After several delays, interruptions and false starts, the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, is set to begin his visit of Pakistan where he is scheduled to meet top civilian and military leadership and address the parliament. While the Chinese premier is here he is expected to sign several Memorandums of Agreement (MOU) and oversee the launch of $50 billion worth of infrastructural and energy projects; meaning that the work on the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor (PCEC) can begin in earnest. The visit is also significant as it marks the beginning of a strategic tilt in Pakistan’s foreign alliances; away from transient alliances with the United states, and towards geo-strategic based ones with regional partners. The period ahead holds vast potential for Pakistan; and as such the government needs to ensure that it is handled with diligence, intelligence and sincerity.

The importance of the PCEC is self evident; during the next 7 years energy projects worth $35-37 billion are scheduled to be completed, many of them utilising renewable sources such as solar power and wind. These coupled with indigenously developed power projects hold the ability to end Pakistan’s crippling energy crisis – or at least bring it down to a less damaging level. The infrastructural projects, especially around the port of Gawadar, would open numerous trade opportunities. Easier movement of goods, access to new markets and an influx of new products are bound to impact the economy positively. The next decade could see Pakistan move towards an industry driven development phase, one that is sorely needed to push Pakistan out of its economic mediocrity. Yet the ‘Chinese Solution’ is not a magic fix, it requires momentous effort from the Pakistani authorities, to realize the potential.

The first concern is the transparency of the developmental process. The government, especially PML-N is infamous for awarding construction contract based on nepotism, and inevitably they run the risk of being substandard. The second is the diligence and speed with which these projects are completed, our “Iron Brother” is making an investment out of which they hope to receive a substantial return; any dithering on Pakistan’s part would prompt them to seek new clients. Thirdly, this development envisions a stable working environment, terrorism and militancy needs to be controlled across the board and indiscriminately; otherwise neither the construction, neither the prospective investment will materialize. This is a challenge that the state needs to contend with. The state –the government and the establishment – needs jettison obsolete and self-serving polices and display full transparency and accountability. Perhaps most significantly however, PCEC will remain nothing more than a pipe dream if policy continuation by successive governments is not enshrined in the Constitution. Economic priorities especially to the tune of $50 billion dollars of investment, must not change with every general election.