PM’s China sojourn
S M Hali


Boon or bane?

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China from November 01 to 05 is the topic of hot debate. The government spokesperson, the foreign as well as the finance ministers are claiming a successful visit while the opposition is crying hoarse that the visit was a failure. TV anchors, columnists and analysts are weighing in their opinion in a biased manner. Pro-government opinion builders are painting rosy pictures while anti-PTI political analysts are poking holes in the claimed achievements. Pakistan’s enemies and detractors are having a heyday echoing and parroting the opposition’s mudslinging on the government. The Parliament, which is meant to have serious debates on issues and plan legislature, is appearing to be a fish market where both the treasury and opposition benches are engaged in casting aspersions and hurling accusations at each other.

Under these confusing circumstances, it would be prudent to take the opinion of the historic visit’s hosts, who are measured and calculated in their statements, never indulge in rhetoric or make loud statements but believe in considered diplomacy.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying, who is an accomplished Chinese politician and also the Deputy Director of the Foreign Ministry Information Department of the People’s Republic of China, in her Regular Press Conference on November 7, 2018 broached upon the subject. Hua is the fifth spokeswoman and 27th spokesperson since the spokesperson system was established in the ministry back in 1983. She was asked a question on the subject by an international correspondent, hoping to belie Pakistan’s finance minister’s claim that “China has offered immediate assistance to help ease Pakistan’s economic crisis”. Ms Hua’s response is worth quoting: “China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperative partners, and our bilateral relations have been running at a high standard. China has been providing utmost assistance to Pakistan as its capacity allows. We will continue to offer assistance and support within our capacity to Pakistan for its economic and social development in light of its needs and upon agreement by both sides.”

Not willing to let go, the protagonist again inquired regarding Prime Minister Imran Khan’s just concluded visit to China. He asked that during the visit, Imran Khan met and held talks with top Chinese leadership and attended the first China International Import Expo. The two sides signed agreements on future cooperation and issued a joint communiqué after the visit. He directly solicited the Chinese spokesperson’s comment on the outcome of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit.

Hua Chunying responded that China believed that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China is successful. The two sides issued a joint communiqué which elaborated on the specific outcomes of this visit. The outcomes can be summed up as follows: First, this visit deepened the friendship between the leaders from the two countries. This visit is Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first official visit to China after he assumed office, which fully testifies to the importance Pakistan attaches to developing its ties with China. President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and other Chinese leaders held friendly exchanges with Prime Minister Imran Khan on separate occasions and established good relations with him.

After Imran Khan’s government took oath of office, the Chinese government silently deposited four billion US dollars in Pakistan

Second, this visit cemented China-Pakistan special friendly relations. The two sides believe that the China-Pakistan relations have withstood the test of time as well as the changes in international and domestic landscapes and kept moving forward. The two sides agreed that we should further strengthen the China-Pakistan all-weather strategic cooperative partnership and forge a closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era.

Third, the visit expanded our strategic communication. The leaders from the two countries had an in-depth exchange of views on bilateral ties and international and regional issues of mutual interest and reached important consensus. The two sides agreed to establish the foreign ministers’ strategic dialogue mechanism through which we can plan for and coordinate bilateral relations and across-the-board cooperation.

Fourth, the visit promoted practical cooperation and friendly exchanges. The two sides agreed to firmly advance the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), set up the task force on society and livelihood to constantly enrich and expand CPEC. The two sides also agreed to step up cooperation in economy and trade, finance, science and technology, agriculture and cultural and people-to-people exchanges and signed 15 cooperation agreements covering relevant areas.

Fifth, the visit enhanced Sino-Pak coordination and cooperation on international and regional affairs. The two countries reaffirmed their support for multilateralism, free trade and win-win cooperation as well as their commitment to promoting the lasting peace and common prosperity of the region and beyond.

Both China and Pakistan are satisfied with the outcomes of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit. The two sides agreed to make concerted efforts to implement all the consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries and elevate the China-Pakistan all-weather strategic cooperative partnership to a new height.

That should put to rest the speculative rumour mongering. The semantics of the visit and the body language of the Chinese president, and both prime ministers speak volumes for the level of the visit. The Chinese are excellent judges of character and have in-depth knowledge of the ancient art of Siang Mien and physiognomy. Reportedly, the Chinese appreciated Imran Khan’s straight talking and simple demeanour. Significantly, following the official visit to Beijing, the prime minister was invited to Shanghai to participate in First China International Import Expo in Shanghai, where Pakistan is exhibiting a wide range of export products and was the lead country, which is a singular honour. Imran Khan was the key note speaker at the inauguration of the Expo, while on the sidelines of Shanghai Forum; he held meetings with other world leaders and leaders of Chinese financial and corporate sector.

Indeed, the traditionally close, cooperative and friendly ties between Pakistan and China are based on shared principles and mutual interests entailing close cooperation in diverse fields. Both countries maintain close and regular strategic communication for promotion of regional peace and stability and economic cooperation. Economic and industrial cooperation between Pakistan and China expanded significantly after the establishment of CPEC.

It was disclosed by a leading Pakistani economist, Dr Ashfaq Ahmad Khan, during a TV discussion program, quoting State Bank sources, that after Imran Khan’s government took oath of office, to enable the new government come out of the economic morass, the Chinese government silently deposited four billion US dollars in Pakistan’s State Bank. Such is the quality of Chinese leadership that it does not beat its chest that it has come to the aid of its closest ally and strategic all weather friend and partner.

On its part, Imran Khan himself and his financial and foreign affairs team need to do their homework regarding the Belt and Road Initiative, of which CPEC is but one tributary, understand its philosophy, avoid rhetoric and plan how maximum benefit will accrue of the mega project to Pakistan.