to pay back the loans received for CPEC projects?
CPEC and the environment
Energy generation garners the lion's share of CPEC investment. In addition, new roads and railways are being built to increase connectivity within Pakistan. Have the various infrastructural projects been evaluated for environmental impact? Can environmental issues be of secondary consideration and be relegated for future generations to address? Have renewable sources of energy been considered under the CPEC umbrella?
Politics of development and the development of politics
There is concern that CPEC will become hostage to politics. Can CPEC projects be imputed with the same sense of significance after Xi Jinping? What would be its fate if CPEC becomes hostage to Pakistani politics? How will CPEC play in internal politics, both formal and informal? How has CPEC been used by different parties during the 2018 elections campaign?
Social and cultural impact of CPEC
Ever since CPEC was announced, there have been concerns regarding the benefits to local populations. This panel will address issues relating to CPEC's impact on Pakistan's social fabric. What will be the political, social and cultural ramifications from the arrival of a large number of Chinese people? What is the impact on the ground for local populations? What challenges and opportunities can new connectivity bring?
CPEC and Federalism: An 'all-Pakistan' project?
The alignment of CPEC represents a source of tensions between the central government and provinces, with some commentators claiming that the CPEC was being transformed into the 'China-Punjab Economic Corridor'. How will CPEC feed into intra-provincial relations? Will it aggravate them? What will be the impact on the institutional checks and balances?
The geopolitics of CPEC
CPEC has also important implications for inter-state relations, with a number of countries expressing their interest in 'joining' the CPEC. How does the large-scale arrival of China in South Asia and the Middle East play out in the region? What impact might it have on Pakistan's and other regional and global powers' foreign policy?
The abovementioned themes and questions are an attempt to have a broad engagement, from a variety of perspectives, on a topic that has the potential to dominate Pakistan's future for at least the next three decades. We welcome papers looking at CPEC from varied analytical angles including, but not limited to, the themes laid out in this call.