China’s restrained relation to Pakistan

Jane Perlez’s report on Pakistani-China relations a while back revealed significant dimensions of that relationship that are worth emphasizing [click on the title for a link to the whole article]:  Pakistan, for all its potentiality to China, is not yet in a position to be useful to China.  Several statements in this text stood out for me:

“Pakistan’s ability to use China to offset its collapsing relations with the United States may be far more limited than it appears, raising the prospect that Pakistan will be left on the world’s periphery once the Americans wind down the war in Afghanistan …”

But China’s core interests lie elsewhere — in its competition with the United States and in East Asia, experts say. China has shown little interest in propping up the troubled Pakistani economy, … [and they] have pulled back on some [projects] as they have come under the threat of terrorism . . . . Last month a large Chinese coal mining company . . .  canceled a $19 billion contract in Sindh Province, citing concerns about security, in particular employees’ safety.”

The most important concern about insecurity in Pakistan is that it could spill into Xinjiang. 

“[I]f it’s not stable [in Pakistan] we can’t keep the peace in Xinjiang.”

And the project in Gwadar has stalled. 

The Pakistanis]  “asked China to build a naval base at Gwadar, the port on the Arabian Sea where China completed commercial facilities in 2008. [But they were rebuffed.] … For the moment, China does not see Gwadar as being of much strategic value, . . .  Since its completion, the port has become a rusting hulk, a destination to nowhere.”  

Yes, the original supposition was that it would become a terminal for pipelines from Turkmenistan, via Afghanistan, and possibly from Iran.  Events in Afghanistan have precluded that.  Even so, it is reasonable to suppose that under different circumstances Gwadar could become vitally important — an issue to be watched.