The CPEC is being promoted as the crown jewel of China's One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. In pic: Former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif addresses a CPEC meeting. Photograph: (ANI)
Pakistan's leading daily The Dawn has described the USD 50 billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a "one-way street" venture and says it is more about expanding China's growth rather than benefitting Pakistan.
The Dawn opinion piece stated that the CPEC which was described as a blossoming partnership, nourished with tens of billions of dollars of infrastructure investment was anything but that.
The piece was based on interviews with several Pakistani businessmen living and working on the Chinese side of the border.
A majority of the businessmen rubbished Beijing's claim that the CPEC would enhance its friendship with Pakistan once completed.
Murad Shah, a businessman with a precious stones shop in Tashkurgan near the 1300-kilometer-long China-Pakistan Friendship Highway leading to the western Chinese city of Kashgar, told the Dawn, "There is no benefit for Pakistan. It's all about expanding China's growth."
A remote town of with a population of around 9,000, Tashkurgan is at the geographic heart of Beijing's plans to connect Kashgar to the Gwadar Port through the CPEC.
The CPEC is being promoted as the crown jewel of China's One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, a massive global infrastructure programme to revive the ancient Silk Road and connect Chinese companies to new markets around the world.
While both countries say the project is mutually beneficial, data reveals a different story, the Dawn reported.
Pakistan's exports to China fell by almost eight percent in the second half of 2016, whereas imports jumped by almost 29 per cent, The Dawn report said.
In May this year, Pakistan accused China of flooding its market with reduced rates of steel and threatened to respond with high tariffs.
"There are all of these hopes and dreams about Pakistan exports," the daily quotes Jonathan Hillman, a Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, as saying.
"But if you're connecting with China, what are you going to be exporting?"
Only small consumer goods such as medicines, toiletries, semi-precious stones, rugs and handicrafts would be traded and brought into Xinjiang through the CPEC, the report says.
Pakistani businessmen in Xinjiang see few benefits from the CPEC, complaining of intrusive security and capricious customs arrangements.
Taxes on goods could vary from five percent to 20 percent in times to come, a trader was quoted as saying.
Lahore University of Management Sciences political economy professor Hasan Karrar was also quoted as saying that "independent Pakistani traders have benefited little from CPEC."
Alessandro Ripa, an expert on Chinese infrastructure projects at Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, said the highway "is not very relevant to overall trade" because "the sea route is just cheaper and faster".
"The project is a tool for China to promote its geopolitical interests and help struggling state-owned companies export excess production, he adds.
The report states that the CPEC is also being used to introduce oppressive security-related restrictions such as walking through metal detectors at check points, showing identification cards, frequent checking of mobile phones and computers for "illegal" religious content.
Security drills take place four times a day in Xijiang and stores are closed for several days if shopkeepers refuse to participate, the report adds.