HomeOpEdUnbreakable Iron-Brother Relationship of Seven Decades

Unbreakable Iron-Brother Relationship of Seven Decades


Professor Tang Jun

The year 2021 is a remarkable one since it marks the 70th diplomatic anniversary between Pakistan and China. Both countries are excited to celebrate this unique event ceremoniously. “We will celebrate this event in style. We are very excited about this. China has always been on our side during this long and sweet journey,” said Mr. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan during an interview with a news reporter. “Both countries will make overall plans to celebrate this event and promote the China-Pakistan all-weather strategic partnership to a new level.” said, Mr. Wang Yi, China’s Foreign Minister, when he replied Qureshi on the phone.

The relationship between China and Pakistanis is a unique one among international relations. The two ancient civilizations became acquainted as early as over 2,000 years ago when the Silk Road became a bridge linking them. Zhang Qian, China’s emissary in the Han Dynasty (138 BC), Faxian, the master monk in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (399 AD), and Xuan Zang, the great monk in the Tang Dynasty (629 AD) visited the place where Pakistan locates now. Describing the two countries’ relationship, words like “Iron Brother”, “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership”,” good neighbors, good friends, right partners and good brothers”,” higher than the mountain, deeper than the ocean and sweeter than honey” are frequently quoted by either the public or government officials. The relationship between two counties is built on its successive achievements and has become formidable with each passing day and year. The leadership of both countries is committed to taking this relationship forward through thick and thin.

Why can this relationship last 70 years? Let us glimpse the milestones over the decades since 1951 when Pakistan and China established diplomatic relations. It is worth mentioning that China was suffering from diplomatic isolation when Pakistan, the first Islam country, showed its welcome to China’s independence. Since 1951, the two countries’ diplomatic relationship has been characterized by feelings of mutual trust, respect and goodwill towards each other. However, during the first 5o years of diplomatic relations, the two countries did not enjoy an intimate cooperation relationship.

Year Milestones
1951 Diplomatic relations established
1955-1980 High-level-visits between two governments leaders(limited )
1963 Boundary agreement through peaceful negotiations signed
1964  First PIA flights to Beijing
1965 Military aid to Pakistan in Pakistan-India War.
1970 Pakistan facilitates first visit by US President Nixon to China
1978 The Karakoram Highway linking mountainous region of Northern Pakistan with Western China officially opens
  1980-2000 Agreements and MoU on education, economy, industry etc. signed.
Increasing high-level-visits between two governments leaders
1999 The contract to jointly develop and produce JF-17 was signed
2001 50 years of establishment of Diplomatic Relations


Incoming the new century, the two countries developed a closer relationship. They conducted all-round, mutually beneficial and fruitful collaboration in various fields, bringing tangible benefits to both countries’ people. The mega project CPEC is the result of the friendship in the new era. The strategic cooperation between Pakistan and China has grown into a historic level over the past two decades.

Year Milestones
2001-2010 Agreements on tourism, trade, information technology, bilateral relation etc. signed.
Increasing high-level-visits between two governments leaders
2010 JF-17 inducted in Pakistan Air Force
2013 The blueprint of CPEC put forward
2013-2020 Frequent&Regular high-level-visits from both countries
2013 MoU on the Cooperation of Developing CPEC Long-term Plan and Action signed
2014 27 km Orange Line metro train project in Punjab agreed
2015 CPEC projects worth $46 billion signed
2016 the Long-term Plan of CPEC unveiled
2018  All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership agreed
2018  Second Phase of CPEC starts
2018 Phase-II of China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement signed
2019 Joint Working Group on International Coordination and Cooperation launched
2019 CPEC Authority has been set-up to coordinate and monitor progress on CPEC Projects
2020 CPFTA-II became operational from January
2020 Extensive bilateral coordination against the Corona Virus pandemic
2020 MOUs signed to established JWGs on Science & Technology and Agricultural Cooperation


The relationship between the two countries boosted in the past two decades. The name “Iron-Brothers” was put forward in recent years because the two countries collaborate on the following aspects to bring the relationship to a new level.

Military and Security Cooperation:

Military and Security Cooperation plays a solid foundation for the relationship between the two nations. The history can date back to the India Pakistan war in 1965 when China offered immense military assistance to Pakistan. Since then, the cooperation became more frequent, including high-level military exchanges, structured defense and security talks, joint exercises, personnel training, joint defense production and defense trade. The collaborative developed JF-17 Thunder fighter is the best example of military cooperation. The two countries have an extensive range of cooperation, including joint military equipment, aircraft, submarines and tanks. China is also the recipient of the largest number of military training officials from Pakistan.

Consultation Mechanisms:

Pakistan and China have several Consultations mechanisms including Strategic Dialogue at Foreign Ministers’ level, Political Consultations at the foreign secretary/vice-minister level; consultations on South Asia, Arms Control, Counter-terrorism; Human Rights; Peacekeeping; Maritime Dialogue; Border management consultations, and Consular affairs.

Economic and Trade Relations:

The two countries are natural economic and trade partners.  The two countries established trade relations in the early 1950sCurrently Pakistan is China’s second-largest trading partner in South Asia, and China is Pakistan’s largest trading partner. Pakistan mainly imports machinery and mechanical appliances, metals, chemical products, mineral ores, plastic scrap and transport equipment from China. It exports cotton yarn, cotton fabric, rice, leather and fish products to China. Bilateral trade increased rapidly, investments are growing, and the number of development projects and joint ventures between the two countries has increased steadily over the past few years. In recent years, both sides have been committed to deepening and expanding economic ties and have adopted a series of strategic initiatives and institutional arrangements. In April 2015, President Xi Jinping paid an official visit to Pakistan, and both the top leaders of both countries agreed to upgrade their relations to an all-weather strategic partnership. With the initiation of CPEC, there has been an upsurge in investment flows into Pakistan, especially in infrastructure and energy sectors.

China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC):

CPEC is a trade network of highways, railways, pipelines and optical cables, and a flagship project under the Belt and Road Initiative. As a regional connectivity mega project, CPEC is designed to enhance bilateral exchanges and cooperation in transport, energy and maritime shipping, and foster connectivity between the two countries. It will benefit China and Pakistan and have a positive impact on the countries in South and Central Asia, North Africa, and regions along the Persian Gulf, thus forming an economic radius benefiting nearly 3 billion people. If CPEC works as planned, it can generate as much as three or four times the initial $47 billion investment. It will help Pakistan alleviate poverty by creating thousands of business and job opportunities. CPEC will play a key role in making Pakistan a strong and modern country.

Potential areas of cooperation/development include:

Regional Connectivity

Diverse Investment opportunities

Industrial, Financial, Agricultural, Tourism Cooperation

Socio-Economic Development (Poverty Alleviation, Medical Treatment, Education, Water Supply, Vocational Training)

Educational linkage

Human resource development

People-to-People exchanges

Increase in livelihood opportunities

Enhance Security and stability of the region

Seven decades is a long journey, but China and Pakistan stood firmly with each other all the way despite various tests and hardships. The two countries are enjoying a close all-round and all-weather relationship now and the future of this relationship will be more precious. Can this Iron-Brother-Relationship develop into a Silver-Brother-Relationship, or Golden–Brother-Relationship eventually by the year 2051? The world will witness how this miracle becomes a reality.

The writer is Director of Pakistan Research Center, Inner Mongolia Honder College of Arts and Sciences, 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.

Follow us


Most Popular