Most Pakistani economists and politicians see the CPEC as a possible game-changer. But sharp differences have emerged within the country about the true underlying value of some of the project components. Many skeptics say the route has been designed to benefit Prime Minister Sharif's home state of Punjab.

"We will not accept this decision and will resist this move very strongly," Hamid Khan Achakzai, Baloachistan minister for planning and development, told Reuters. "It will be a big injustice."

In Pakistan's eyes, the Chinese enthusiasm is best gauged by the fact that non-military funding from Washington has been a mere $5 billion. Countering this notion, cynics say many of the Pakistani projects are unrealistic and Xi is merely trying to pump up his grand scheme, the Silk Road program.

"Will China lend as much as they are talking about in Pakistan? I doubt that," Miller said. "Those numbers are mostly Chinese propaganda. They are very good at getting huge headlines."

Next Phase: India Comes Calling

Xi will have another opportunity to demonstrate that the program, which Beijing christened "One Belt, One Road," when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes calling on May 14.

One branch line of the program is called Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar (BCIM), which China is pushing India to accept. India's acceptance is crucial to the success of BCIM because the other three countries do not offer much of a market for Chinese goods.

In its current design configuration, the scheme includes a road that would start in China's Kunming city, travel to Myanmar and then transverse India's North East region before ending in Bangladesh.

Ports and industrial parks also would be built in a production-transportation game plan, according to Chinese officials.

In order to avoid being part of BCIM, Modi has come up with an alternative project, called Mausam, that would link Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Beijing now has made a counteroffer, proposing to conjoin BCIM with Mausam. That strategy would keep the focus on building infrastructure—China's primary objective.

The world certainly will be impressed if India, which has been resisting the plan for some time, eventually succumbs to China's persuasion. It also will give a lot of credibility to Xi's dream.