Multifaceted Aspects of Economic Corridors in the Context of Regional Security: The China–Pakistan Economic Corridor as a Stabilising and Destabilising Factor

Published date01 August 2021
Date01 August 2021
Subject MatterResearch Articles
Multifaceted Aspects
of Economic Corridors
in the Context of
Regional Security:
The China–Pakistan
Economic Corridor
as a Stabilising and
Destabilising Factor
Agnieszka Kuszewska1 and
Agnieszka Nitza-Makowska 2
This article investigates the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which
involves a whole package of multiple cooperative initiatives aimed to accelerate
connectivity via land routes and boost Sino-Pakistani collaboration. While
channelling Chinese power and interests, this corridor, being a key part of the Belt
and Road Initiative, may significantly affect the security landscape in conflict-prone
South Asia, and the economic, political and social dynamics within Pakistan. Being
a fragile state with multiple domestic challenges and asymmetric position vis-à-vis
China, Pakistan is a valuable source for regional power game and China’s aspiration
analysis. The comprehensive evaluation of economic corridors’ multidimensional
impact on volatile regions with poor socio-economic background, contested
political power and high-security risk fills a much-needed gap in contemporary
security studies. We contend that CPEC may bring stabilising and destabilising
results; yet, if certain conditions are not met, over the long term, the latter are
likely to outweigh the former due to the various aspects of internal, bilateral and
regional character. To evaluate the corridor’s multifaceted implications, firstly, we
conceptualise CPEC within the selected international relations paradigms, and
secondly, we empirically refer to our assumptions.
Journal of Asian Security
and International Affairs
8(2) 218–248, 2021
© The Author(s) 2021
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/23477970211017719
1 Faculty of International and Political Studies, Institute of the Middle and Far East, Jagiellonian
University, Krakow, Poland.
2 Institute of Political Science and International Relations, Collegium Civitas, Warsaw, Poland.
Corresponding author:
Agnieszka Kuszewska, Faculty of International and Political Studies, Institute of the Middle and Far
East, Jagiellonian University, Oleandry 2a, 30-063 Krakow, Poland.
Research Article
Kuszewska and Nitza-Makowska 219
South Asian security, economic corridors, the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor
(CPEC), China’s rise, Sino-Pakistani relations
This article is motivated by the necessity of providing a conceptual framework
for an in-depth investigation of the factors shaping security dynamics in South
Asia and beyond. In particular, it looks at the large-scale endeavours, launched by
the People’s Republic of China (PRC) under the grand Belt and Road Initiative
(BRI), such as the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). They have a vast
potential to affect the regional security dynamics and augment China’s presence
in the region to an unprecedented extent.
CPEC, a multibillion-dollar initiative, should not be regarded only as a
3000-km network of pipelines, roads and railways aimed to provide China with
alternative transportation routes or a chance to boost Chinese companies’ presence
in international markets. It is a whole package of multiple geostrategic, diplomatic
and economic initiatives promoted under ‘destined to succeed’1 and ‘mutual
benefits/win-win cooperation’2 labels, which, when completed, are likely to have
a noteworthy, multidimensional impact on Pakistan and the region.
The article aims to assess CPEC’s possible benefits and challenges with reference
to the evolving international order and the dynamics in volatile and impoverished
regions. To evaluate the corridor’s potentially stabilising and/or destabilising
factors, first, we conceptualise it within the selected international relations (IR)
paradigms. Second, we empirically refer to our assumptions by exposing CPEC’s
political, economic and sociocultural impact on Pakistan’s internal situation, the
country’s relations with China and international interactions at both regional
and global levels. In this study, a stabilising factor is defined with reference to
potentially constructive results of the corridor, leading to enhanced stability and
interconnectivity, multi-sector collaboration beneficial to all stakeholders, socio-
economic development, and de-escalation of various conflicts/security threats.
The destabilising factor is understood through the prism of the potential negative
impact of CPEC, which may accelerate Pakistan’s economic and geostrategic
dependence on China, escalate the already persisting regional conflicts and local
grievances and, last but not least, contribute to environmental losses. In the
context of Sino-Pakistani interactions, it is indispensable to shed light on the
specificity of the patron–client relationship, which is characterised by discrepancies
in status, power and influence; unequal access to benefits; voluntarism; asymmetric
dependence; and loyalty to the patron (Lemarchand & Legg, 1972, p. 152; Scott,
1972, pp. 91–113).
The article makes a contribution to the study of contemporary IR in the
following ways by: (a) taking a holistic, methodologically pluralist approach, in
particular, by employing the neorealist and constructivist paradigms, which are
assumed as non-contradictory in this study, to investigate the potential stabilising
and destabilising impact of the economic corridors on regional security; (b) adopting

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