CPEC Could Serve As Stabilizing, Profit-Generating Project In Region: US General
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), that includes China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), could serve as a stabilizing, profit-generating project in the region, US CENTCOM Chief General Joseph Votel told a Congress hearing here.
During the hearing held before Congress’ Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Gen Votel gave a broader overview of the strategy that included Central and South Asia and dealt with the issue of terrorism and other US national interests.
The CENTCOM Chief noted that an increasingly assertive China is testing Russia’s dominance
in the economic and security areas of Central Asia but also posing challenges to U.S. influence. He observed that China was seeking to capitalize on regional concerns over waning U.S. influence and support.
Toward this end, he said, Beijing was building and strengthening trade, infrastructure, defence,
and political relationships across the Middle East, Central and South Asia. China is pursuing long-term, steady economic growth that bolsters its international influence and access to energy resources.
“Its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which includes the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), could serve as a stabilizing, profit-generating project in the region, but it could also improve China’s military posture,” he added.
He said that a number of infrastructure projects already provide China with access to Gwadar Port in Pakistan, which is operated through a Chinese-Pakistani agreement and has the “potential to increase China’s strategic presence in the Indian Ocean”.
Gen Votel observed that China considered its relationship with the GCC states critical for its current economic needs which, he added, provide approximately one-third of China’s oil needs.
Qatar is its single largest supplier of natural gas.
The US General, alluding to China’s increasing influence, said that Beijing has sought to arbitrate some conflicts in the region, offering to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The CENTCOM Chief described Iran as the major threat to U.S. interests and partnerships in the Central Region. He said that the competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia for influence in the region exacerbates multiple security dilemmas throughout the Middle East.