On May 21, 1951, the People’s Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan entered into formal diplomatic relations. In the seven decades ever since, the two countries have stood together, rain or shine, and built an exceptional, ironclad friendship. This friendship has become a strategic asset, most dearly cherished by both sides.
China-Pakistan friendship has a time-honored history. As late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai said friendly exchanges between the Chinese and Pakistanis can be traced as far back as the dawn of history. Over 2,000 years ago, China and Pakistan were already connected by the ancient Silk Road, when our peoples visited each other amid echoes of camel bells. In the extended course of history thereafter, the friendship has steadily grown stronger and deeper.
China-Pakistan friendship enjoys a solid foundation. We always support each other on our respective core interests and major concerns. Even at critical times, be it when New China endeavoured to break external blockade and make diplomatic opening, or when Pakistan stood up to crises to defend national dignity, we have always been there for each other, and have become true friends in need.
China-Pakistan friendship has deep roots among the two peoples. In times of hardship, one always extends a helping hand to the other as early as possible. Such mutual support and assistance have no strings attached, and are pure acts of goodwill and friendship. When the great earthquake hit Wenchuan of China in 2008, Pakistan donated all its tents in reserve. When Pakistan suffered devastating floods in 2010, China launched the largest humanitarian operation in its history to help Pakistan from land and air. There are numerous touching stories like these. Indeed, developing China-Pakistan friendship is a nation-wide consensus in both countries.
Since the turn of the century, the China-Pakistan relationship has grown even stronger, and cooperation has been upgraded across the board. In 2015, President Xi Jinping made a historic state visit to Pakistan. Leaders of the two countries agreed to elevate the relationship to an all-weather strategic cooperative partnership. This has opened up a new chapter of friendly interactions.
High-level exchanges are frequent. The heads of state and government maintain communication via bilateral visits, by telephone calls and at multilateral events. Through the timely, in-depth exchange of views on bilateral cooperation and major strategic issues of mutual interest, they keep the relationship in the right direction, give strategic guidance to its development and steadily make new progress in bilateral strategic cooperation.
Practical cooperation is fruitful. We have put in place a “1+4” cooperation structure that centres on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and prioritises the Gwadar Port, transportation infrastructure, energy and industrial cooperation. Under CPEC, 70 early-harvest projects have been identified, among which 46 have been launched or completed. A total of $25.4 billion has been invested, creating 70,000 jobs for Pakistan. CPEC, as a signature project under the Belt and Road Initiative, has served as a fine example as China and other Islamic countries work to synergize their development strategies.
People-to-people exchanges are booming. We hold culture months, film weeks, tourism years and national promotion activities. Exchanges and cooperation are moving ahead in media, think-tank, academia, education, culture and sports. In the Year of China-Pakistan Friendly Exchanges in 2015, we held a series of cultural exchange events that took our friendship to a new high. Recent years have witnessed the highly popular 100-member youth groups exchange programme under the vision for a lasting friendship, enabling more and more Pakistani students to study in China. The ever-growing force for China-Pakistan friendship has been the firmest basis for our bilateral relations.
Cooperation on multilateral occasions is close. We both observe the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and have common values of advocating multilateralism over unilateralism, free trade over protectionism, and win-win over hegemony. We are both committed to upholding the existing international order and the UN-centred international system. And we both believe in the peaceful settlement of international disputes through consultations and negotiations. China and Pakistan coordinate and collaborate closely in the UN, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Asia-Europe Meeting, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and other regional and international mechanisms. We have made important contributions to solving regional hotspot issues and advancing international counter-terrorism cooperation and injected enormous positive energy into the cause of regional and global justice.
Our friendship has withstood the test of the sudden onslaught of Covid-19 and has emerged even stronger. At the toughest moment of China’s battle against the coronavirus, Pakistan did all it could to provide China with donations. Pakistanis from all social sectors expressed unanimous support for China’s Covid response and opposed the attempt to politicise the virus and stigmatise China. When Covid cases surged in Pakistan, China’s government, military, businesses and social organisations all pitched in to help. China provided successive batches of medical supplies, sent medical teams, and intensified experience sharing and technological exchanges. In addition, our two countries established a joint response mechanism to ensure that all CPEC projects proceed uninterrupted, with no jobs cut and no staffs withdrawn. This set an example of an effective transnational response to Covid-19.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China. The country will embark on a new journey toward a modernised socialist country and realising the second centenary goal. Pakistan is advancing economic and social development at full speed and improving social welfare to turn into reality the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan for Naya Pakistan. As an all-weather strategic cooperative partner, China always gives priority to its cooperation with Pakistan in its overall external cooperation. We will continue to firmly support Pakistan in safeguarding its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity; in deepening reform and opening wider and raising self-reliance ability; in enhancing political unity, national security and social stability; and in playing a bigger and constructive role in international and regional affairs.
In a world of drastic changes unseen in a century, deepening China-Pakistan strategic cooperation is the natural option. No matter how the regional and international landscapes may evolve, and what challenges and risks may arise, China will continue to work with Pakistan to advance cooperation in all areas, cement our ironclad friendship, and build an even closer community with a shared future in the new era.
During this year, China and Pakistan will inaugurate grand and warm celebrations to honour the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations, including high-level visits, business exchanges and cultural activities. I hope that people from all walks of life of both countries, especially the younger generation, will take an active part in renewing the ironclad friendship to push forward our all-weather strategic cooperative partnership. I am confident that our joint efforts will usher in an even brighter future of China-Pakistan relations.
The writer is State Councilor and Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China.