The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is one of the major spokes of Beijing’s multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an ambitious attempt to remake global trade and transport infrastructure. CPEC’s terminus is Gwadar, a port city in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, near the Iranian border. The plan for CPEC is to connect Gwadar with Xinjiang, the enormous “Uyghur Autonomous Region,” through a network of highways, railways, and pipelines. CPEC would boost trade between Pakistan and China, and give China access to the Indian Ocean for exports as well as a shorter route for imports of Middle Eastern oil. Despite growing local discontent and an insurgency that targets Chinese interests, Pakistani and Chinese officials continue to talk up Gwadar’s potential. During a press junket last year in Beijing that included journalists from Pakistan, Assistant Foreign Minister Nong Rong called Gwadar “the second Shenzhen,” likening it to the onetime southern Chinese fishing village that has become a symbol of China’s economic and technological success.

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