Timeline: The Pre-History of CPEC and China-Pakistan Relations

Launched in 2015, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC is a 15-year, three-phase connectivity project linked to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The planned CPEC completion date is 2030. CPEC marks the latest phase in China-Pakistan relations, with economics and trade playing a more substantial role than ever before. Its roots go back to the 1950s, when China and Pakistan established diplomatic relations and Pakistan purchased the Gwadar port from the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman.

The History of CPEC

Xi Jinping Visits Pakistan, Formally Inaugurates CPEC

Chinese President Xi Jinping begins a two-day visit to Pakistan, where he formally inaugurated the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

China and Pakistan Agree to Develop CPEC Long-Term Plan

Newly-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif makes a multi-day state visit to China. Beijing and Islamabad agree to “develop the long-term plan for [the] China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.”

China and Pakistan Agree to Develop ‘Economic Corridor’

During the visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Islamabad, China and Pakistan agree to develop an “economic corridor.” Li arrived in Islamabad after a trip to New Delhi, where he had discussed the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor.

Gwadar Leasing Rights Transferred to Chinese Company

Leasing rights for the Gwadar port are transferred from PSA International to China Overseas Ports Holding Company, registered in Hong Kong. Direct talks between PSA and China Harbor Engineering Company, another Chinese state-owned enterprise, began in 2012.

Gwadar Handles First Bulk Shipment

The Gwadar port receives its first shipment: 72,700 metric tons of wheat — well above its capacity of 50,000 DWT. As a result, a portion of the shipment had to be offloaded onto another vessel before the ship was able to dock.

PSA Operations at Gwadar Port Begin

The inauguration of PSA International’s operation of the Gwadar port takes place. The Singapore-based company was awarded the port concession in December 2006, though Dubai’s DP World was seen as the favorite.

Groundbreaking for Gwadar Port Construction Takes Place

Pakistani military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Chinese Vice Premier Wu Bangguo attend groundbreaking ceremony for the Gwadar Port. Musharraf describes the port as a gateway for “Central Asia and also China’s western region.”

China Agrees to Finance Gwadar Port and Makran Coastal Highway Construction

During a state visit to Pakistan, Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji agrees to finance the first phase of the construction of the Gwadar port and the Makran Coastal Highway that connects Gwadar to Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.

Khunjerab Pass Opens for China-Pakistan Traffic

The Karakoram Highway — completed in 1979, after two decades of construction and the loss of hundreds of lives — opens for two-way traffic at the Khunjerab Pass border crossing. Four years later, the Khunerjab Pass would be open to foreign tourists.

Gwadar Transferred to Pakistani Control
Gwadar Transferred to Pakistani Control

The Sultanate of Muscat and Oman transfers control of Gwadar to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which purchased the territory for a sum of $8.4 million.