Hadiqa Mir, a student of M.Phil Peace and Conflict Studies at Pakistan’s National Defence University (NDU) in Islamabad, conducted the following written interview with Andrew Korybko as part of her research on the topic of “CPEC: Security Implications and Suggested Strategies”.
HM: How do you see the regional and domestic security of Pakistan in the context of CPEC?
AK: CPEC is the driving factor of transregional stability if it can succeed in “zipping” together the disparate blocs in Eurasia and consequently serving as the spinal cord of the emerging Multipolar World Order, but it’s also a lightning rod of Hybrid War in attracting foreign (US-Indian) destabilization operations for that very same reason. Agreeing to CPEC was a fateful decision for Pakistan and the rest of the world, and while it has infinite economic and strategic promise, it also carries with it serious security risks because of the extra incentive that the country’s rivals have to sabotage this series of megaprojects.
HM: Do you think that rise of China, especially in the wake of CPEC, is a threat to the West?
AK: China is pioneering the physical rerouting of global trade routes from the West to the East, with a particular focus on overland corridors in Eurasia that evade the control of the powerful American Navy, and this has the long-term effect of laying the basis for an entirely new world order that replaces the existing Western one. China isn’t a traditional “threat” in the military or economic sense, but rather in the systemic one because of the paradigm-changing process that it’s spearheading. The world order has periodically changed, sometimes peacefully but also violently, and China is trying to oversee its responsible transition through CPEC and the larger OBOR vision that it’s a part of. Regrettably, because of the implications that this has for the West, they view it as a security “threat”, and the US is therefore resorting to low-intensity proxy violence (Hybrid Wars) to disrupt, control, and/or influence the Silk Roads, especially CPEC, in order to maintain its global hegemony.
HM: What is your opinion regarding the theory of “Economic Imperialism” in the context of China?
AK: All countries strive to obtain a competitive edge over others, but China seeks to do so in a more balanced way than many others because of the self-interested stake that it has in its partners’ success. The People’s Republic needs emerging markets in the “Global South” to purchase its overproduced goods otherwise the resultant economic slowdown in China could lead to unpredictable political consequences that its leadership fears might turn into a many “Tiananmen Squares”. For this reason, China needs to ensure that its partners have sustainable economic models in place, which is why it encourages them to adopt its “developmental state” model in parallel with accepting Chinese loans for building the necessary infrastructure for facilitating trade.
China stumbled and made some early mistakes in Africa and Myanmar, but it’s since learned its lessons from these experiences and is behaving much more responsibly, but its previous “growing pains” in the developing world are being decontextualized, over-amplified, and misportrayed in order to generate the weaponized infowar narrative of so-called Chinese “economic imperialism”. Resource extraction is no longer the main reason why China is interested in “Global South” countries, as was explained, so it needs to build its partners up so that they can function as reliable markets for its exports. Without the means to sustain their predicted growth in consumption, China will have nowhere to offload its excess products, thus potentially triggering the national economic security scenario of a domestic slowdown catalyzing political problems at home.
It’s precisely because of the mutual economic-developmental interdependence between China and its “Global South” partners that Beijing is so vulnerable to Hybrid War disruptions in the OBOR states because these could disastrously damage the targeted country’s consumption capabilities (both in terms of destroying the physical infrastructure that facilitates trade and decreasing its overall GDP/PPP) and negatively affect the security situation in strategic transit states. Therefore, the relationship between China and its OBOR partners is less of an “imperial” one and more of a symbiotic one because they each need one another for different reasons. Chinese investment helps to develop “Global South” states while this in turn allows them to continue purchasing Chinese goods that help sustain that country’s growth.
HM: Do you think that CPEC has potential to add threats to the security matrix of Pakistan?
AK: CPEC in and of itself isn’t doesn’t contribute to Pakistan’s security threat matrix because it’s an apolitical series of economic megaprojects, but it does create an incentive for China’s rivals (which, in the case of the US and India, are the same as Pakistan’s) to try and destabilize it as part of their “zero-sum” mentality for sabotaging this world system-changing example of “win-win” cooperation.
HM: What in your opinion could be the future security challenges for Pakistan in the wake of CPEC?
AK: I described the three most likely ones apart from Hybrid War (e.g. terrorism) in a brief article for Pakistan Politico about the “Three Routes to Pakistan’s Containment by India and the US”, the most relevant in this context being the infowar that will try to dissuade foreign entrepreneurs from using CPEC. Any economic corridor is only as good as the trade that it facilitates, and if Chinese companies are the only ones that use this route because all of the others are too scared to do so, then CPEC will never reach its full strategic potential as the Zipper of Eurasia and the Convergence of Civilizations. Therefore, one of the highest security priorities for Pakistan is to immediately consider how it can manage international perceptions about the country and its namesake Silk Road project in order to ensure that the US-Indian infowar against CPEC is a failure.
HM: What counter measure will you suggest to cater the define challenges?
AK: The newly elected government must draft a comprehensive information strategy as soon as possible, whether as a white paper or a classified document, which should include strengthening cooperation between Pakistani and foreign think tanks and encouraging competent subject experts to contribute to Mainstream and Alternative Medias in order to present responsible narratives about the country whenever a situation of international interest arises. The promotion of English-language Pakistani informational outlets to foreign audiences should also be pursued, possibly in partnership with a combination of Mainstream and Alternative Medias. There should also be regular workshops for Pakistani media and academic professionals on the country’s new 21st-century CPEC-related narratives, with their foreign counterparts being invited to participate as well. The outcome of these events should also be widely publicized.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.