China on Wednesday asked its all-weather ally Pakistan to create enabling conditions for thousands of Chinese nationals working on the USD 60 billion CPEC projects, who are currently flagging concerns over security and the slow pace of construction activities.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project of China's ambitious multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and it links China’s Xinjiang province with Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Balochistan province.
Media reports from Pakistan said Chinese investors were concerned over the slow pace of construction on the projects. On Monday, Pakistani officials hosted a meeting of Pakistan-based Chinese companies and briefed them about further investment opportunities in the country.
Asked for his reaction, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here: “we hope the Pakistani side will provide more enabling conditions and convenience for Chinese companies doing business in Pakistan”.
He did not elaborate further.
Zhao said: “the development of CPEC enters the stage of high speed and quality development”.
“We believe we will better focus on agriculture, industrial development, people's livelihood, while ensuring the good operation of the existing projects in a way we will try to make it a demonstration project,” Zhao said.
China has been asking Pakistan to ramp up the security of its thousands of workers currently working on various projects of the CPEC after a number of attacks on them in recent months.
In August this year, 13 people including nine Chinese personnel were killed and several injured in a bomb attack on a bus carrying Chinese engineers to the Dasu area of Upper Kohistan district where a Chinese company is building a 4,300-megawatt hydropower project on the Indus River. A Taliban-affiliated organization was believed to be behind the attack.
China had rushed a special team amid confusing signals from Pakistan that it could be a gas blast. Pakistan later admitted it was a bomb blast, stating that traces of the explosive substance were found at the scene.
The CPEC is a collection of infrastructure and other projects under construction throughout Pakistan since 2013. Originally valued at USD 46 billion, the projects were worth USD 62 billion as of 2017.
India has protested to China over the CPEC as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The BRI was launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he came to power in 2013. It aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.
The BRI is seen as an attempt by China to further its influence abroad with infrastructure projects funded by Chinese investments all over the world.
The initiative also led to allegations of smaller countries reeling under mounting Chinese debt after Sri Lanka gave its Hambantota port in a debt swap to China in 2017 on a 99-year lease