The Dragon from the Mountains--The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor from Kashgar to Gwadar

On the 19th of June, PHBS-UK had the pleasure of having Professor Matthew McCartney give a webinar on the topic of The Dragon from the Mountains – The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor from Kashgar to Gwadar. Professor McCartney is joined in the webinar by Dr. Ayesha Afzal who is the main discussant of the webinar. It is thus our honour to have both Professor McCartney and Dr Afzal here with us to talk about the economic impact of the Belt Road Initiative (BRI) on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Prof McCartney started the webinar by introducing the BRI on the CPEC. China has agreed to invest more than $60 billion in developing Pakistan’s infrastructure – in roads, rail, energy, and a deep water port at Gwadar. This is unprecedented relative to decades of minimal foreign direct investments entering Pakistan. Prof McCartney also gave an introduction on how two different camps view the CPEC - the supporters of CPEC argued that this project offers the potential to transform Pakistan and support Pakistan in its efforts of rapid, equitable, and sustainable economic growth. On the other hand, detractors of CPEC argue that it will more likely tip Pakistan into a dependent debt-relationship with China and that it will facilitate more Chinese imports into Pakistan, thus posing a threat to Pakistan’s industrial base. On that premise, Prof McCartney took the audience into a journey of understanding economic change in contemporary China and Pakistan, as well as the economic theories that underlies it, and the studies of big infrastructure projects from the contemporary and historical world to evaluate the contrasting views about CPEC.
In particular, Prof McCartney talked about the lessons that CPEC can draw from history – particularly what does history tell us about the impact of big infrastructure. History is full of examples like the Shanghai Metro (1990), the 19th Century Railways in South Asia after 1854, or way back to the Roman Roads in Britain circa 150 AD. From history, he stressed that there is a need to correlate those lessons with contemporary big infrastructure projects like the Suez Canal, and the Greek Olympics (1994) so as to critically examine whether CPEC can promote or undermine economic growth and development, and whether there are any intended and unintended effects. Furthermore, Prof McCartney encouraged the audience to evaluate CPEC in the light of historical precedence and in terms of economic theory, particularly from the aspects of global and domestic transport, global and domestic economy, as well as the threat of competition.
It was an engaging webinar which ended with an intellectual discussion among Prof McCartney, Dr Afzal, and the audience. There were numerous questions from the audience which comprised of PHBS faculty and students as well as academics and students from the University of Oxford, Lahore School of Economics, and participants from Pakistan, China, UK and Europe. One of the discussions even sparked a research project discussion between Prof McCartney and a student. This is the spirit of academic endeavors and something that PHBS is proud to be a part of. We hope that all webinars are fodders for research ideas and we thank Prof McCartney and Dr Afzal for their support of academic research here at PHBS.

Professor Matthew McCartney is currently an Associate Professor in Political Economy and Human Development of South Asia at the University of Oxford. At Oxford, he was both the Director of South Asia Programme (2011-18) and Departmental Research Director (2015-18). Since 2018, he has been based in India, Japan, China, and Pakistan researching on the economic impact of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). His book The Dragon from the Mountains: The CPEC from Kashgar to Gwadar is coming out soon with Cambridge University Press.

Dr Ayesha Afzal is currently the Assistant Professor at Lahore School of Economics. She has been a fellow at the University of Oxford where she has worked on issues in growth and social policy under modern financial paradigm in comparative studies of South Asian economies. Dr Afzal holds a PhD in Economics from Lahore School of Economics with a concentration in Financial Economics. Her dissertation was focused on risk and return framework of financial intermediaries, under Basel regulations, in Pakistan.