Eye on China: The Virus Spreads – CPEC & FATF – Provincial GDP – Myanmar Visit – Merkel & Macron

Eye on China is a weekly bulletin offering news and analysis related to the Middle Kingdom from an Indian interests perspective. This week we cover Beijing’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, new developments in CPEC, Indian reactions to Xi’s Myanmar visit and much more… 

I. CPEC & FATF:

Xi Jinping is scheduled to travel to Pakistan around May or June this year. Ahead of that the NDRC has asked the Pakistani side to convene the 10th Joint Cooperation Committee meeting under the CPEC framework ahead of its schedule. The idea is to prepare a plan for the execution of a bunch of mega projects coinciding with Xi’s visit.

There’s already one landmark development related to CPEC this week. The Gwadar port has begun handling transit cargo headed to and from Afghanistan. VOA reports “Kabul traditionally has relied on Pakistani overland routes and the two main southern seaports of Karachi and Port Qasim for international trade under a bilateral deal with Islamabad, known as the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement (ATTA). The recent Chinese financial and construction efforts, though, have activated the strategically located Arabian Sea deep-water port of Gwadar, which offers a much shorter overland link, particularly to southern regions of Afghan, for the rapid delivery of goods.”

Naveed Butt reports for Business Recorder that “approximately 38.4 percent funds have been released from July 2019 to 17 January 2020 for projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – 11.52 percent lower than the 50 percent pledged for the first half of the fiscal year. The government budgeted Rs 95.73 billion in the ongoing year for 31 CPEC projects at a total estimated cost of Rs 1.62 trillion under the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) and has so far released Rs 36.84 billion.”

Meanwhile, an FATF meeting in Beijing this week is suggesting that Pakistan could likely be getting off the graylist. The News International reports that the FATF was “showed satisfaction over Pakistan’s” compliance report. TOI’s Indrani Bagchi tweeted this week that Pakistan had been cleared on 16 of 27 Action Plans by the FATF. To get out from the graylist into the whitelist Pakistan requires 12 votes out of total 39 at the plenary meeting scheduled in Paris on February 16, 2020.

Here’s what the Chinese foreign ministry said on the FATF meeting: “Pakistan has made all-out efforts to strengthen domestic CFT regime with visible progress. Its political will and active efforts should be recognized and encouraged by the international community. We hope FATF will offer Pakistan constructive support and assistance in its continued efforts to improve its counter-terrorism financing system and effectively fight terrorist financing.”

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s paying back in kind. Speaking to DW, when asked about his silence on Chinese policies in Xinjiang, he said: “China has been our great friend. It has helped us in our most difficult times because of the economic crisis my government inherited. Therefore, we do talk about things with China privately, not publicly, as these are sensitive issues.”

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