Chinese ambassador, Yao Jing, on Wednesday, announced that Pakistan and China were entering the “new stage of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC),” wherein areas of cooperation would be further built upon. The high-level discussions on the next phase of CPEC, the ambassador said, would take place on the sidelines of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China during next week. PM Khan is scheduled to attend the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Forum. Jing was speaking at the launch ceremony of a book, titled, “CPEC-A Precursor to Regional Economic Growth and Stability,” published by Strategic Vision Institute (SVI). He noted, “Our leaders are jointly working with him (PM Khan) to elaborate the new stage.” The edited book contains chapters written by both Pakistani and Chinese scholars. It seeks to highlight the opportunities and potential of the economic corridor while addressing misperceptions and redirecting the focus of the discourse from its geo-strategic and political implications to economic and development aspects. The best of CPEC is yet to come: Senator Mushahid With over 300 pages, the book contains 12 chapters and has been edited by SVI President, Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema. The new phase relates to a stronger involvement of the private sector, including the activation of Special Economic Zones, social sector cooperation and the involvement of third-country partners. The envoy added that an agreement on social sector cooperation would be signed during PM Khan’s upcoming visit to China. The social sector cooperation would cover as many as six areas, including education, health, agriculture, water and irrigation, poverty alleviation and human resource development. He made note of 27 projects being initiated with the Chinese government grant to the tune of $1 billion. Jing said that both countries had agreed to involve third-party countries. “All countries are welcome to join the development of Pakistan’s economy,” he added. Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, also spoke on this occasion. The CPEC was a strategic national project, which was above party affiliations and provincial considerations, he said. Syed added that the corridor was strengthening the federation by developing infrastructure and bringing progress and prosperity to the country. The senator noted that the project had already made significant contributions in terms of addressing the energy crisis, operationalizing of Gawadar port and activation of Thar Coal project. However, he believed that “the best of CPEC” was yet to come. The senator maintained that Pakistan would become a hub of the emerging ‘greater South Asia’, which would not just include the SAARC countries, but also China, Iran, and the Gulf region. He rejected the threats of containing China; saying it was an outdated cold-war mindset that was irrelevant to the 21st century Asia. Former Defense Minister, Lt Gen (R) Khalid Naeem Lodhi, has co-authored a chapter in the book. He said, “The entire framework of relationships between states, government and the people, and people to people may undergo a tectonic shift if the concept of shared prosperity is honestly embraced and common threats to humanity like climate change, environmental deterioration, disease and illiteracy are fought collectively.” Another contributing author, National University of Science and Technology (NUST) Chinese Studies Center Director, Amb (R) Syed Javed Hassan, emphasized the need for urgent reforms in governance, agriculture, industrial, energy, taxation, SEZ, SMEs, civil service, electoral, land, labour, administration, higher education, and foreign trade sectors to gain optimal benefits from CPEC.