HomeWorldAsiaBuilding Bridges: China-Pakistan Partnership for Cooperation

Building Bridges: China-Pakistan Partnership for Cooperation

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Yifan Zhang, Hongwen Gong & Zongkai Guo

At present, the international situation is characterized by a confluence of changes and turmoil, and the century-old changes are accelerating. International political disputes and military conflicts have erupted at various points, and the global development and security situation is intricate and complex. However, under the treacherous world pattern of China-Pakistan relations, the development of the two countries has been in the same boat, standing together in good times and bad, and the friendship between them has become stronger over the years.

Forging Steel Friendship: The Historical Lineage of China-Pakistan Cooperation

In the early years of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, a solid foundation was laid for relations between the two sides. In 1951, Pakistan established diplomatic relations with China, the first country in the Islamic world to do so, and in 1955, during the Bandung Conference, Premier Zhou Enlai and Prime Minister Muhammad Ali held a friendly meeting to enhance understanding between the two sides based on seeking common ground while reserving differences. In the following year, the two countries realized the exchange of visits between their prime ministers and issued a joint statement. Since then, China and Pakistan have taken the first step towards cooperation and interaction.

Between 1957 and 1969, a new chapter in the relationship between the two sides was ushered in. In 1963, Pakistan signed the Sino-Pakistan Boundary Agreement with China, becoming one of the South Asian countries to establish a direct air link with China. When the Indo-Pakistani conflict intensified in 1965, China stood firmly by Pakistan’s side, providing military assistance and deploying troops to alleviate the immense pressure on the Pakistani side. In 1966, overcoming numerous difficulties and making great sacrifices, China aided Pakistan in completing the Sino-Pakistan Friendship Highway, establishing a close bond between the two nations.

From 1970 to the end of the 20th century, the friendly relations between the two sides developed intensively. In 1971, with the facilitation of Pakistan, the normalization of Sino-American relations was achieved, and in October of the same year, Pakistan firmly supported the one-China principle in the restoration of China’s legitimate seat in the United Nations. Subsequently, despite drastic changes in the world’s political landscape, the friendly relations between China and Pakistan withstood the test of international turbulence and continued to develop in depth. Especially by 1996, the two sides decided to establish a comprehensive partnership for the 21st century, elevating their relationship to a new level.

Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, the relations between the two countries have become everlasting and more solid than gold. From the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Direction of Development of Bilateral Cooperation to the signing of the China-Pakistan Treaty on Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, to the signing of the Five-Year Development Plan for China-Pakistan Economic and Trade Cooperation and the Free Trade Agreement, the two countries have been making every effort to realize the long-term and stable development of the relations between China and Pakistan. 2008, when the earthquake struck China’s Wenchuan, the Pakistani government was the first to send relief supplies to the disaster area and made use of the country’s strategic reserves to donate all the tents to China. In 2010, China was the first country to deliver relief supplies to the disaster area after the devastating floods, which were rare in history, and has provided additional assistance on several occasions.

Walking Together: Brilliant Achievements in China-Pakistan Cooperation

For more than 70 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Pakistan, the two countries have been mutually trusting, respectful and supportive. From the growing political mutual trust to the gradual deepening of economic cooperation to the increasingly close cultural, educational, scientific and technological exchanges, China and Pakistan have made brilliant achievements in cooperation in many fields.

Increasing political mutual trust

Although there were few exchanges in the early days of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Pakistan, China broke the diplomatic blockade, restored the legitimate seat in the United Nations and the normalization of China-US relations were all inseparable from the full support of Pakistan. Since entering the 21st century, China-Pakistan relations have been further developed under the impetus of high-level visits. From 2005, when the two countries announced the establishment of a “closer strategic partnership”, to 2015, when the relationship was upgraded to an all-weather strategic partnership, to 2023, when Xi Jinping put forward the idea of “promoting the construction of a closer community of destiny between China and Pakistan in the new era” during the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the launch of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This high level of political mutual trust has laid a solid foundation for cooperation between the two countries in other areas.

Gradually deepening economic cooperation

China has always regarded common development as an important goal of cooperation between China and Pakistan and advocated giving full play to their respective advantages to help the development and revitalization of the two countries. According to the Pakistani side, China has remained Pakistan’s largest trading partner, the top source of imports and the second-largest export destination for eight consecutive years since fiscal year 2015. The increasing number of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)projects is the strongest proof of the deepening economic cooperation between the two countries.

