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Thursday, February 15, 2024

The man behind 70 years of Pak-China friendship

Pakistan and China celebrate 70 years of diplomatic relations due to General Geng Biao. He served as an Ambassador to Pakistan from March 1956 to October 1959 and is credited with strengthening the foundations of the Pak-China friendship.

China-Pakistan relations are cited as a role model in International Relations. The relationship is described by the leadership of both countries as strong as “Steel,” as high as “Himalayan,” as sweet as “Honey,” as deep as” ocean,” as close as “Two Eyes.” It is termed all-weather, time-tested, and all-dimension, reliable, trustworthy, and “pure” friendship.

Against the Western ideology, “it is the interests which decide the friends and foes in the international relations.” China-Pakistan relations are based on Eastern values, which are based on sincerity and much above materialistic interests. According to one of the Pew Surveys, Pakistan is a country that loves China most, just after the Chinese themselves.

Read more: Celebrating 70 Years of Pakistan-China Friendship

Since the establishment of formal diplomatic relations on 21st May 1951, there was no dispute or any difference of opinion between the two countries. Both stood side by side on all difficult moments and were proved true friends indeed in the hours of in need.

Both support each other on domestic issues, like Kashmir, Balochistan, the Afghan war, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, or Tibet. On International affairs, both share exactly the same point of view, like Palestine issue, Ukraine, Human Rights, or Globalization and Multilateralism, etc. China has bailed out Pakistan quite a few times in the UNSC. At the UN and International forums, both countries vote in harmony.

Read more: China, Pakistan agree to safeguard multilateralism, support UN central role

While celebrating the 70th Anniversary of establishing formal diplomatic relations between the two countries, we must salute the man behind it. It was General Geng Biao, the Ambassador of China to Pakistan, from March 1956 to October 1959.

He was a close associate with Chairman Mao and trusted one of the most loyal colleagues. Chairman Mao appointed him to Pakistan as Chinese Ambassador with a unique vision to place a strong foundation of friendship between the two countries.

General Biao’s lucrative career

General Geng Biao, born on 26 August 1909, in Liling, Hunan Province of China, was a senior official in the Communist Party of China (CPC) and a leader in Chinese politics, foreign relations, and military. He entered the Communist Youth League of China in Shuikoushan in 1925.


He organized and led a militia in Liuyang in 1928. In August of the same year, he joined CPC. He served in Red Army, fought against the Japanese, and participated actively in the Chinese Civil War.

After the liberation of China in 1949, Geng was appointed as the Ambassador to Sweden, and minister to Denmark and Finland on 9 May 1950, before appointed to Pakistan as Ambassador of China.

Read more: Is China an alternative superpower for the Muslim world?

He was also the Ambassador to Myanmar and Albania. After returning to China in 1971, he became the head of CPC’s central foreign communication department, in charge of CPC’s relations with foreign parties.

In 1978, he was appointed as vice-premier of the State Council, in charge of foreign relations, military industry, civil airlines, and tourism. In January 1979, he became the secretary-general and member of the Standing Committee of CPC’s Central Military Commission.

In 1981, he became the only ever civilian Minister of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China despite his previous combat experience and became state counselor the following year.

Read more: How has China mastered geo-strategy formulation

In 1983, he became vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and chairmen of the foreign relation committee in PNC. He was also a member of the Standing Committee of CPC’s senior consultative committee. He was awarded First-Class Red Star Medal.

Connecting Pakistan and China

General Geng Biao, Ambassador of China to Pakistan, is the real architect of the Pakistan-China friendship, establishing strong collaboration between the armed forces of the two neighboring states. He was purposefully appointed Ambassador to Pakistan, as it was a time when military rulers ruled Pakistan.

Presidents Sikandar Mirza and Ayub Khan both had army backgrounds. General Geng got along very well with the Pakistani leadership at that time, as they had a common background with similar hobbies such as hunting. Within no time, General Geng Biao achieved complete harmony with them. Both armies received strong support from each other.

Read more: Dynamics of the Multifaceted Pakistan-China Relationship

General Geng Biao(late), during his appointment as the Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan in 1956-59, realized the importance of connecting China and Pakistan by road. His visionary approach to build Karakorum Highway (KKH) was conceived by him.

KKH has connected Nothern Areas with the rest of Pakistan and connected the Xinjiang Province of China with Pakistan. China can reach the Arabian Sea through KKH. He convinced the leadership of that time, Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou En Lai, to construct the Karakoram Highway, which would connect China’s Xinjiang province with Pakistan.

