Pakistan Shows the Limits of China’s Economic Power
Pakistan should be the flagship success of China’s economic aid and investment programs abroad. Instead, it casts doubts on the viability of a Chinese economic world order.
China is the world’s largest manufacturing economy. To displace the United States as the global economic superpower, China has been pursuing an extensive foreign investment campaign, providing aid and infrastructure through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which today spans 139 countries and almost all of Asia. China had surpluses of steel and cement, plenty of money to spend with $2.6 trillion in annual bank lending, and a strong desire for empire-building, especially in Asia.1 With a growing population of 220 million people, a developing economy plagued by shortages in basic goods, and a pre-existing alliance with China, Pakistan has arguably been the largest potential beneficiary of China’s foreign investment. The centerpiece of Chinese economic development in Pakistan has been the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an ambitious series of infrastructure projects that were billed as a $62 billion investment and inaugurated together in 2013 by China and Pakistan’s heads of state.