The China-Pakistan Friendship Highway runs over 1,300 kilometres from the far western Chinese city of Kashgar through the world’s highest mountain pass and across the border.
For China, the two-lane thoroughfare symbolises a blossoming partnership, nourished with tens of billions of dollars of infrastructure investment.
But for many Pakistani businessmen living and working on the Chinese side of the border, the road is a one-way street.
“China says our friendship is as high as the Himalayas and as deep as the sea, but it has no heart,” said businessman Murad Shah, as he tended his shop in Tashkurgan, 120 kilometres from the mountain pass where trucks line up to cross between China’s vast Xinjiang region and Pakistan.
“There is no benefit for Pakistan. It’s all about expanding China’s growth,” Shah said, as he straightened a display of precious stones.
The remote town of around 9,000 is at the geographic heart of Beijing’s plans to build a major trade artery — the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) — connecting Kashgar to the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar.
The project is a crown jewel of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, a massive global infrastructure programme to revive the ancient Silk Road and connect Chinese companies to new markets around the world.