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Chinese Seek 'Silk Road' Riches In Pakistan, Braves Security Fears

Chinese Seek 'Silk Road' Riches In Pakistan, Braves Security Fears
In Pakistan across the Himalayas, Beijing has pledged to spend $57 billion on infrastructure projects as part of its “Belt and Road” initiative and Zhang Yang, a businessman from Chongqing in southwest China, is one of a growing number of Chinese pioneers sensing an opportunity in this new region.
Earlier, there was a wave of Chinese arrivals of workers on Belt and Road projects and this is the second wave numbering in the thousands. While some what goods they could make cheaply in Pakistan to sell around the world or what products they could sell to a market of 208 million people, some are opening restaurants and language schools.
“A lot of industries are already saturated in China,” said Zhang, who has worked in property, electrical appliances and household goods in China. the potential for setting up factories or importing Chinese goods is desired to be explored by him.

“Pakistan’s development is behind China, so it will hold better opportunities compared to home.”
But this wave of Chinese arrivals has created a headache for Pakistani security officials.
The risks posed by Islamist militants, who may see them as soft targets in their war with the state, was highlighted by Islamic State’s killing of two Chinese nationals in the restive Baluchistan province in June.
The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a Uigher militant group Beijing accuses of seeking to split off its western region of Xinjiang, and Beijing has also long fretted about hardened Pakistani Islamist fighters linking up them.
About 71,000 Chinese nationals visited in 2016, said a source in the foreign ministry of Pakistan even though Islamabad does not release immigration data. Noting a 41 percent increase on 2015 and suggesting more are staying in the country for longer a senior immigration official added 27,596 visa extensions were granted to Chinese that year,
Pakistan has turned into a key cog in China’s grand plan to build a modern-day “Silk Road” of land and sea trade routes linking Asia with Europe and Africa and Beijing’s infrastructure splurge has deepening ties between the two nations and helped revive Pakistan’s sputtering economy.
The second part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as the Pakistan leg of this new Silk Road is called, is aimed to help Pakistan develop its industries ranging from mining to agriculture by focusing on setting up special economic zones and integrating Chinese firms into the local economy.
Topping $1 billion in 2016/17, and betting on its neighbor at a time when many Western companies are still put off by security concerns and corruption, China has also surged to become by far the biggest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) for Pakistan.
“Pakistan really needs foreign investment and we are not going to miss out on this because of some idiots with a gun,” said Miftah Ismail, a special adviser to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. “We won’t let them mess with the Chinese.”
There is little sign of hostility to the new arrivals from ordinary Pakistanis, although Chinese habits sometimes clash with local customs in a deeply conservative Muslim nation. With comments like "you are our friends", Chinese visitors often recount stories of being let off minor misdemeanors - such as driving without a license - by police and government officials because, unlike Western nations, China is widely seen as having been a consistent ally to Pakistan. Saying the two Chinese victims were targeted because they were Christian missionaries masquerading as business people, officials have portrayed the Islamic State killings in Baluchistan as a one-off.
But as a result of the attack, at least one Chinese business delegation canceled its trip to Pakistan. The receiving country has since vowed improved security and tightened business visa rules for Chinese nationals.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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