Ever since the 1955 Bandung Conference of Afro-Asian states, China has been active in civil engineering projects around the world, especially in Africa, as a sign of its commitment to the world emerging from colonialism.
In 2016, there are three key differences:
- these projects have spread well beyond Africa;
- infrastructure and a huge range of community facilities are now being built alongside roads and railways; and
- projects are now less about redressing colonialism and more about China becoming a major player in the world.
When it comes to Pakistan, will Chinese plans help it to both develop and move away from rebellion and fundamentalism? How much will these plans take into consideration the magnitude of the social problems in the provinces where their roads and railways cut through? There is a risk that the new provisions could become targets of insurrection instead of benefiting the local communities.