Since the launch of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Chinese and Pakistani governments have signed more than 50 cooperation agreements, constructed several important transportation infrastructure projects, and built the Port of Gwadar, a multi-purpose terminal with multiple berths. Now, the establishment of the five corridors of the “Growth Corridor”, “Livelihood Corridor”, “Innovation Corridor”, “Green Corridor” and “Open Corridor” indicates that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has moved towards the stage of high quality, and the direction of the construction of the Corridor will also be more comprehensive.

Closer cultural, educational, scientific and technological exchanges

In terms of cultural, educational, scientific and technological exchanges, China and Pakistan have always been friendly and maintained close contacts. In the field of culture, from the establishment of the China-Pakistan Friendship and Exchange Year to the establishment of “FM98 China-Pakistan Friendship Radio” studio to the organization of the “70th Anniversary of China-Pakistan Diplomatic Relations – Calligraphy and Painting Exhibition of Artists of the Two Countries” and “Buddhist Wisdom in Xiangshan Mountain: Gandhara Heritage Art Exhibition”. The cultural exchanges between the two countries have become more frequent.

In the field of education, China and Pakistan have signed several cooperation agreements, including the exchange of foreign students, teacher exchanges and the establishment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Consortium of Business Schools. In the field of science and technology, the two countries have also carried out several cooperative endeavours, such as joint research and development and technology transfer. These exchanges and cooperation have not only enhanced the friendship between the two peoples and brought new opportunities for the development of the two countries, but also won the support of more people for building a closer China-Pakistan community of destiny in the new era.

Building Dreams Together: A Blueprint for the Future of China-Pakistan Cooperation

In terms of economic cooperation, from a more convenient and efficient transportation road network to a cleaner and more stable energy infrastructure, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has brought broad development opportunities to Pakistan. With the promotion of the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China and Pakistan will deepen their cooperation in the fields of science and technology, agriculture and socio-economic development, etc. In the future, enterprises of the two countries will continue to strengthen their cooperation, make good use of the various infrastructures built by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), match Pakistan’s resource advantages, and learn from China’s development experience, to gradually push forward the development of Pakistan’s industrialization.

In terms of military and security cooperation, China and Pakistan have a long-term military mutual trust and strategic cooperation. With the strengthening of joint military exercises, military equipment procurement and counter-terrorism cooperation between China and Pakistan in recent years, the two countries will further deepen their cooperation in the areas of intelligence sharing, cybersecurity and maritime security in the future, to jointly address regional and global security challenges.

In terms of cultural and educational exchanges, in recent years, the two countries have held activities such as the “China-Pakistan Tourism Exchange Year”, and further expanded the depth and breadth of civilization exchanges and mutual understanding between the two countries through rich academic exchanges and cultural relics exhibitions. The people of the two countries have a stronger interest in each other’s culture and a deeper understanding. Close exchanges and interactions between young people of the two countries have laid a solid foundation for future cooperation between the two countries. In the future, the two sides can focus on promoting precise cooperation in key areas, utilizing science and technology to empower education development, and benefiting people’s livelihoods through humanistic exchanges, to make positive contributions to the construction of a closer China-Pakistan community of destiny in the new era.

In terms of green energy and environmental protection, China has a leading edge in renewable energy and environmental protection technologies, while Pakistan faces serious environmental challenges. In the future, the two countries can help Pakistan alleviate the ecological and environmental problems it faces through in-depth cooperation in green energy, water resource management and ecological environment construction.

From early political support to current comprehensive cooperation, the further development of China-Pakistan relations has not only brought tangible benefits to both countries but also made important contributions to the peaceful development of the region and the world. In the face of the future, the two sides will closely exchange ideas and maintain contacts at all levels, deepen comprehensive cooperation, jointly address risks and challenges, and accelerate the building of a closer China-Pakistan community of destiny in the new era for the betterment of the two countries and peoples.

*The authors are scholars at Baize Institute for Strategy Studies, Southwest University of Political Science and Law, P. R. China.

**The opinions in this article are the author’s own and may not represent the views of The Diplomatic Insight. The organization does not endorse or assume responsibility for the content.

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