China is concerned over “increasing cost of security” and “potential setbacks” in the development of the USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a state-run daily said on Tuesday, acknowledging that the ambitious project would not be a “plain sailing” for the two countries.
An article in the Global Times said the project - that passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir - faced risks due to a “complex regional environment”. It also referred to the reported deployment of 14,503 security guards by Pakistan to protect the 7,036 Chinese nationals working on the corridor.
“China may not want to put too much focus on the region. At the very least, it would be unwise to put all its eggs in one basket,” it said highlighting China’s disquiet over the project which has also cast a shadow over India-China ties.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised concerns over the project in his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 meet in Hangzhou on September 4.
The article, however, made no reference to India regarding the project, which connects China’s Xinjiang province to Pakistan’s southwestern Gwadar Port in Balochistan with a maze of rail, road and pipelines.
“The CPEC has long been seen as symbolic to Sino-Pakistan economic cooperation. It is unlikely that China will change its supportive attitude on the CPEC in the short term, but the increasing cost of security is becoming a big problem in efficiently pushing forward the projects,” the article said.
The daily, which in the past has strongly supported the project, said in the article that it is “unlikely to be plain sailing for China and Pakistan in their attempts to push forward the CPEC due to challenges such as a complex regional environment, and people in the two countries should be prepared for potential setbacks”.
The daily is part of the ruling Communist Party of China’s official organ - the People’s Daily publication group. It also raised questions over Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s comments last month that Pakistan attached priority to the project.
Referring to Sharif’s comments, it said “given the difficulty of protecting the personnel that are working in Pakistan, projects under the CPEC may need to be implemented and assessed step-by-step”.
“Beijing should consider giving more attention to its economic cooperation” with Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, whose Prime Minster is currently visiting China, to improve ties despite differences over the South China Sea.
China is reportedly concerned after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Vietnam’s capital Hanoi this month.
“The CPEC has long been seen as a flagship project in China’s Belt and Road initiative, but the initiative’s strategic focus may need to shift gradually toward Southeast Asia, where there is a wide infrastructure funding gap but a relatively stable regional environment that will enable China to efficiently push forward ventures under the Belt and Road initiative,” it said.
“Hopefully, the two countries (China and Vietnam) will be able to put aside disputes that have arose over the South China Sea and focus on promoting economic development,” it said.