Read more: Karakoram Highway: A Dream fifty years ahead of time!

As a military strategist, he can realize and foresee the tension in the Pacific Ocean may explode in the future, leaving China isolated and blocked. It was necessary to find an alternative that was connected China with the Arabian Ocean through KKH, Pakistan.

It took some time to lobby and convince the leadership in Beijing, and the project launched in the 1960s, completed in 1978, with the hard work of Chinese and Pakistani Engineers. Those who know the topography of Northern Areas can understand the difficulty of the project. Almost one precious human life was sacrificed for each one Kilometer of the road.

Imagine, in the 1960s, the technology was not so developed, and the economy was also not so good in shape. However, under CPEC, the KKH has been upgraded almost and turned into a Motorway/ Highway, where one can drive almost throughout the year (all-weather) and at the speed of 120 KM.

Read more: The Karakoram Highway – A forerunner of CPEC

The scenic beauty of KKH is worth visiting in addition to its economic utility. KKH is also known as the 8th wonder of the world and attracts a vast number of domestic and international tourists.

A mentor to President Xi

It is worth mentioning that President Xi served as his Staff Officer in his youth age. President Xi as a young officer was trained and mentored by General Geng Biao. In fact, President Xi was so much close to him as a family member; Geng Mama used to take good care of President Xi and provide special food on all occasions.

President Xi was brought up just like the 5th child of the Geng family. President Xi acknowledges General Biao as his mentor, and he mentioned that his love for Pakistan was inherited from his boss General Geng when he visited Pakistan for the first time in 2015.

Read more: Xi Jing Ping: President for life?

President Xi respects his boss, General Geng Biao, a lot. He performed all virtuals of his death on 23 June 2000 in Beijing, when President Xi was Governor in Fujian Province, and travel all the long way to Beijing just to perform his burial ceremonies himself.

President Xi came into power in 2013 and launched the “One belt one road” (OBOR) or the “Belt and Road Initiative” which is a major development plan for China’s future. Today, around 100 countries have joined OBOR. There are six economic corridors planned under it, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is one of them.

Read more: Making sense of China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Since it is the first one, it has been declared as the flagship project. Both China and Pakistan highly prioritize it and are occupied with making it a success so it can stand as a role model for the following five economic corridors. As a matter of fact, BRI is a refined and improved version of General Geng Biao’s vision.

The legacy still going strong

Although General Geng Biao died on 23 June 2000, his mission is eternal and carried over by his family. He has two sons and two daughters. One of his sons died at an early age, the other son is in business and promoting friendship with Myanmar.

His younger daughter Madam Geng Yan is a professor, researcher, and managing a think tank promoting China-Pakistan friendship. She is in love with Pakistan as much as her father and very active in bringing the two-nation closer.

Read more: Pakistan China relation: friendship turned into business?

She took Bambbos tree from the Chinese consulate (old Embassy) in Karachi, planted by her father in the 1950s during his tenure in Pakistan as Ambassador, and planted in his birthplace Liling- Hunan Province China as a memory of his father’s love with Pakistan.

She is contributing intellectually toward China-Pakistan relations. Gener Geng’s eldest daughter, Madam Geng Ying is chairperson of the Pakistan-China Friendship Association and very active in promoting the ties further.

Read more: Is Pakistan China’s darling?

His granddaughter GM Geng Jing is also very active in China-Pakistan relations and contributing a lot. I met Grand-Grand, son of General Geng (son of Ms. Geng Jing), and was impressed that such a young teenage boy knows a lot about the history of China-Pakistan relations.

An eternal friendship

In fact, Geng Family has inherited the love for Pakistan, and all of them are contributing positively. I am very much optimistic that these are the people who are actual heroes of China-Pakistan ties. With this high spirit, one can understand the reason for this “Pure friendship” and eternal love for each other.

General Geng has laid the foundation very solid and robust and then transferred this responsibility to his next generations and will be carried over to coming generations in the future uninterestedly.

Read more: Pakistan-China ties: Diplomacy to strategic partnership

I have the honor to maintain a close liaison with Geng Family and learned a lot about the genuine friendship between the two countries. Geng’s family is my mentor, and their sincerity and love for Pakistan inspire me.

While we are celebrating the happy 70th Anniversary of our “Pure Friendship,” we may acknowledge and pay a salute to General Geng and his family. Long lives China-Pakistan eternal friendship!

Read more: What Can Pakistan Learn from the Chinese Miracle

Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan. (E-mail: awanzamir@yahoo.com).The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.