China-Pakistan: A journey of friendship (1950-2020)

By Zamir Ahmed Awan Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/21 11:55:52

National flags of China and Pakistan flutter in front of the Tiananmen Square on Tuesday. Photo: IC

Pakistan and China established diplomatic relations on May 21, 1951. The first high-level official delegation visited China just after three months of liberation, on January 4, 1950. But the bonds of friendship have gone back to centuries-old trade relations, when Chinese traders travel through Pakistan on their business trips to the Middle-East, Europe, and the rest of the world through ancient Silk Route. Over 2,000 yers ago famous figures such as the monks Fa Xian and Xuan Zang traveled through areas which are today known as Pakistan. 

This relationship was built on the strength of successive achievements and becomes formidable with each passing day and year. The leadership of both countries is committed to taking this relationship forward.

To understand the depth of this unique relationship, here is a glimpse of the milestones reached over the years:

• 1950 - Pakistan becomes the third non-communist country, and the first Muslim one, to recognize the People's Republic of China and dispatched a high level delegation to China on January 4, 1950.

• 1951 The two countries established formal diplomatic relations on May 21, 1951.

• 1955 Visit of Vice President Madam Song Ching Ling to Pakistan marked the first high level visit from Chinese side.

• 1956 Visit of Prime Minister H.S. Suhrawardy to China, was the first high level visit from Pakistan.

• 1963 Historic Visit of Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to China

• 1963 Pakistan and China conclude boundary agreement through peaceful negotiations. Pakistan is the only and most friendly country in the neighborhood who has never had any difference of opinion or border dispute with China.

• 1964 Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) started its flights to Beijing, becoming the first non-communist country airline to fly from Beijing, entering into a new era of linkages between the two countries. Pakistan was the window for China to interact with the rest of world.

• 1965 Agreement on Cultural Cooperation signed, promoting understanding and harmony.

• 1970 Pakistan facilitates first visit by US President Nixon to China, paving way for the first-ever US-China official contact, leading toward the normalization of Sino-American relations.

• 1976 Agreement on Scientific and Cultural Cooperation signed, opening huge opportunities for Pakistani scientists and students. 

• 1978 The Karakoram Highway, a construction miracle, linking mountainous Northern Pakistan with Western China officially opened, linking China to the Arabian Ocean. 

• 1983 Pakistan and China sign MoU on Educational Exchanges, which led 32,000 Pakistani student studying in China today. 

• 1989 The two countries sign an agreement on Reciprocal Encouragement and Protection of Investments. China is the largest investor in Pakistan.

• 1995 Agreement for Traffic in Transit is signed between the Governments of Pakistan, China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, opening avenues of transit trade with other central Asian states and whole of Eurasia. 

• 1995 Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto visits China as a special guest to attend the 4th Women's Conference in Beijing, bring the women of the two friendly nations close to each other. 

• 1999 The contract to jointly develop and produce the JF-17 was signed, a landmark event for Pakistan's defense Industry. 

• 2001 Premier Zhu Rongji visits Pakistan on the occasion of 50 years of the establishment of Diplomatic Relations.

• 2001 China and Pakistan sign agreement on Tourism Cooperation, opening unlimited opportunities in the development of the tourism industry.

• 2003 Preferential Trade Agreement is signed between the two countries, providing market access to Pakistani exports.

• 2005 Bilateral MoU on Cooperation in Information Technology is concluded, with China leading and providing Pakistan with a huge opportunity to learn from Chinese achievements. 

• 2005 Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits Pakistan. 

• 2005 "Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Good Neighborly Relations" is signed between the two countries, further cementing ties of friendship.

• 2006 Chinese President Hu Jintao pays an official visit to Pakistan.

• 2006 China and Pakistan sign Free Trade Agreement, leading toward  enhanced exports to China.

• 2008 Pakistan welcomes the Chinese Olympic Torch in Islamabad

• 2010 Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits Pakistan. 

