New Pakistani PM, Chinese officials voice confidence to further cement 'iron-clad' ties
Published: Apr 15, 2022 12:44 AM
Pakistan's new prime minister Shahbaz Sharif Photo: VCG

Pakistan's new prime minister Shahbaz Sharif Photo: VCG

Ever since Shahbaz Sharif was elected as Pakistan's new prime minister, he has highlighted the friendship between Pakistan and China, which was also echoed by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. China-Pakistan relations are expected to remain the key focus for the two countries, which will be "worry-free," experts said. 

On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian described Pakistan as China's "iron-clad brothers true to the name" at a routine news conference. 

"China will give priority to Pakistan in its neighborhood diplomacy as always," said Zhao. "We are ready to work with the new Pakistani government to have close exchanges at all levels, substantiate and expand practical cooperation, build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) toward the sustainable, livelihood-oriented and high-standard objectives, and accelerate the building of an even closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era for the well-being of the two countries and the two peoples."

The Chinese FM spokesperson's remarks came after Sharif's meeting with the charge d'affaires ad interim of the Chinese embassy in Pakistan on Tuesday, the second day after he was sworn into office. 

"The new government of Pakistan attaches great importance to developing relations with China, and is ready to further strengthen bilateral cooperation and promote the building of the CPEC with stronger initiative and higher efficiency," said Sharif during the meeting.

Ever since Sharif was elected prime minister on Monday, he has been speaking highly of China-Pakistan relations in his speeches. 

In Sharif's inauguration speech, he promised to vigorously promote the construction of the CPEC, noting that China is a faithful, reliable and trustworthy partner of Pakistan, and the friendship between the two countries will last forever.

Sharif's statements are also frequently echoed by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The China-Pakistan friendship has been the top topic in the ministry's past few news conferences, repeatedly stressed by the spokesperson. 

Following Sharif's election, Zhao congratulated him on Tuesday and described the China-Pakistan relations as "rock-solid and unbreakable," and said China looks forward to carrying on the traditional friendly cooperation. 

On Wednesday, Zhao expressed appreciation to Sharif's remarks and noted that China is ready to work with Pakistan to continue to further advance the high-quality development of CPEC and build it into a demonstration program of high-quality development under the Belt and Road Initiative.

"We believe the political change in Pakistan will not affect overall China-Pakistan relations," he said. 

Given positive remarks from both China and Pakistan in recent days, China-Pakistan relations are expected to further improve, said Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University.

Qian told the Global Times on Thursday that there is nothing to worry about in the bilateral relations in the future, because the China-Pakistan relationship was not built in a day or could be shaken by one or two people. Instead, it is based on the long friendship between the two countries at all levels.

The CPEC, which has been benefiting the Chinese and Pakistani people along the route, has entered the second phase of construction of high quality, and Sharif is expected to pay more attention to the positive social and economic benefits brought by the project, and continue to work with China to advance the project in the direction of high quality, Qian said.

China, Afghanistan and Pakistan can jointly build the Belt and Road Initiative, extend the CPEC to Afghanistan, and help Afghanistan participate in regional connectivity, said Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the foreign ministers' meeting between the three countries in Tunxi, East China's Anhui Province on March 30.

This made the international community pay more attention to the potential efforts China and Pakistan would jointly make to the economic recovery in Afghanistan, Qian said.