Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif leaves for China on a two-day official visit today (Tuesday), his first since assuming office, with an aim at revitalizing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and advancing bilateral cooperation in various areas.
According to a statement issued by the Foreign Office, the prime minister is visiting China on the invitation of Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and would be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. In a posting on Twitter, the prime minister said he was ‘honored’ to be visiting China after the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.
Stressing that the second phase of CPEC would usher in a new era of socioeconomic development that improved the standard of living of the public, he said Pakistan had much to learn from China’s economic success. “At a time when the world is grappling with multiple challenges, Pakistan and China stand together as friends and partners,” he said.
In a separate article for China’s Global Times he advocated Pakistan serving as China’s manufacturing base and an “extension of its industrial and supply chain network.” Emphasizing that the 21st century demanded a new paradigm to deal with emerging challenges, opportunities, and wean the region away from conflict and conflagration, he said Pakistan wanted friendly relations with all neighboring states on the basis of mutual respect.
China and Pakistan, he wrote, could expedite their bilateral cooperation to boost corporate farming, efficient water use, hybrid seed development, high yield crops, and the establishment of cold storage chains. “This cooperation has assumed an added importance to address common concerns related to food security,” he said, adding that the next phase of CPEC would encompass key areas such as industry, energy, agriculture, rail and road networks and utilizing Gwadar as a hub of trade and regional connectivity. “Our overall aim is to harness the potential of CPEC for Pakistan’s inclusive and sustainable growth, socioeconomic development and for improving the livelihoods of our people,” he added.
Ahead of his departure, the prime minister met Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong on Monday, with the Prime Minister’s Office saying they had discussed means to strengthen trade and economic ties. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, in a press briefing, said Beijing looked forward to further advancing high-level strategic cooperation between the neighboring states to derive maximum benefit for both their people.
Zhao Lijian said that no matter how the international or domestic situations had evolved, the China-Pakistan friendship had continued for generations. “Our two countries have always supported each other on issues concerning respective major interests and have stood together and helped each other in the face of major natural disasters,” he said, adding Beijing would like to use the opportunity to appreciate the major outcomes of CPEC.
“It has boosted economic development, improved people’s livelihoods and generated positive socio-economic effects in Pakistan,” he said.
According to the Foreign Office, the visit is expected to include the signing of several Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) and agreements. “The prime minister’s visit represents the continuity of frequent leadership-level exchanges between Pakistan and China,” it said. “The prime minister will meet with President Xi Jinping and hold delegation-level talks with Premier Li Keqiang. The two sides will review the all-weather strategic cooperation partnership and exchange views on regional and global developments,” it added.