Chinese imperialism targeted in Balochistan

June 2019 Baloch army (Karlos Zurutuza)

By ERNIE GOTTA

The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) has launched multiple attacks in the last seven months against Chinese assets in Balochistan, Pakistan. On Sunday May 12, gunmen from the Majeed Brigade of the BLA claimed responsibility for an attack on a hotel in Gwadar. This most recent attack occurred days after an attack at a coal mine in the Quetta region of Balochistan that killed two workers and two security personnel.

Balochistan is the largest province in Pakistan and is rich in mineral resources. A majority of the people living in Balochistan are of Baloch (52%) or Pashtun (36%) ethnicity. Baloch anger over the exploitation of natural resources by Chinese capitalists has given way to a strong separatist movement in the region of which the BLA is one of many independence groups.

The Balochistan province, and Gwadar in particular, have been the intense focus of Chinese capital, which built a $60 billion port in Gwadar as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Chinese companies stand to make significant profits from the CPEC deal. For example, China will receive 91% of the revenue from the Gwadar port for the next 40 years.

Gwadar is a poor and neglected part of Pakistan where costs of food and water are extremely high. Yet Chinese capitalists have even bigger plans for Gwadar. The building of the port is just one of many development projects headed by Chinese capitalists in the region, which also include mining, rail, and shipping for extraction and export of natural resources to European, Asian, and African markets. Plans also include building luxury hotels as a Dubai style playground for the world’s elite.

Chinese capital has not provided a progressive alternative to European and U.S. exploitation. Port cities in other countries that have accepted Chinese investments have paid a heavy price. Sri Lanka had to hand over ownership of its Hambantota port back to Chinese capital after being unable to repay loans to China for the cost of the ports construction. In Greece,

Chinese companies employ members of the fascist Golden Dawn party at the Port of Piraeus to help crush workers’ organizing efforts and protect Chinese economic interests.

In Pakistan, resistance to what is widely viewed by locals as exploitative Chinese development has taken forms other than armed struggle, including 2018 protests and strikes by fishermen over access to routes to the Arabian Sea. Their actions cost the economy millions.

The Chinese-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a vehicle for taking hold of Pakistani resources at the expense of the people in Balochistan. It is likely that Baloch resentments will deepen alongside the incursion of Chinese capital in the region; more conflict can be expected.

Photo: Karlos Zurutuza