Pakistan and China are indispensable to each other since both share a border and cordial relationship. This indispensability has further fostered by globalization, regionalism, war on terror and geo-economics. Their exemplary friendship ranges from the bilateral multi-dimensional cooperation to collaboration at various regional organizations. China holds a membership in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) where Pakistan is its observer. China has already endorsed Pakistani willingness for a full-fledged member status in SCO. Same is the case with Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) where Pakistan is member in both these organizations and China holds an observer status there. Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is no exception with whom China is engaged in ASEAN + 3 formula, and there is ASEAN-Pakistan Sectoral Dialogue Relationship. Besides the strong bond of bilateral ties, the two countries share common concern and interest at all international forums.
The dawn of 21st century has brought new horizons for states to pursue their national interest through a vibrant foreign policy. In this connection, China is a unique case by having the world’s largest population, biggest military, second largest and fast-growing economy. All this has driven China for an active role in global politics. China is no more a closed country with totally planned economy. The sleeping dragon has now awakened and shaken the global economy. It is no longer the Mao’s revolutionary China, but a consistently moving country for great power status. To perform its multidimensional global role, feed its own population and faster its rapid growth of industrialization, China has long been designed its “Grand Strategy”.
It was Deng Xiaoping who opened up China for the rest of world by announcing “Open Door Policy” in 1978. The People’s Republic declared its policy of good-neighbourly relations which is a pre-requisite of its rising. China brought drastic changes in its economy by labelling it socialist-market economy under the “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”. It took start of its rising from modernization of four sectors, namely, agriculture, technology, industry and defence.
1980s is witnessed for the rapid modernization of the said programs. People’s Republic of China (PRC) formulated its grand strategy in such a manner to come out of the inner circle to the outer one. It was the regionalism phase in the post-Cold War era after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In 1990s, China formed SCO and extended its relationship with ASEAN.
New century further pushed China for more engagements with international community by joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) and participation in various multinational forums on global warming, nuclear issues and epidemic diseases. In the first decade of the 21st century, China’s grand strategy entered into a new vibrancy by investing at far away regions. Today, China is the biggest investor in Africa, and ranges its activities from mineral exploration and extraction to infrastructure development, granting loans and assisting in education. Even Middle East, Central Asia and Latin American regions are not out of China’s reach with enormous growth of investment.
Beijing’s unprecedented hunt of energy resources may worry some in Washington, but it also creates new grounds for cooperation. It has also stimulated a tough competition with India regionally and European states globally. After taking office in March 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a round of trips to Russia, Africa, Central Asian states and other locations; and clinched deals for greater supplies of oil and natural gas. China has been the world’s biggest consumer of primary energy since it surpassed the US in 2010. China’s energy consumption was equivalent to 3.62 billion tons of coal in 2013, up from 1.48 billion in 2002. China’s reliance on overseas energy sources has also increased sharply reaching 57.4 % for crude oil, and 31.2 % in natural gas, its first rise above 30% in 2013.
China imports more than half of its crude oil from the Middle East, which holds nearly 62 percent of the world’s reserves. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, of China’s approximately 4.8 million barrels per day of imported crude accounted for in 2010, more than 2.2 million barrels, or 47 percent, came from the Middle East. China’s second-largest source of crude imports for that year was Africa, from which it imported 1.5 million barrels per day, or 30 percent. China now receives an estimated one-third of its oil imports from Africa which holds just 9 to 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves. Its largest African suppliers of oil are Angola, Sudan, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Nigeria. Other African countries that export oil to China include Gabon, Algeria, Libya, Liberia, Chad, and Kenya.
Keeping in mind China’s global hunt for energy through its grand strategy, Pakistan provides an outlet for mutual benefits. Pakistan’s coastal line with Indian Ocean offers a meeting ground of South Asia, Middle East and Central Asia which further will connect East Asia. China keenly interested in Gwadar Port. PML-N led government has decided to offer China to lay oil pipeline from Gwadar to Western China – a move that will allow the latter to diversify and safeguard its crude oil import routes. A road and railway track will be constructed in future to link China with Gulf States through Pakistan. Pak-China oil pipeline could later be linked with Iran that had already offered to lay oil pipeline from its territory to Gwadar to supply crude oil. During the PPP era, Iran had also announced to set up oil refinery at Gwadar Port with 400,000 barrels per day oil production capacity.
The crude oil processed and refined at Gwadar Oil Refinery can be exported and transported to Urumqi through the shortest possible route to China via Dubai-Gwadar-Urumqi which is about 3,600km. For this, an oil pipeline will be laid through the envisaged Energy Corridor up to Western China via KKH/Khunjrab bypass. If China imports from Africa and West Asia through Arabian Sea, it has to cover an area of 10,000 km passing through the coast of Pakistan, India, Myanmar, and Thailand. Then to supply it further to Xinjiang region from Shanghai to Urumqi, it is 4,500 km. The total travelling route is 14,500 km. The proposed plan from Gwadar to Kashgar through Pakistan will only cover 2,500 km. Thus it will shorten China’s route up to 12,000 km. All this is possible subject to the commitment, good governance at home and good international law and order environment. Among many, the big hurdles in the way are militancy in FATA and Balochistan, worse security situation in Afghanistan, restive autonomous region (Xinjiang) in China; and Indian sabotaging tactics.
By Dr. Manzoor Khan Afridi, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, March 10, 2014
Author is Assistant Professor and Head of the Department of Politics and International Relations at International Islamic University Islamabad.