China’s New Silk Road is making inroads in Pakistan

China’s New Silk Road is making inroads in Pakistan

Plus: Poland asks South Korea for nuclear help, the Wagner Group opens its first official headquarters, and four African states get involved in Congo’s insurgency fight

Hi there Intriguer. Ever wondered why the US holds its elections on a Tuesday in November? Like most strange things in the US, it’s all about a law from the 1800s. Back then, farmers favoured heading to the polls in November because their crops had been harvested, but the weather was still mild. And Tuesday was selected because many rural voters required a day to get to the polls, but travelling on the weekend was forbidden because, you know, church. Et voilà – the Tuesday after the first Monday in November has been federal election day ever since! Whether it still makes sense in 2022 is a different matter entirely… 

Today’s briefing is a ~5.2 min read:

  • 🚧 The New Silk Road in Pakistan: China seeks to balance the US and India.
  • ➕ Plus: Poland asks South Korea for nuclear help, Russia’s Wagner Group opens its first official headquarters, and four African states get involved in Congo’s fight against insurgents.

The Sino-Pakistan partnership is prospering

In brief:

  • China is deepening ties with neighbouring Pakistan by constructing major infrastructure projects along an ‘economic corridor’.
  • The $62B plan intends to promote economic growth and security and help both countries counter American and Indian influence in the region.

A ‘win-win’ arrangement. Source: Giphy

Meet and greet

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s recent trip to Beijing was about more than a visit to the Great Wall or a stroll around the Forbidden City.

It’s also worth noting that Sharif was among the first foreign leaders to be invited to Beijing after President Xi secured a third term as leader, a clear message that the Pakistan-China relationship remains strong.

Mutually beneficial cooperation

In the favoured language of China’s diplomats, the CPEC is ‘win-win’ for both countries:

1. 🏗 Economic development

CPEC has been likened to a “Marshall Plan for Pakistan,” with investment figures equal to about 20% of the country’s nominal GDP.

  • The $62B project includes improvements to Pakistan’s power sector, and major investments in its port and rail infrastructure.

Beijing plans to use CPEC to transport goods directly from oil-rich ports along the Arabian Sea to hubs in its western provinces.

  • In the event of a major conflict, supply routes through Pakistan have the added advantage of being more secure than traditional transport routes through Southeast Asia. 

2. 🔒 Security 

China has long viewed Pakistan as a potential hotbed for extremist Islamist ideology that could spread among the Uighur Muslim minority in China’s Xinjiang province.

  • Officials hope that economic investment will weaken extremist elements and improve security along China’s southwestern border.

According to James Schwemlein of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace:

“CPEC is a way of modifying Pakistan’s behaviour to be more consistent with China’s interest in transforming it from a fragile and vulnerable position into a more modern and moderate Muslim state that is both a worthy and a capable partner of China and no longer a potential drag on China’s other strategic interests.” 

3. 🌡️ Regional competition

The United States’ departure from Afghanistan has left a regional power vacuum.

  • China and Pakistan were among the first countries to establish ties with the new Taliban government, which has expressed interest in hosting CPEC projects.

Plus, China and Pakistan have both had intense border disputes with India in recent years, and will be hoping that closer ties can help balance the growing US-India relationship.

But it’s not all smooth sailing…

  • Pakistan’s economy is in tatters: its $30B in debts to China represent merely a quarter of its total foreign debt obligations.
  • Pakistan may struggle to manage extremism: in April, three Chinese nationals died in a terrorist attack in Karachi.
  • Pakistan is hesitant to abandon the US completely: though security cooperation has dwindled, the US helped Pakistan recover from devastating floods over the summer and remains a valuable intermediary in Pakistan’s loan negotiations with the IMF.

The bottom line: With billions invested in the CPEC thus far and perhaps billions more to come, we should expect the Pakistan-China relationship to keep getting stronger.


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  • Each deep dive is taught by world-leading experts delivered using a mix of video and live lectures, so you don’t have to take time off from work.

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🇩🇰 Denmark

The Danish centre-left managed to win a majority in last week’s parliamentary elections.

  • On the campaign trail, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen pledged to form a broad left-right coalition, a promise that might undermine her government’s stability.
  • Denmark’s election results stand in contrast with the recent electoral victories for right-wing parties in Italy and Sweden.

🇮🇹 Italy

Italy’s new right-wing government is attempting to stop migrants rescued at sea from disembarking on Italian land.

  • The government insists that the NGO operators’ home countries should take the rescued migrants – a proposal that will undoubtedly run into several legal challenges.
  • ~500 people are currently stranded on several NGO ships, unsure whether they’ll be forced back into international waters.

🇵🇱 Poland

Last week Poland signed a deal with South Korea to build four nuclear reactors, shortly after signing a similar agreement with the US.

  • South Korea is a global leader in nuclear energy: a third of Seoul’s power comes from nuclear reactors.
  • Europe’s energy crisis has led several governments to reconsider their stance on nuclear power.

🇷🇺 Russia

The Wagner Group, a secretive Russian paramilitary force, opened its first official headquarters in St Petersburg.

  • The Wagner Group has long been considered an unofficial arm of the Russian security apparatus, though the Kremlin denies any such links.
  • To date, Wagner operatives have intervened in at least eight countries including Ukraine, Syria, and Libya, and have been accused of several human rights violations.

🇪🇺 The EU

EU imports of Russian LNG have jumped by 46%, according to a recent report in Politico.

  • Between January and September this year, EU countries purchased 16.5 billion cubic metres of Russian LNG, up 5.2 billion from the same period last year.
  • Only the UK and Lithuania have completely halted Russian LNG imports.

Insurgency in DR Congo tests East Africa

A map of the main mining areas in DR Congo. Credits: Philip Schütte et al.

The news: The East Africa Community (EAC) has agreed to send forces to DR Congo to help the Congolese government fight a rapidly-expanding insurgency.

  • Troops from Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, and Burundi are participating.

Some context: Fighting between the M23 militia and the Congolese government resumed after the failure of a 2013 peace treaty, which reignited a decades-long conflict in Eastern Congo.

  • While the M23 group appears to be the government’s primary concern, it is only one of many armed groups operating in the region.

Precious land: DR Congo is a mineral-rich country, and (not coincidentally) most of its resources are concentrated in its war-torn east.

  • For example, DR Congo is home to 50% of the world’s known reserves of cobalt, which is used to produce lithium-ion batteries.

“The country’s massive resource wealth—estimated to include $24 trillion of untapped mineral resources—also fuels violence. The mineral trade provides financial means for groups to operate and buy arms.”

Why it matters: Renewed fighting between rebel groups and government forces has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and has roped in four foreign governments.

  • An enlargement of the conflict would further destabilise East Africa and threaten Congo’s sought-after economic development.

Credits: Our World in Data.

The 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference kicked off in Egypt on Sunday, and one of the big questions on the agenda is: who should pay for climate change? 

A cruel irony of climate change is that poorer countries with tiny carbon footprints are most vulnerable to rising temperatures.

Though the US and Europe have resisted previous calls for climate reparations, they’re expressing some openness to the idea this time around.

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