By Malik Muhammad Ashraf
While the projects under CPEC are being drawn and worked upon, and the government of Pakistan is evincing unswerving interest and commitment to see them through, some detractors of this mega-economic initiative keep creating doubts and misgivings about the viability of some of the benefits envisaged to accrue to Pakistan through it.
Some have even tried to draw a parallel between CPEC and the Marshall Plan that was unfurled by the US after World War II. Equating CPEC with the Marshall Plan does not make any sense: the purpose of and motivation behind both these colossal undertakings were quite different and both of them were launched under different circumstances.
Perhaps it would be pertinent to look at the objectives of the two to bring out the differences between them. The Marshall Plan was approved by the US Congress in March 1948 by passing the Economic Cooperation Act. The economies of the European countries were completely devastated by the war and the US felt that it was imperative to help these states rebuild them. This was also because the weak economic conditions of those countries could make them vulnerable to the onslaught of communism both from within and outside. The US poured an assistance of $12 billion in the European countries.
The initiative also was designed to establish a market for US goods in Europe. In addition to the foregoing objectives, the Marshall Plan was also acknowledged as a great humanitarian effort. So the Plan had economic, humanitarian and ideological dimensions. It undoubtedly nudged resurgence of European industrialisation and consequently also boosted the US economy by establishing markets for its goods in Western Europe.
A glance at the purposes and objectives of the Chinese ‘One Belt One Road’ vision which includes CPEC as one of its pivotal components, reveals that it is purely an economic undertaking. CPEC is a participatory effort by the countries which wish to work collectively for shared economic prosperity.
An action plan jointly issued by China’s National Development and Reform Commission in conjunction with China’s Foreign Ministry and Commerce Ministry on March 28, 2014 narrates the objectives of this grandiose initiative in these worlds, “ It is aimed at promoting orderly and free flow of economic factors, highly efficient allocation of resources and deep integration of markets, encouraging the countries along the Belt and Road to achieve economic policy coordination and carry out broader and more in-depth regional cooperation of higher standards and jointly creating an open, inclusive and balanced regional economic cooperation architecture that benefits all”.
While the Marshall Plan focused only on Western Europe, the Chinese vision has a global approach. Chinese President Xi Jinping while addressing the World Economic Forum 2017, vividly spelt out the role that China envisaged playing in orchestrating economic globalisation. Referring to rising protectionism and uncertainties generated by Brexit he said, “Though globalisation has created new problems, there is no justification to write off economic globalisation completely. Rather, we should adapt to and guide economic globalisation, cushion its negative impact and deliver its benefits to all countries and all nations”.
The emergence of Nato just two years after the initiation of the Marshall Plan was actually in response to the security threat that Europe faced from Communist global power, the USSR, and its allies. Nato also had an ideological task – to block the spread of communism. CPEC has no military or ideological dimension as it is purely an economic agenda. The Marshall Plan aimed at reviving the war-ravaged economies of Western Europe while CPEC aims at working for economic gains for the entire region. The countries that are likely to become part of CPEC, do not suffer the aftermath of war.
It is true that like the Marshall Plan, which found new markets for American goods, the CPEC initiative and the ‘One Belt One Road’ vision are also meant to find new markets for Chinese goods, but the latter will not be a one-way traffic. The countries participating in CPEC would also be marketing their goods in China. So it is wrong to assume that CPEC will only create a market for Chinese goods and not vice verse. Actually, it would be a win-win situation for all the participating countries and all those who would use the Gwadar Port for their imports and exports like China, Russia and the Central Asian states. Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan are also likely to join. This economic integration will also bring political stability in the region through the creation of economic interdependence between these countries.
It is true that some regional countries and the US are wary of this Chinese initiative and are making covert and overt efforts to sabotage it, but these threats do not warrant the formation of a military alliance like Nato or the Warsaw Pact by the participating countries. This fear then, among circles venturing to draw parallels between the Marshall Plan and CPEC, can be put to rest.
Contrary to the apprehension being aired, Pakistan would be the biggest beneficiary of the economic benefits flowing from CPEC. Just imagine the impact of the energy and infrastructure projects under CPEC. Economic experts believe that the successful completion of CPEC would add 2.5 percent growth rate to our GDP.
Pakistan and China have strong bilateral relations in economic and military domains and they are also capable of warding off any security threats to CPEC installations and the Gwadar Port. They do not require any formal military alliance to do this. Besides, China does not seem to favour military alliances anyway. Its new leadership, very rightly, envisages promotion of peace through economic interdependence and therefore would be least interested in forming any military alliance – something that happened in the backdrop of the Marshall Plan.
The foregoing facts make it quite evident that there are no striking similarities between CPEC and the Marshall Plan.
The writer is a freelance contributor. Email: