A group photo of prominent Pakistanis with Imran Khan at the residence of Ambassador in Beijing, in 2011. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
By Zamir Ahmed Awan, a senior fellow with Center for China and Globalization(CCG)
Pakistan-China relations are unique and sometimes appear to be beyond the understanding of other countries. Pakistan recognized the People’s Republic of China in its early days. The first official high-level delegation visited China just three months after the liberation of China, on January 4, 1950.
In international relations, the common wisdom is nobody is a permanent friend, and national interests dictate countries’ alignments and friendships. But Pakistan and China are above this. We are true friends, strong partners and we believe in mutual understanding and consultation.
During modern China’s first two decades, it faced resistance and hindrance from the West, which tried to economically cripple China through sanctions and isolation. Pakistan was vital during that era. Pakistan maintained a close alliance with the West, but at the same time kept close relations with China and always protected Chinese interests in the Western world. Pakistan was a close friend of China when China was facing severe challenges. Now, when China has emerged as a global power, almost all countries are willing to maintain close relations with China — but interests still dictate their positions.
Imran Khan, the new prime minister of Pakistan, is scheduled to visit China from Nov 2 to5. The whole world will be watching. The Western media has spread misinformation and confusion with the aim of damaging China-Pakistan relations, hoping Imran Khan may roll-back or re-negotiate the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. I believe this visit will be an end to the negative propaganda.
Khan will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. It will strengthen our traditional friendship and promote closer cooperation. Khan is a man of strong personality and a visionary leader. He sincerely wants to build Pakistan into a strong and prosperous country. He is backed with the support of 220 million Pakistanis. He shares many things in common with Xi, like honesty of purpose, hard work, being a people person and wanting to develop their own countries. Both are against corruption, and China has achieved very good progress in this regard. Khan will avail this opportunity and learn from the Chinese experience on curbing this menace of society. Khan also wants to benefit from the Chinese experience of eradicating poverty.
His meeting with the Chinese leadership will also provide firsthand information on the latest developments in geopolitics. China and Pakistan may formulate a common strategy to face challenges, especially in the sphere of regional cooperation. CPEC will be at the top of the agenda, as CPEC is vital for the economic survival of Pakistan and an opportunity for economic take-off. The meeting is expected to speed up CPEC and enhance its scope. Pakistan wants to make CPEC a model for the Belt and Road Initiative.
Special Economic Zones will also be an important agenda item, as the most important phase of CPEC is industrialization and how China will shift its industry into Pakistan. Pakistan is a country with an abundance of raw materials, cheaper labor and a big market, with a population of 220 million. Pakistan’s location gives a natural advantage for exporting goods to the rest of the world. Gwadar port will be a hub of commercial activities, and a strong industrial base in the near future. There are nine planned SEZs, of which three are almost ready for launch.
Khan will also attend the Shanghai Import Expo on Nov 5 as guest of honor. He will be accompanied by a 75-member delegation of business leaders from Pakistan. This will provide an opportunity to understand the huge Chinese market and its needs. Pakistan is facing a trade deficit in favor of China, amounting to$12.5 billion. This expo may help narrow the trade gap.
The understanding developed by this visit will have a long-lasting impact and serve as guideline for future cooperation between China and Pakistan. Khan has just started his five-year tenure, so there will be sufficient time to implement any decision made during this visit.
Zamir Ahmed Awan is a senior fellow with Center for China and Globalization(CCG) and a sinologist at the National University of Sciences and Technology.
From China Daily，2018-11-1