BEIJING — Had you come to Gwadar in 2000, you would have taken in what Sohaib Jamali saw on his first trip here: a small, dusty fishing outpost huddled at the end of a long and terrible road in the distant southwestern corner of Pakistan, just 70 kilometres from the border with Iran.
Even three or four years ago, “it was still a sleepy village and nothing else,” said Mr. Jamali, a Karachi-based economist and independent researcher who has been to Gwadar a dozen times.
Now, the town is showing glimmers of a transformation that promise to turn it into a major trading axis in a vast project led by Beijing, one using Chinese money and Chinese methods to redraw maps of global trade and influence to the benefit of the world’s second-largest economy – while also, China promises, allowing others to emulate its own success in building prosperity.
When Mr. Jamali returned this January, he found a gleaming new six-lane highway leading into town. Worker accommodations have been erected and new dams completed nearby to store water that can keep the arid town alive. Roadside shops are booming, while car companies have set up showrooms to sell vehicles. Hotel rooms are hard to come by.
“The last time I went there I checked into a decent-sized room for 300 rupees a night. Today, it’s not available available for 3,000,” Mr. Jamali said. Gwadar lies 5,200 kilometres from Beijing, closer to Berlin than the Chinese capital. But its location on the Arabian Sea makes it the perfect point of connection between China’s far west and markets in the Middle East and Africa.
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