China-Pakistan ironclad ties consolidated; key CPEC projects to advance as ‘BRI, Chinese modernization benefit all’

Yang Sheng, Nov 02, 2022 — Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday held talks with visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, and Sharif is one of the world leaders that has visited China right after the conclusion of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Experts said Sharif’s visit showed that the China-Pakistan ironclad friendship will be further deepened and will bring more certainty and stability to the region amid the profound changes that the world is experiencing.

China is ready to work with Pakistan to elevate the level of all-round strategic cooperation, speed up efforts to build a closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era, and inject new impetus into their all-weather strategic cooperative partnership, Xi said.

After presenting the key outcomes of the 20th CPC National Congress, President Xi underscored that China will continue its fundamental policy of opening-up and provide new opportunities to Pakistan and the rest of the world through continuous development. China will further deepen synergy between its development strategies and those of Pakistan.

Xi pointed out that the world, our times and history are changing in ways like never before. Facing a highly uncertain world, both sides should stand on the right side of history, keep up their strong cooperation in multilateral mechanisms, and work closely onmajor international and regional issues so as to uphold true multilateralism, international fairness and justice and the shared interests of developing countries, and inject certainty and positivity into the world.

Chinese analysts said the current international situation with great uncertainty and turbulence has brought challenges to all members among the international community, and China, as a major power that is able to contribute more certainty to the world, is further consolidating cooperation with its close partners and neighbors like Pakistan, to make the modernization process of both sides withstand any kind of impact and challenges.

According to a joint statement issued after the bilateral meeting, the two sides held in-depth exchange of views on the bilateral relations as well as regional situation and international political landscape. The two sides agreed on the importance of China-Pakistan All-weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership amid the emerging global challenges. The meetings were marked by traditional warmth, mutual strategic trust and commonality of views.

In the meeting, Sharif noted that it is a great honor for him to be among the first foreign leaders to visit China after the successful 20th CPC National Congress, which marked a new milestone. The visit is a testament to the profound, ironclad friendship between Pakistan and China.

Sharif said that over the past decade, under the leadership of President Xi, China has created a miracle of great development achievements. China has upheld multilateralism, promoted global solidarity and cooperation, and made important contributions to safeguarding world peace and development. In doing so, China has lived up to its responsibility as a major country.

Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Wednesday that “Having invited Sharif as one of the first foreign leaders to visit China after the conclusion of the 20th CPC National Congress, not only demonstrates the ever close relationship between the two sides but once again proves that the international community is optimistic about China’s development in the future, and is willing to strengthen ties with China.”

Sharif said at the meeting that “The world cannot operate without China, and China’s development cannot be isolated or contained by any force.”

Pakistan fully supports the Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative put forth by President Xi, said Sharif. It will strengthen communication and collaboration with China in international and regional affairs to make a positive contribution to world peace and development. “The Pakistan-China friendship is unbreakable. Pakistan will always stand firmly with China,” said the Pakistani prime minister.

Through the Belt and Road Initiative, China has helped Pakistan in solving two bottleneck problems plaguing Pakistan’s economic development – infrastructure and energy supply shortage, Qian said. Through the first phase of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) cooperation, it has laid a solid foundation and built a platform for Pakistan’s economic development in the next step, he noted.

Next, the cooperation will enter the second phase of high-quality development, going into sectors including production capacity cooperation, agriculture, social and livelihood areas among others, analysts said.

“The close and effective strategic coordination between China and Pakistan has set an example of international cooperation and has delivered a clear message to the world, that countries with different social systems, nationalities, civilizations and stages of development can still achieve win-win cooperation,” Qian said.

Cooperation on the CPEC

The two sides will fully utilize the Joint Cooperation Committee of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, advance CPEC with greater efficiency, and make it an exemplar of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, Xi said at the meeting.

It is important to accelerate the construction of auxiliary infrastructure for Gwadar Port to unleash its role in driving interconnected development in the region. The two sides will work together to create conditions for the early implementation of the upgradation of ML-1 and the Karachi Circular Railway project. Pakistan is welcome to export more quality agri-products to China, Xi remarked.

China will work with Pakistan to expand cooperation in the digital economy, e-commerce, photovoltaic and other new-energy technologies, and take solid steps to advance cooperation concerning agriculture, science, technology and people’s livelihoods, the Chinese president said.

China will continue to do its best to support Pakistan in stabilizing its financial situation. China supports its provinces with a strong industry in pairing up with Pakistani partners to advance industrial cooperation, and hopes the Pakistani side will provide a sound business environment, Xi noted.

Noting completion of a decade of CPEC’s remarkable achievements in 2023, the two sides expressed satisfaction at CPEC’s contribution to socio-economic development of the two countries, according to the joint statement.

The two sides also noted that the recent meeting of CPEC Joint Working Group on International Cooperation and Coordination (ICC) had highlighted that CPEC was an open and inclusive platform. Both sides welcomed interested third parties to benefit from investment opportunities in the priority areas of CPEC cooperation such as industry, agriculture, IT, science and technology, and oil and gas.

Lin Minwang, a professor at the Institute of International Studies of Fudan University, told the Global Times that due to the fact that there is a clear advantage for the development of the CPEC – the high-level mutual trust between China and Pakistan, and such kind of trust toward China from Pakistan is a solid consensus shared by all major political parties and forces.

“With Sharif coming to power earlier this year, the China-Pakistan cooperation on the CPEC has focused more on the massive infrastructure projects, and to improve the livelihoods for the locals with more progress on infrastructure construction,” Lin said.

President Xi expressed his great concern about the safety of Chinese nationals in Pakistan, and conveyed his hope that Pakistan will provide a reliable and safe environment for Chinese institutions and personnel working on cooperation projects there.

Terrorist attacks against the Chinese nationals and institutes in Pakistan bring a major threat to the development of the CPEC, so both sides are strengthening cooperation on counter-terrorism, Lin said, adding that “in general, the impact of terrorist attacks on the CPEC construction is limited and controllable.”

Sharif said Pakistan is ready to work with China to continue promoting high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, and hopes to have China’s strong support in the upgradation of ML-1, the Karachi Circular Railway and other important infrastructure projects. Pakistan will further step up security measures and do all it can to protect the safety of Chinese institutions and personnel.

According to the joint statement, the two sides condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and expressed opposition to the politicization of the issue of counter-terrorism. China recognized Pakistan’s contributions and sacrifices in the fight against terrorism. The two sides agreed to further enhance counter-terrorism cooperation to promote international peace and security.

China and Pakistan both have strong confidence and determination to realize the ambitious goal of making the CPEC an exemplar of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. So with the continuous efforts in the coming years, the CPEC will show the world how the BRI and the Chinese modernization can benefit others and solve regional problems via development rather than conflicts and wars, analysts said.

In addition, more countries around the globe will be encouraged to join and strengthen cooperation with China under the framework of the BRI, which will bring the current turbulent world back on the track of peace and development, they noted.

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