It is not clear how much of the plan will be earnestly followed up and how much is there simply to evince interest from the Pakistani side. In the areas of interest contained in the plan, it appears access to the full supply chain of the agrarian economy is a top priority for the Chinese. After that the capacity of the textile spinning sector to serve the raw material needs of Xinjiang, and the garment and value added sector to absorb Chinese technology is another priority.

Next is the growing domestic market, particularly in cement and household appliances, which receive detailed treatment in the plan. And lastly, through greater financial integration, the plan seeks to advance the internationalization of the RMB, as well as diversify the risks faced by Chinese enterprises entering Pakistan.

In some areas the plan seeks to build on a market presence already established by Chinese enterprises, eg Haier in household appliances, ChinaMobile and Huawei in telecommunications and China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC) in mining and minerals.

Gwadar receives passing mention as an economic prospect, mainly for its capacity to serve as a port of exit for minerals from Balochistan and Afghanistan, and as an entreport for wider trade in the greater Indian Ocean zone from South Africa to New Zealand. There is no mention of China’s external trade being routed through Gwadar. Judging from their conversations with the government, it appears that the Pakistanis are pushing the Chinese to begin work on the Gwadar International Airport, whereas the Chinese are pushing for early completion of the Eastbay Expressway.

But the entry of Chinese firms will not be limited to the CPEC framework alone, as the recent acquisition of the Pakistan Stock Exchange, and the impending acquisition of K Electric demonstrate. In fact, CPEC is only the opening of the door. What comes through once that door has been opened is difficult to forecast.

Addendum: Apropos a story titled “CPEC master plan revealed” appearing in Dawn on May 15, Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal has said that CPEC’s Long Term Plan is not a project document, rather it “delineates the aspirations of both sides”.

“It is a live document and both sides [China and Pakistan] have an understanding to modify it as per the need besides reviewing it periodically,” Mr Iqbal claimed on Monday.