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China As Pakistan’s Largest Bilateral Creditor: China’s ability to exert influence on Pakistan’s economy has grown substantially in recent years, mainly due to the fact that Beijing is now Islamabad’s largest creditor. According to documents released by Pakistan’s finance ministry, Pakistan’s total public and publicly guaranteed external debt stood at $44.35 billion in June 2013, just 9.3 percent of which was owed to China. By April 2021, this external debt had ballooned to $90.12 billion, with Pakistan owing 27.4 percent -$24.7 billion - of its total external debt to China, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  

Additionally, China provided financial and technical expertise to help Pakistan build its road infrastructure, expanding north-south connectivity to improve the efficiency of moving goods from Karachi all the way to Gilgit-Baltistan (POK). These investments were critical in better integrating the country’s ports, especially Karachi, with urban centers in Punjab and KhyberPakhtunkhwa provinces.

Despite power asymmetries between China and Pakistan, the latter still has tremendous agency in determining its own policies, even if such policies come at the expense of the longterm socioeconomic welfare of Pakistani citizens. 

Q. Analyse the implication of bilateral ‘debt-trap’ situation of Pakistan vis-à-vis the Chinese Economy.   

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China has become famous for its ‘Debt Trap Diplomacy’ in recent times. Under this China provides financial and technical expertise/assistance to help various nations to bring them under its direct or indirect influence.

The first and the foremost implication of the diplomacy is that Beijing has now become Islamabad’s largest creditor. According to documents released by Pakistan’s finance ministry, its total public external debt stood at $44.35 billion in June 2013, just 9.3 percent of which was owed to China. By April 2021, this external debt had ballooned to $90.12 billion, with Pakistan owing 27.4 percent —$24.7 billion — of its total external debt to China, according to the IMF.
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