By Elenoire Laudieri Di Biase
It is a well-known fact that China and Pakistan have long been connected by strong ties of
friendship and cooperation and U.S. President Donald Trump’s unwarranted Twitter attack
on Pakistan has further drawn them together if there ever was any need for it.
China’s immediate show of support for Pakistan came as no surprise as the two countries
have always stood shoulder to shoulder from the onset of their diplomatic relations 67 years ago. The bond that unites them is unparalleled in state-to-state and people-to-people
relations, and it cannot be boiled down, as some analysts do, to their common interest in
containing India’s geopolitical and military leverage or, more recently, in counterbalancing
the emerging U.S.-India partnership.
Their economies and defense strategies have, of course, benefited from their unshakable
friendship which is rooted in a genuine kinship that transcends material and military gains as well as politics and even religion.
China is a secular socialist/open market republic and Pakistan is an Islamic republic with the uniqueness of being the only Muslim country to have been created in the name of Islam. Yet, this disparity of perspectives has not hindered their relationship in the least.
If it is true that minorities of Islamic zealots live and operate in Pakistan, it also true that the vast majority of the Pakistan population practise moderate Islam and favour a secular
system of government while the strength and professionalism of the Pakistani Army act as a bulwark against any potential threat of radical Islamism.
China and Pakistan have consistently maintained close communications and coordination on
international and regional issues of common concerns. China has always firmly supported
Pakistan’s development and implementation of anti-terrorism security strategy based on its
national conditions and Pakistan firmly supports China’s stand on Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang
and other issues touching its core interests. China also firmly supports Pakistan in
safeguarding its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Pakistan, for its part, was one of the first countries to recognize the People’s Republic of
China when the rest of the world was still endorsing the Taiwan-based Republic of China.
It stood by China throughout the 20-year embargo by the Western Allies, the break with
USSR, the internal turmoils, and the severe famine in the late 60’s. Pakistan also helped
facilitate Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 and after the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, it was one
of the only two countries that sided with Beijing. (The other was Cuba)
The evolution of this singular relationship has been fostered by the vision shared through
time by the leadership of the two countries beyond their respective national issues and
challenges. A vision based on the principles of peaceful co-existence, solidarity and
cooperation against the chasms that have often marked the international scene.
Leaders of the two nations have frequently exchanged visits culminating in a memorable trip to Islamabad by China’s President Xi Jinping in 2015. In an address to the Joint Session of
Pakistan’s Parliament he hailed Pakistan and China’s long-standing ties, saying Islamabad
stood by Beijing at a time when it stood isolated on the world stage.
His historic speech acquires an even greater significance today amid the widespread
bewilderment generated by President Trump’s gratuitous accusations of Pakistan giving
haven to terrorists. “Pakistan has stood on the frontline in the international fight against
terrorism” said President Xi lauding Islamabad’s anti-terror efforts and its “great character
and courage in the face of adversity.”
Since President Xi took the helm of China’s government, the relationship with Pakistan has
further broadened with trade and infrastructure cooperation gaining greater prominence. In
2016 China has become Pakistan’s second largest trading partner and Pakistan China’s
largest investment destination in South Asia with total bilateral trade reaching US$18 billion.
The construction of a US$50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is
progressing well and covers all areas including energy, finance, information and
communications. This project constitutes an important stage of the colossal “Belt & Road
Initiative” designed by China to comprehensively connect Eurasian countries both
economically and culturally, It may well be that future historians will describe China and Pakistan unique friendship as a milestone towards the foundation of a new world order “with the people of all countries” as President Xi said at the last CCP congress, working together “to build an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity”
By Elenoire Laudieri Di Biase