• 2010 JF-17 inducted in Pakistan Air Force as backbone of our Air Force and already exporting to other countries.

• 2013 Premier Li Keqiang visits Pakistan in May and both sides issue a Joint Statement on Deepening Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation, which became the basis of CPEC.

• 2013 Pakistan and China sign the landmark Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation for the Long-term Plan on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of Chinese mega initiative in the BRI. 

• 2013 Pakistan awards a contract fo the construction and operation of the Gwadar Port to China. Gwadar will become the economic hub of world trade and economic activities after its completion in 2030. 

• 2013 Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif visits China and both sides agree to the Common Vision for Deepening China-Pakistan Strategic Cooperative Partnership in the New Era

• 2013 Both countries sign Memorandum of Understanding on the Cooperation of Developing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Long-term Plan and Actions, opening the flow of Chinese FDI and investment into Pakistan.

• 2014 The governments of Pakistan and China agree on the construction of the 27 km Orange Line metro train project in Punjab.

• 2015 The two countries celebrate 2015 as the Year of Friendly Exchanges 2015 - Trade between the two countries reaches US $16 billion.

• 2015 Chinese President Xi Jinping undertakes a landmark visit to Pakistan, both countries signed over 50 documents including the agreement on CPEC outlining projects worth USD 46 billion. The pledged investment already raised USD 62 billion. 

• 2016 The two countries celebrate the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

• 2016 China-Pakistan unveils the Long-term Plan of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), paving the ways for further cooperation and collaboration.

• 2017 Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif attends the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

• 2018 Prime Minister Imran Khan pays a historic visit to China and both sides agree to further strengthen the All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership and jointly build Closer China-Pakistan Community of a Shared Future in the New Era.

• 2018 CPEC enters in its Second Phase, focused on social-economic development of Pakistan on a faster pace. 

• 2018 Phase-II of the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement was signed, facilitating Pakistani exports.

• 2018 Prime Minister Imran Khan attends the First China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai. A leading initiative of China for opening its markets to Pakistani products.

• 2018 Groundbreaking of Rashakai Special Economic Zone.

• 2018 Pakistan launches Remote Sensing Satellite-1 (PRSS-1) from China's Jiuquan Satellite Centre, enabling Pakistan to the membership of prestigious Space Club. 

• 2019 Groundbreaking of Allama Iqbal Industrial City (M3), Faisalabad Special Economic Zone.

• 2019 Prime Minister Imran Khan visits China to attend the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

• 2019 JWG (Joint Working Group)on International Coordination and Cooperation launched.

• 2019 Visit of Chinese Vice President to Pakistan in May.

• 2019 The two sides celebrate 2019 as the year of sister-city / province, China-Pakistan shares several MoUs signed as sister cities or provinces.

• 2019 Pakistan hosts the Third China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Foreign Ministers Dialogue in Islamabad, a breakthrough in diplomacy toward resolving the Afghan crisis. 

• 2019 Visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to China in October.

• 2019 CPEC Authority has been set-up to coordinate and monitor progress on CPEC Projects

• 2019 A CPEC Cell was also established in the Prime Minister's Office.

• 2019 9th JCC took place in Islamabad in November.

• 2020 CPFTA-II became operational from 1st January, whereas Pakistan may enjoy better access to the Chinese market. 

• 2020 Extensive bilateral coordination in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic; China is the major contributor who extended the largest amount of assistance to Pakistan in fighting the outbreak. 

• 2020 Visit of the President Alvi to China in March 2020. MOUs signed including MOU to established JWGs on Science & Technology and Agricultural Cooperation

Pakistan and China have enjoyed close and friendly relations since the establishment of diplomatic relations on May 21, 1951. Over the years, the relationship has blossomed into an "All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership", with the CPEC at its core. Pakistan considers China as one of its closest friends and partners and China considers Pakistan as its "Iron Brother".

The author is a Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan. (E-mail:

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