The strategic alliance between China and Pakistan, especially in economic arenas, has recently come under scrutiny. A U.S.-based research lab, AidData, has released a report revealing that a staggering 98% of Chinese financial support to Pakistan constitutes loans rather than aid or grants.
This revelation offers a stark contrast to the previously perceived notion of benevolent generosity from China towards its ally. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship infrastructure initiative, has been a cornerstone of this bilateral relationship, reportedly bolstering Pakistan’s transportation, energy, and industrial sectors.
While this multi-billion-dollar venture has been lauded for spurring economic growth and job creation, the report sheds light on the financial strings attached. It suggests that the majority of Chinese funding is not concessional but comes with an obligation of repayment, amounting to 67.2 billion dollars – equivalent to 19.6% of Pakistan’s GDP.
The analysis by AidData indicates that only a mere 8% of the total 70.3 billion dollars committed by China from 2000 to 2021 was in the form of grants or highly concessional loans. The rest, it states, are loans that place a hefty repayment burden on Pakistan’s economy.
This situation raises concerns about a potential ‘debt trap’ for Pakistan, echoing the circumstances faced by other nations like Sri Lanka. Moreover, China’s broader economic influence through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has made it the world’s largest official creditor, with over a trillion dollars in outstanding loans.
As these loans enter the principal repayment phase, the risk of default looms for many of the indebted countries. Amidst critiques of non-transparent project pricing, China is reportedly refining its approach to crisis management and aligning its lending practices with global standards. Nevertheless, it also appears to be resorting to undisclosed cash seizures as a safeguard against defaults.