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This report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. China portrays the Belt and Road Initiative - an interconnected network of rail lines, oil and gas pipelines, roads, bridges, and port facilities designed to connect China with Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe - as an effort aimed at regional economic integration with win-win outcomes for every country involved. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative, consisting of rail lines, fiber optic cables, power plants, and the Gwadar Port facility. CPEC provides the most tangible infrastructure projects to evaluate. Critics argue that it is a Chinese neocolonial effort to exert Chinese influence and increase Chinese power globally, burdening poor and developing countries with dangerous amounts of debt. Chinese internal and external security concerns, such as violence in Xinjiang and the perceived "Malacca Dilemma," are also discussed as important drivers for the Belt and Road Initiative and CPEC. This thesis examines both economic and security arguments to address the question: What is the primary driver for China's Belt and Road Initiative and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor? The research shows that security is the primary driver for these projects. Economic considerations and benefits are also important to Chinese leaders, but security considerations trump economic ones.
What drives China's Belt and Road Initiative? Is it economic, driven by China's desire and need to continue economic growth? Or is the BRI driven by China's need to maintain a firm grip on the southwestern provinces and perceived external security threats? Examining where China invests for these projects gives insights to the motivations. If the BRI and CPEC were purely economically driven as China claims, then Beijing would be investing in countries with investable grade credit ratings and where they would likely receive a safe return on investment. However, China is investing in countries with high risks of default on loans and who have credit ratings below investable grade, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), notably Pakistan, Venezuela, and Argentina. These high risk investments can threaten the viability of CPEC and BRI projects in the near and long term, as well as threaten to overburden the Chinese and recipient country's economy with non-performing loans and debt. This analysis of where China is investing points to a different driver, that of security concerns.
The thrust of BRI out of China is focused on the southwest frontiers, an area which China has historically felt a shaky grip on power and an area China views as its "soft underbelly." Xinjiang, as well as Pakistan are of concern to Beijing as unrest and a shift in Uighur sentiment from secular to Islamist in Xinjiang is linked to Pakistan. An unstable Pakistan poses an increasing risk to China, not only because they share a border, but China perceives that Uighurs have and are traveling to Pakistan for radicalization and then return to Xinjiang and perpetuate acts of violence. Xi Jinping said that religious extremism is a direct threat to China, as extremists and separatists could flow into Xinjiang with a goal to weaken China. This focus on internal security was also included in Xi Jinping's 19th Party Congress speech. Internal security spending by China totaled nearly U.S.$200 billion in 2017, and while the largest amount of domestic security spending is focused on the Tibetan Autonomous Region, Xinjiang is second and saw a 92.8 percent increase between 2017 and 2018.
I. INTRODUCTION * II. THE CHINA-PAKISTAN ECONOMIC CORRIDOR * III. AN ANALYSIS OF SECURITY AS THE DRIVER * IV. ECONOMICS AS THE DRIVER FOR CHINA'S BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE * V. CONCLUSION