HomeOpEdChina-Pakistan “Iron Brotherhood”: 70 Years Hand in Hand

China-Pakistan “Iron Brotherhood”: 70 Years Hand in Hand


Li Qingyan

 This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Pakistan. China-Pakistan friendship has a time-honored history and in the 7 decades, both countries have stood together in rain or shine and built an exceptional, iron-clad friendship. Despite vicissitudes of times and changes in the international system, “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership” has grown into a towering tree with deep roots in the heart of the two peoples. Chinese like to affectionately call Pakistani friends “iron brothers” while Pakistanis are used to describing Pakistan-China friendship as “higher than the mountains, deeper than the sea, sweeter than honey, and harder than steel”. The two peoples have vividly expressed the essence of the “all-weather friendship and all-around cooperation” between China and Pakistan in the plainest terms.

“All-weather friendship” Moving Forward

“All-weather friendship” means that the friendship between China and Pakistan are not disturbed by changes in the international arena and domestic situation of the two countries but remain strong and have always moved forward. Zhou Enlai, first Premier of the People’s Republic of China, once said, friendly interactions between the Chinese and Pakistani peoples date back to the dawn of history and these relations have stood the test of history. During the long struggle against imperialism and colonialism in modern times, the two peoples have been sympathetic and supportive of each other. New China was founded in 1949 and Pakistan won its independence in 1947. The year 1951 saw the establishment of official diplomatic relations between China and Pakistan, with Pakistan being one of the first countries to recognize New China and the first country in the Islamic world to establish diplomatic relations with China.

During the Bandung Conference in 1955, Premier Zhou Enlai held friendly talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Bogra, who played an important role in enhancing understanding and cooperation between China and Pakistan. The following year both countries exchanged high-level visits and issued a joint statement emphasizing the different political systems and economic models of the two countries did not prevent them from strengthening friendly relations, which started a good course for bilateral relations. In the 1960s and 1970s, the situation in South Asia and the world changed dramatically while the relations between China and Pakistan warmed up rapidly. The resolution of the Sino-Pakistani border issue through the signing of the 1963 Boundary Agreement cleared the way for the further development of bilateral relations and laid a solid foundation for the enhancement of mutual trust and friendly cooperation between the two countries.

At the critical times when New China endeavored to break the blockade, resume its lawful seat at the United Nations and explore ways to build foreign relations and opening-up, Pakistan always came forward with selflessness and valuable assistance. Furthermore, Pakistan has a significant influence in the Islamic world. As the first Islamic country to establish diplomatic relations with China, Pakistan has also acted as a bridge-builder between China and other Islamic countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. Likewise, China has treated Pakistan with respect and sincerity, firmly supported Pakistan in maintaining its independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and national dignity, and provided it with sincere and selfless assistance for achieving economic and social development. China helped Pakistan to tide over its difficulties and always stand by Pakistan when Pakistan’s national security and dignity were at stake which winning the hearts of the people of Pakistan.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the comprehensive cooperative partnership between China and Pakistan has further developed. Both sides have maintained frequent high-level contacts and enhanced political mutual trust. During Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Pakistan in May 2013, China and Pakistan issued the Joint Statement on Deepening the Bilateral Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation, in which the two countries pledged to further deepen strategic cooperation in eight areas, including politics, economy and trade, connectivity, maritime and aerospace, humanities, defense and security, and international and regional cooperation on the basis of existing close cooperation. The Joint Statement also pointed out that, on the basis of full consultation, the two countries should jointly study and formulate a long-term plan for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to promote connectivity and common development of the two countries.

President Xi Jinping paid a historic visit to Pakistan in April 2015, and China-Pakistan relations have been upgraded to an all-weather strategic cooperative partnership. President Xi delivered an important speech at Pakistan’s Parliament entitled “Building a China-Pakistan Community of Shared Destiny to Pursue Closer Win-Win Cooperation”. In his heartfelt speech, President Xi fully affirmed the importance of China-Pakistan relations and the remarkable achievements made by the two countries. A Joint Statement was issued on Establishing the All-weather Strategic and Cooperative Partnership, which clearly elevates the bilateral relationship to new heights, and stressed that China and Pakistan should constantly enrich the connotation of the China-Pakistan community of common destiny to play an exemplary role in forging an Asian community of common destiny. The “all-weather strategic cooperative partnership” is a unique pair of partnerships in their foreign relations both for China and Pakistan. This is the accumulation and sublimation of the profound friendship between the Chinese and Pakistani people over the years. It also lays a solid foundation for China and Pakistan to jointly carry out comprehensive cooperation.

“All-round cooperation” in Full Swing

The China-Pakistan all-weather strategic cooperative partnership has become more meaningful and promising through bilateral “All-around cooperation” leading by the advancement of CPEC. Both sides agreed to set up the “1+4” cooperation model, namely, taking CPEC as the core while prioritizing in Gwadar, Energy, Transport infrastructure, and industrial Cooperation, which has opened a new chapter for bilateral cooperation. Meanwhile, practical cooperation between China and Pakistan in various fields including political, economic, security, and people-to-people and cultural exchanges is in full swing constantly enriching and deepening the connotation of China-Pakistan relations. With the strong support of the two governments, the construction of CPEC has achieved a lot of “early harvest”. China has become Pakistan’s largest trading partner and important source of investment for many years, with bilateral trade value, which amounted US$20 billion. China strongly supports the industrialization of Pakistan by helping to increase Pakistan’s employment and expand exports and accelerating its integration into the international industrial chain. CPEC provides more opportunities and convenience for the export of Pakistani products to China and promotes the balanced development of bilateral trade.

