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BRI on the Ground: Observations from an early adapter state
In recent years, Pakistan has welcomed and solicited investments from China, both under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and through parallel funding opportunities. Five years into BRI and nearly ten years into the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), it is useful to take stock by asking how transformative Chinese investments have been for Pakistan? What are the preliminary conclusions other countries might draw—and indeed, what might China take away—from Pakistan’s eager adaptation and pursuit of Chinese financing?

In this talk I suggest that BRI has neither been a so-called game changer, as it is frequently extoled by the Pakistani leadership, nor is it a debt trap, as it is sometimes described by commentators in Europe and North America. Rather, it is an ambitious investment mechanism yet one that inevitably is constrained and contoured by the economy and power structures that gave rise to it, and those that it operates within. An early lesson from Pakistan is that BRI is less a materialization of global connectivity and mutual prosperity—which BRI maps and official narratives would have us believe—and more a succession of entanglements, that are fundamentally local.

Hasan Karrar is an associate professor in a multidisciplinary humanities and social sciences department at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan. His current research explores changing spatial and economic configurations across China, Central Asia and Pakistan since the Cold War.

Nov 17, 2022 12:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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