Public diplomacy, through cultural exchange, uses art, ideas, and information to foster mutual understanding and interest between nations and their citizens. It goes beyond government initiatives, engaging in culture, science, education, and content creation to advance a nation’s interests abroad. Importantly, it promotes regional and global peace and stability. Pakistan-China relations exemplify these principles. Their multifaceted and enduring partnership showcases how cultural exchange fosters mutual understanding and serves as a model for public diplomacy.
Pakistan-China relations were restored in 1950. Pakistan was one of the first countries to officially recognize the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Since then, both countries have paid special attention to maintaining diplomatic relations, regularly holding high-level visits, and signing various agreements.
Consequently, China has provided economic, military, and technical assistance to Pakistan, recognizing each other as close strategic partners, and this relationship can be adopted as a good neighborhood diplomatic model accordingly. Lately, they have jointly started cooperating in developing projects such as One Belt One Road Pakistan and China Economic Corridor (CPEC) for regional economic connectivity and better human life prosperity.
Annually, May 22, 1951, marks the anniversary day of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and China, which begins with diplomacy and friendship ceremonies. Both states praise and describe the merits of this friendship and the prospects for regional connectivity development, assessing its economic, commercial, cultural, safety, and social cooperation as important.
The Chinese newspaper People’s Daily published a good article filled with reports from citizens apprising such a productive friendship. President Arif Alvi also considers regional cooperation and friendship as important and described it as “deeper than oceans, higher than mountains, and sweeter than honey.” In this light, a number of commemorative stamps have also been issued, one of which reflects the crown jewel of the partnership between both countries.
The Pakistan-China friendship is a model of learning, further strengthened and developed in the light of the CPEC projects. It can be observed through media reports that encompass political, economic, commercial, and cultural cooperation. In this regard, these bilateral relations are considered crucial, particularly from the perspective of regional economic and human life prosperity.
Researchers and political scientists believe that within the scope of Beijing’s policy in South Asia, China-Pakistan friendship is also viewed within the context of Cold War politics. Pakistan was one of the first non-socialist countries to recognize China, and until 1950, responded to its verbal conflicts with its rival at that time. Although Pakistan was part of the Western alliance, it managed to maintain neighborly relations.
Since the 1960s and 1970s, Pakistan and China have strengthened and expanded their close ties. In the end, both countries are dispelling concerns in the international arena with positive results and playing important strategic roles in the region.
While these external-level factors can establish the basis of relations between countries, internal factors can also be considered to obtain a comprehensive picture of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and China, especially in the current world order. It is worth noting that the revolutionary policies of the Maoist rule years and the silence of the Deng Xiaoping era have been eradicated, and China has emerged as a great and significant state. Therefore, China-Pakistan relations cannot be solely described as a function of its balancing strategy. Instead, they should be acknowledged and recognized as a model of China-Pakistan friendship and neighborhood within the framework of the “Four Rings of Security” concept by Andrew Nathan, as mentioned by the expert Shruti Jargad from Peking University.
The first ring is China’s self-defined border and territorial integrity. China remains a divided country (Taiwan) even after seven decades of the establishment of the PRC. Even on the mainland, some regions and groups are not fully integrated into the political and cultural system. Pakistan has also acted as a buffer state on China’s western borders, keeping in check the spread of radical Islam in Xinjiang.
The second ring consists of China’s relations with the neighboring countries with which it shares either land or maritime borders. China has a uniquely challenging neighborhood with massive countries, some with unstable regimes. Furthermore, amongst these nations, there exist huge cultural gaps and incongruent national interests. Pakistan has also been an arena of Chinese experimentation in conducting a peaceful foreign policy since the 1960s and is cited by China as a shining example as it expands its economic and military footprint in the rest of South Asia.
The third ring consists of the politics of six multi-state regional systems surrounding China—such as South Asia, East Asia, etc.—so that China can rarely make policy with only one state in mind or without accounting for implications on relations with the US. In Pakistan’s case, China has benefited from the presence of the US, especially as the latter has borne the costs of the ‘War on Terror’ and provided crucial aid to Pakistan, supporting different democratic and military regimes.
Finally, the fourth ring of China’s security interest consists of the rest of the world—Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South America, and others. Here, China is pursuing energy resources, commodities, and investment, as well as diplomatic support on various issues. The relationship has been pertinent to the development of Beijing’s links with the Middle Eastern states as well. Currently, China’s quest for energy security under its Belt and Road Initiative has placed Pakistan at the center of its geo-economic and geopolitical strategy.
The role of organizations and institutions, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), is considered very important in strengthening relations between countries. Here, we find it necessary to consider the analytical opinions of specialists in the field. It is worth noting that, with the announcement by the heads of the member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization during their summit, India and Pakistan were accepted as full members of the organization in 2017, respectively.
In such conditions, the development of the SCO from a united multilateral regional body, which, with the agreement of all members, turns into a more sovereign body that prevents the emergence of vested interests, can succeed in its expansion and thus not encounter obstacles and difficulties. The SCO’s founding members have long pledged to ensure peace, security, and stability.
It is worth noting that China and Russia, the founders of the SCO, are more dependent on Central Asian countries for financial aid. However, the region is considered very important for China to implement the “One Belt and One Road” initiative. Thus, with the entry of new partners on the scene, the Central Asian republics will now have the opportunity to diversify their relations, thereby balancing the traditional influence of China and Russia.
In short, China’s efforts for good relations with Pakistan go far beyond the scope of the territorial dispute with its other neighbors and provide better grounds for the development of industry, investment, trade, and the economy in the region and the world. Thus, the entry of Pakistan and India into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the CIS will create a good basis for the energetic and industrial integration of the countries in the region and can reduce concerns and conflicts between them.
In conclusion, it should be mentioned that the basis of regional security, which was once the first priority for the members of the SCO organization in the fight against terrorism and extremism, can become a means to develop consensus and cooperation between the member countries to jointly protect the region from any threats and dangers, keeping it safe.
Thus, India and Pakistan, as advanced and developed countries with good military, economic, industrial, and commercial experiences, and members of world organizations and institutions, including the UN, the SAARC regional organization, and SCO active participants, can guide the region towards a perspective of peace and prosperity, making it a progressive region of the world consequently.
In this context, it is suggested that the states should work together and solve the issues using the PEACE formula sourced from the peace accord agreement of Tajikistan as a rare module of peace, prosperity, and productivity for better cooperation and regional integration, promoting good neighborhood relations in the light of global public diplomacy.
All states need to cooperate jointly, promoting peace and stability, economizing society for people’s healthy and wealthy life, activating and applying all good programs and projects, cooperating for people’s safety and security by eliminating and erasing public risks and dangers actively and effectively.
*The author is a Senior Research Analyst and Regional Expert at the Institute of Asia and European Studies, National Academy of Sciences Tajikistan.
**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.