As an important pilot project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and a demonstration project of China-Pakistan Cooperation, the CPEC has entered into the high-quality stage of development, highlighting areas of industrial cooperation, social and people’s livelihood, aiming at benefiting more people. Over the years, the two countries have promoted people-to-people exchanges and continued to strengthen the foundation of friendship. 2015 is the year of Sino-Pak friendly exchange and 2019 is the year of Sino-Pak local cooperation. There are nearly 200,000 people exchanges between the two countries each year, and14 pairs of friendly provinces and cities have been established. Fruitful cooperation between the two countries has been achieved in the field of educational and cultural activities. Nearly 30,000 Pakistani students are studying in China with over 7,000 under scholarship programs. China imported Pakistan films like “Parwaaz Hai Junoon”, provided training for the Pakistan table tennis team, and invited the Pakistani cricket team to visit China. The friendship between China and Pakistan has been deeply rooted in the heart of the people. In 2008, when the devastating earthquake struck China, Pakistan immediately sent all its transport aircraft to ship its entire reserve of tents to China. In return, China strongly supported Pakistan whenever there is a need. When Pakistan was hit by a severe flood in 2010, China dispatched the largest ever medical team for relief work.

The cooperation and mutual support between China and Pakistan in the face with the sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 become the latest demonstration of the China-Pakistan community of shared destiny. China and Pakistan have been standing together and supporting each other in the special war of defeating COVID-19 epidemic. When COVID-19 attacked China, the Government of Pakistan, the military and the people from all walks of life donated masks and other epidemic prevention materials to China. In the phone call with President Xi, Prime Minister Imran Khan said the whole world thanks and appreciates China’s efforts and achievement in dealing with the epidemic, and no country can do better than China. That boosted Chinese confidence in overcoming the epidemic. Chinese people care about the situation in Pakistan and are ready to provide full support and assistance. China has always regarded Pakistan as a priority for cooperation in combating the epidemic and has provided a large amount of material and financial assistance to Pakistan. Pakistan is the first country to receive vaccine aid from the Chinese government and military. The two sides continue to engage in cooperation of fighting COVID-19 including vaccine production cooperation and set up a plant to subpackage vaccine in Pakistan,which will effectively help Pakistan improve its vaccine self-supply capacity. China and Pakistan also maintain close cooperation with other South Asian courtiers to work together to fight the pandemic and protect the life and health of people.

CPEC Launching New Engine of Development

China and Pakistan are jointly promoting the high-quality construction of the CPEC, focusing more on the cooperation in industrial development, agriculture, science and technology, information, and livelihood-related sectors so that the dividends of the CPEC can benefit more people of both countries. China and Pakistan have signed an MOU to confirm the expansion of CPEC into new areas of science & technology and agriculture with establishing corresponding joint working groups under the framework of CPEC. The two countries have great potential for cooperation in agricultural development and enhancing agricultural cooperation within the CPEC program will trigger a green revolution in Pakistan that is highly essential for Pakistan’s food security, poverty reduction, and export potential. Agriculture is the mainstay of Pakistan’s economy that contributes some 18 percent of its GDP with employing over 40 percent of the workforce. China would like to increase technology transfer to Pakistan and expand cooperation with Pakistan in areas such as biological energy, circular agriculture, environment protection, and water resources management.

The year 2021 is a milestone for both sides. For China, it marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China and is the first year of China’s 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25). For Pakistan, the country is making every effort to develop its economy and realize Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision of “Naya Pakistan”, which provides the two countries with new opportunities to promote their cooperation. Therefore, both China and Pakistan shoulder the historic mission of achieving national rejuvenation and realizing the great dream of building a prosperous country and a better society. Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan once observed that only through united efforts can we turn our ideas into reality. It is believed that with the joint efforts of the two sides, China-Pakistan cooperation will achieve greater success for the betterment of the well-being of the people of the two countries, and help build a closer China-Pakistan Community of Shared Future in the New Era.

The writer is a Senior Research Fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, and a Council Member of the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, with a special focus on geopolitics in South Asia and the region’s relationship with China.

The Diplomatic Insight, Pakistan's premier Public Diplomacy Magazine, has been at the forefront of promoting Peace Through Informed Dialogue since its inception in 2009. With both print and electronic versions, this decade-old media house is offering research, analysis, and public diplomacy outreach to clients in Pakistan and across the globe. TDI is now offering Amazon Kindle Self Publishing Services to diplomats, ambassadors, political leaders, academicians, and other civil society leaders to be the next best-seller authors. With access to 11 global markets and the option to translate your work into 11 languages, you can reach up to 300 million readers worldwide and unlock your personal and country branding.

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