The BRI in National Peripheries: Gwadar and the limits of outsourced development

Speaker: Muhammad Tayyab Safdar
Venue: Hosted via Zoom
Date & Time:
2022-12-5 | 21:00-22:30 (Shanghai)
2022-12-5 | 8:00-9:30 (New York)
2022-12-5 | 17:00-18:30 (Abu Dhabi)

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is an important pilot project of China’s Belt & Road Initiative. Within CPEC, Gwadar in Pakistan’s Balochistan province enjoys a privileged position in the development imaginaries of both Chinese and Pakistani policymakers. Even though Gwadar is central to the discourse on CPEC and development, the impact on the ground remains limited. What explains this lack of progress despite Gwadarā€™s privileged position within CPEC and the BRI? This paper* argues that the lack of progress in Gwadar is a function of multiple variables, including the regionā€™s history as peripheral to Pakistanā€™s development imaginary, persistent violence and a growth model predicated on land speculation. Furthermore, Gwadar signifies what the paper refers to as an ā€˜outsourced developmentā€™ model in the BRI. In this model, Chinese actors, especially State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), take on the responsibilities of the state in providing public goods and other social services. The state within the host country further abdicates its limited role in providing peripheral regions with public goods and social services. The paper argues that although these non-state transnational actors are filling the void left by a weak domestic state, they have limited space for independent action and must work through local power structures.

*This paper is co-authored by Hammal Aslam Baloch, Director of the International Center for Refugee and Migration Studies, Assistant Professor at BUITEMS.

Tayyab Safdar completed his MPhil and PhD in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge. His current research explores the emerging dynamics of South-South Development Cooperation, especially after the launch of Chinaā€™s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013. His research also looks at the economic and political dimensions of increasing Chinese investment on host countries that are a part of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), focusing particularly on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Tayyabā€™s research has been published in the Journal of Development Studies and Energy for Sustainable Development.

Prior to joining UVA, Tayyab was a Newton Trust Post-Doctoral researcher at the Centre of Development Studies, University of Cambridge.

Introduction by Bhagya Senaratne, Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Global Asia at NYU Shanghai; Senior Lecturer in the Department of Strategic Studies, General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, Sri Lanka (KDU).

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