Pakistan and China enjoy close and friendly relations since the establishment of diplomatic relations in May 1951. Pakistan was one of the first countries that recognized the People’s Republic of China. Over the years, the relationship has blossomed into an “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership”. Pakistan considers China as one of its closest friends and partner and China considers Pakistan as its “Iron Brother”.
The bilateral relationship between the two neighboring countries is characterized by feelings of mutual trust, respect, and goodwill toward each other. There is a regular exchange of visits at the highest level between the two countries. The strategic cooperation between Pakistan and China has grown over the past several decades.
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Understanding the matter better
Economically, China is Pakistan’s largest trading partner and a major investor, especially in the infrastructure and energy sector. In 2018, bilateral trade between the two countries reached US$ 18 billion. With the official launch of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the bilateral relationship has been elevated to a higher level. CPEC is a flagship project of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s initiative of “One Road and One Belt”. It aims at enhancing connectivity and improving infrastructure between Pakistan and China. Several projects are being implemented under CPEC, for the enhancement of infrastructure and generation of energy.
People-to-people contacts are an important aspect of the bilateral relationship. The year 2015 was celebrated as the Year of Friendly Exchanges between Pakistan and China and several high-profile events were organized including seminars, exchange of visits, and cultural events to highlight people-to-people interactions.
The support that China and Pakistan give each other is considered significant in global diplomacy, and has been compared to Israel–United States relations and Russia–Serbia relations. When confronted by US officials about Beijing’s uncompromising support for Pakistan, Chinese General XiongGuangkai famously said, “Pakistan is China’s Israel.” Andrew Small, the author of The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics, characterizes this remark as “part explanation, part sarcastic jibe, delivered by (China’s) military intelligence chief after one too many meetings with US counterparts on the subject.”
According to a Pew survey of Pakistani public opinion in 2010, 84 percent of respondents said they had a favorable view of China and 16 percent had a favorable view of the United States. Similarly, the Chinese state-run media has portrayed Pakistan in a favorable light on regional issues. In 2013, this figure increased to 90% of Pakistanis had a favorable view of China.
Pakistan, with its strategic position, natural resources, and warm-water ports, has long been an ally of Beijing. The Chinese see the south Asian state, the closest they have to a friend both in south Asia and in the Islamic world, as important to the security and development of their western, predominantly Muslim provinces, and as a useful aide in efforts to counter the influence of India. In recent years, links have grown closer.
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A common quotation referring to China-Pakistan Friendship is, “A Friendship Higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the ocean, sweeter than honey, and stronger than steel.”
Pakistan and China have several Consultations mechanisms including Strategic Dialogue at Foreign Ministers’ level, Political Consultations at Foreign Secretary/Vice-Minister level; consultations on South Asia, Arms Control, Counter-terrorism; Human Rights; Peacekeeping; Maritime Dialogue; Border management consultations, and Consular affairs.
The Third Round of Pakistan-China Bilateral Political Consultations (BPC) was held in Beijing on 18 March 2023. Foreign Secretary Dr. AsadMajeed Khan led the Pakistan delegation while the Chinese side was led by Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong. BPC is a regular institutional mechanism between Pakistan and China.
The two sides reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and agreed to expand and reinforce political and security cooperation, bilateral trade, economic and financial cooperation, cultural exchanges, tourism, and people-to-people ties. Pakistan and China will also enhance high-level engagements and dialogue mechanisms and make the channels of communication even more robust.
The way forward
Noting the completion of a decade of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to CPEC which remains a major pillar of bilateral cooperation and a symbol of ever-deepening friendship between Pakistan and China. They also agreed to remain engaged in the expansion of CPEC including on participation of third parties to enhance regional connectivity and cooperation.
Foreign Secretary thanked the Chinese side for its consistent and generous support for the economic stability of Pakistan and the humanitarian assistance during the devastating floods in 2022. Vice Foreign Minister Sun reaffirmed China’s support for Pakistan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and economic security.
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The two sides exchanged views on a range of regional and global issues of mutual interest and expressed satisfaction over their close cooperation and engagement on important regional developments including in Afghanistan. Pakistan and China will further strengthen dialogue and cooperation in multilateral platforms.
With the passage of each day, the depth and warmth of relations kept on growing. China-Pakistan relations are ideal and role models for the rest of the world to follow. Long Lives China-Pakistan Traditional friendship!
Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Founding Chair GSRRA, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, and Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization). (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
The views expressed in the article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.