Pakistan-China Friendship: Building a brighter future for upgraded version of CPEC in the new era
Published: Jun 05, 2024 12:28 AM
A view of Karachi, Sindh Province, Pakistan. Photo: VCG

A view of Karachi, Sindh Province, Pakistan. Photo: VCG

Prime Minister of Pakistan Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif  Photo: Pakistani Embassy in China

Prime Minister of Pakistan Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif.  Photo: Courtesy of Pakistani Embassy in China

Pakistan and China have an iron-clad friendship spanning 73 years, marked by shared sentiments of unparalleled strategic trust, camaraderie, and unflinching solidarity. Our "All Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership" has grown into a sturdy tree with deep roots in the hearts of our two peoples. We have stood by each other, through weal and woe, sharing good as well as challenging times together, in the true spirit of iron-clad friendship. Our special relationship is rooted in the mutual understanding of the people of both countries, and built on shared ideals, values, and aspirations. This has made China and Pakistan good neighbors, good friends, and good brothers who understand, trust, and support each other.

Our remarkable bond is also deeply rooted in history, with a rich legacy of social, cultural, and economic linkages dating back over 2,000 years. Our ancestors from both sides traversed the ancient Silk Road to forge a path of cultural exchanges and trade cooperation that binds our nations together. Pakistan's northern areas served as a vital artery for the ancient Silk Road, connecting China to the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, and that, in turn, enabled the flow and exchange of trade, knowledge, and culture, profoundly influencing the development process of nations across the region.

Its modern-day manifestation is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of the visionary joint building of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has revived the ancient Silk Road, now connecting China and Pakistan through air, rail, and sea routes, and even spans to Central Asia, Europe, and Africa. China and Pakistan are determined to take the upgraded version of the CPEC to new heights to advance regional connectivity, integration, and common prosperity, thus forging a new era of growth and development for nations in the region and beyond.

The first batch of 182 tons of dried chili peppers from Pakistan arrive in Neijiang, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor agricultural cooperation project. Photo: VCG

The first batch of 182 tons of dried chili peppers from Pakistan arrive in Neijiang, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor agricultural cooperation project. Photo: VCG

Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Pakistan in 2015 was a milestone event of epoch-making significance for the development of bilateral relations, leaving me with fond memories and injecting new momentum into enhancing mutual trust and economic cooperation between the two countries. This visit has also pushed forward the construction of the CPEC to new heights, attracting more Chinese investment into key sectors in Pakistan, creating more job opportunities, stimulating economic growth, and promoting macroeconomic stability and development in my country. There can be no better practice to achieve a vision of common prosperity in the modern era. We are thankful to President Xi and the Chinese government for this strong support for Pakistan during challenging times. 

The upgraded version of the CPEC promises an even brighter future. Both sides have jointly built a growth corridor, a livelihood-enhancing corridor, an innovation corridor, a green corridor, and an open corridor, which resonate with the people-centric development agenda of the Pakistani government. 

The CPEC has already taken off at a swift pace, promoting cooperation in industrialization, agriculture, IT, and mining as priority sectors under the framework of the CPEC. Infused with the spirit of win-win cooperation, the upgraded version of the CPEC envisions over 60 high-quality cooperation projects. Pakistan is dedicated to realizing this goal by further elevating its time-tested and enduring partnership with China to greater heights. 

I am making an official visit to China at the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Qiang. This is my first official visit to China since assuming the office of the Prime Minister this time. I see the visit as a vital opportunity to further strengthen cooperation between Pakistan and China across political, economic, trade, and investment domains. Personally, it will also be an opportunity for me to, once again, benefit from Chinese wisdom on issues of peace, security, and development. 

Since assuming the office of Prime Minister this time, I have been singularly focused on a comprehensive governance and economic reform agenda to bolster our economy in an uncertain international economic landscape. Our primary focus is to streamline regulations, maintain policy continuity, and foster an environment conducive to strong, equitable, and resilient economic growth. We are also cultivating a business-friendly environment that places a high premium on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), supports the capital needs of our economic development, drives productivity, enhances exports, and fosters job creation. To bring improvements to the service sector, the government has started to work on measures such as an increased number of vocational training programs; encouraging public-private partnership in skill development, especially for digital jobs; and investing in advanced technologies for the modernization of manufacturing, increasing our productivity in all sectors of the national economy. My aim is to replicate China's successful model of a virtuous cycle of development and prosperity.

As we believe that the upgraded version of the CPEC should be based on cooperation between the two governments, I constituted a Cabinet Committee on Chinese Investment Projects (CCoCIP) in March this year, which specifically oversees and facilitates Chinese investment plans in Pakistan. The CCoCIP is chaired by our seasoned Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives, who brings a wealth of experience to China-Pakistan economic and development cooperation. In all our endeavors, we are fully committed to supporting and securing Chinese personnel, projects, and institutions as they continue to make immense contributions to the development and prosperity of Pakistan. 

We have also established a Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) to foster and enhance Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Pakistan, through a "whole of a government approach" and a "one window facility." The Council is delivering results in the increasing ease of doing business, removing barriers, and optimizing synergy between federal and provincial governments. It is prioritizing key sectors in Pakistan such as agriculture, mining, information technology, and energy through foreign investments. I am personally leading this work to ensure the highest level of implementation of our commitment to achieve the desired results. 

It is gratifying to see that our reform initiatives and the priority sectors for attracting the FDI are dovetailed by the five corridors envisioned for the upgraded version of the CPEC, namely growth, livelihood, innovation, green, and open corridors. For example, the development of SEZs and industrialization as our national priorities correspond to the CPEC's "growth corridor." Similarly, IT as another national priority sector corresponds to the innovation corridor; clean energy and agriculture to the green corridor; and mines and minerals to the livelihood corridor. The upgraded version of the CPEC is rightly envisaged as an accelerator for job creation and economic growth through attracting the FDI and industrialization with a focus on boosting Pakistan's capacity to export high-quality labor-intensive goods and services, particularly to the Chinese market. Finally, the CPEC's "open corridor" resonates with our outreach to international partners to invest in Pakistan and benefit from a win-win proposition. 

We are determined to promote more similar exchanges. On one hand, we are committed to seeking more higher education cooperation between China and Pakistan in the field of "new quality productive forces," and on the other hand, to further deepen the friendship and trust between our two countries and peoples.

A view of the Karakoram Highway, the land route linking Pakistan with China Photo: VCG

A view of the Karakoram Highway, the land route linking Pakistan with China. Photo: VCG

Pakistan shares China's vision when it comes to promoting international peace and regional stability, advancing sustainable development, and committing to true multilateralism for a more equal, prosperous, and peaceful world. President Xi proposed the milestone "three major global initiatives," namely the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative, which have pointed the way for China and Pakistan as well as countries around the world to work together to build a global community of shared future.

I strongly believe that with the joint efforts of our two sides, the China-Pakistan deepening cooperation will yield even greater benefits, improving the lives of our citizens - our most vital assets - while building a stronger China-Pakistan Community of Shared Future in the New Era.  

Long live Pakistan-China Friendship!

The author is Prime Minister of Pakistan