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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 292, 8 February 2022

Imran’s meeting with Xi Jinping: All about CPEC and Chinese investments



PM Khan’s visit as anticipated revolved around CPEC and investments

Abigail Miriam Fernandez

On 6 February, Prime Minister Imran Khan concluded his four-day visit to China during which he attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics and meet with top Chinese leadership. PM Khan stated that the Pakistan-China relationship was the “cornerstone” of Islamabad’s foreign policy as both sides reiterated their support on issues “concerning each other’s core interests.” On meeting with President Xi Jinping, he said that they had a “great meeting” adding, “we agreed to further enhance our strategic and economic relations and to fast track the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).”

According to a 33-point joint statement released after the meeting between Khan and President Xi, “The leaders of the two countries held an in-depth exchange of views on the entire spectrum of bilateral relations as well as the regional situation and international political landscape.” It added, “The prime minister underscored that China was Pakistan’s steadfast partner, staunch supporter and iron brother. The all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between Pakistan and China had withstood the tests of time and the two nations firmly stood side by side in realising their visions and shared aspirations of peace, stability, development and prosperity.”

Further, the statement read, “The Chinese side reaffirmed its support for Pakistan in safeguarding its sovereignty, independence and security, as well as promoting its socio-economic development and prosperity.” Additionally, several agreements and memorandum of understanding in the fields of trade, infrastructure, industrial development, agriculture modernisation, science and technology and socio-economic well-being of local people.

Khan’s visit was the first meeting between the two leaders since his last visit to the country in October 2019. Despite the gap in an official visit, China-Pakistan relations have continued to deepen in several aspects. The statement released after the meeting highlights this steadfast commitment from both the Chinese and Pakistani sides in strengthening ties between the two countries.

Areas of cooperation discussed: CPEC and Chinese investment
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project and Chinese investment into Pakistan, were the two main issues discussed

First, the discussions on CPEC. Khan welcomed increased Chinese investments in CPEC’s Phase-II. It focuses on industrialisation and improving people’s livelihoods. According to the statement, the two leaders acknowledged the major contribution of CPEC projects, especially in the areas of energy and transport infrastructure, in strengthening Pakistan’s key role in regional connectivity while modernising its economic base. Further, the statement read that both sides also agreed that the CPEC was a win-win enterprise and essential for regional prosperity and enhanced connectivity.

Specifically, the two leaders highlighted the significance of Gwadar as a central pillar of CPEC adding, “according to the ‘1 + 4’ layout, the two sides agreed to jointly accelerate the construction and operation of Gwadar Port and build Gwadar low-carbon circular industry zone.”

Second, emphasis on Chinese investment into Pakistan. During the visit, PM Khan met with several representatives of Chinese companies intending to draw in billions of dollars worth of Chinese investment into Pakistan. Agreements were signed in the fields of trade, infrastructure, industrial development, corporate farming, agriculture modernisation, automobiles, pharmaceuticals, defence and science and technology. As per the official handout, thousands of jobs will be created because of more Chinese investment in different sectors of Pakistan.

PM Khan’s visit to China: A critique
1. Nothing new on the agenda
The meeting between Khan and Xi did not include anything new on the agenda; the matters discussed were mainly related to CPEC and investment. Although CPEC and investments are a major part of the relationship, the two leaders seem to have only concentrated on what already exists and did not venture into new areas of cooperation, except for pandemic related cooperation. Thus, it seems that they focused on consolidating rather than expanding.

2. No mentions of loans
Prior to Khan’s departure to China, there was anticipation that Pakistan has its eyes on USD three billion loans from China. According to an official from the Minister of Finance, the Pakistani government was considering requesting China to approve another loan of USD three billion in China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE deposits). However, whether this was on the agenda has not been made public yet. The issue, however, is not at issue because Pakistan can and has depended on China in financial emergencies.

3. Pushing each other’s international interests
Both China and Pakistan reaffirmed support to each other international interests during the meeting. Khan reiterated “Pakistan’s full support to China on all issues of its core interest,” and expressed their “commitment to One-China Policy and support for China on Taiwan, South China Sea, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.” Similarly, Xi also reiterated that “the Chinese side firmly supports Pakistan in safeguarding its national independence, sovereignty and dignity, as well as in combating terrorism.”

In conclusion, PM Khan’s visit to China highlighted the strong relations the two countries share, proving to be ‘all-weather friends.’ Additionally, it shows Pakistan’s dependency and priority it gives China. The meeting thus has only consolidated the relationship between China and Pakistan further. However, if PM Khan’s visit to China was interesting, his visit to Russia in the upcoming weeks is something even more interesting to look out for.

References
Naveed Siddiqui, “PM Imran concludes 4-day Beijing visit after meeting Chinese president,” Dawn, 6 February 2022
Amin Ahmed, “Accord signed with China for industrial cooperation,” Dawn, 5 February 2022
Amir Wasim, “FM Qureshi says will make follow-up visit to China next month,” Dawn, 7 February 2022
Kamran Yousaf, “Ties with China 'cornerstone' of Pakistan’s foreign policy: PM,” The Express Tribune, 7 February 2022
Pakistan, China pledge to maintain defence cooperation momentum,” The News International, 7 February 2022
Syed Irfan Raza, “Islamabad, Beijing vow to boost links at all levels,” Dawn, 7 February 2022)
PM Imran, President Xi vow to protect CPEC,” The Express Tribune, 6 February 2022
Huge investment on the way as PM finalises deals with Chinese firms,” The Express Tribune, 4 February 2022
Pakistan, China pledge to maintain defence cooperation momentum,” The News International, 7 February 2022

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