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The impact of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on Pakistan's federal system: the politics of the CPEC

Boni, Filippo; Adeney, Katharine


Filippo Boni


The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is often portrayed as the flagship project of the new economic and political architecture envisaged by China as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). With official figures suggesting a $62 billion CPEC-related investment, the economic corridor has dominated Pakistan's domestic and international politics since its launch in 2015. While a great deal of attention has been devoted to the regional geopolitical repercussions of CPEC, the contours of CPEC's impact on Pakistan's federal system and interprovincial relations have not yet been explored. This is surprising since the conceptualisation of CPEC, and the manner in which its multiple projects are being implemented (or not) within Pakistan, has re-awakened grievances surrounding federalism and the location of power within Pakistan. This is because concerns have been raised about whether Pakistan's poorest provinces (Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the 'semi' province of Gilgit-Baltistan) will reap the benefits from China's investment or whether these benefits will be enjoyed mainly by the Punjab. In this context, this paper seeks to answer one key question: has CPEC strengthened or weakened the provinces visa -vis the federal government? Organised around interviews conducted in 2015, 2018 and 2019, the analysis demonstrates how the construction of the economic corridor is acting as a centripetal force in Pakistan's federal structure, despite the potential for such a large level of external investment to redress the disparities between provinces. Against such backdrop, the paper assesses the implementation of the early-harvest projects in three key CPEC-related areas: transport, energy and the development of the port of Gwadar.


Boni, F., & Adeney, K. (2020). The impact of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on Pakistan's federal system: the politics of the CPEC. Asian Survey, 60(3), 441–465.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 3, 2020
Online Publication Date Jun 1, 2020
Publication Date Jun 1, 2020
Deposit Date Jul 8, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jun 2, 2021
Journal Asian Survey
Print ISSN 0004-4687
Electronic ISSN 1533-838X
Publisher University of California Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 60
Issue 3
Pages 441–465
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Published as The Impact of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on Pakistan’s Federal System: The Politics of the CPEC Filippo Boni; Katharine Adeney Asian Survey (2020) 60 (3): 441-465. . © 2020 by [the Regents of the University of California/Sponsoring Society or Association]. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by [the Regents of the University of California/on behalf of the Sponsoring Society] for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center.


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