August 3, 2023
BEIJING – CPEC ‘vivid testament’ of all-weather friendship between the two countries
President Xi Jinping has reaffirmed Beijing’s readiness to work with Pakistan in upholding high standards, sustainability and enhancing public well-being and further building the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor into an exemplary project of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.
The president’s remarks, delivered as Pakistan hosted an event in Islamabad on Monday to celebrate the launch of the CPEC a decade ago, showcased the strong commitment from Beijing for the success of the landmark project under the Belt and Road Initiative and offered a boost in confidence to Pakistani society, analysts said.
In a congratulatory message to the event, Xi said that since the launch of the CPEC in 2013, China and Pakistan have adhered to the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits in advancing the project and attained a host of early outcomes.
The CPEC has injected new momentum into Pakistan’s economic and social development and laid a solid foundation for regional connectivity and integration, he said.
He said that the CPEC serves as “a vivid testament to the all-weather friendship between China and Pakistan”, adding that it has provided important support for building an even closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era.
He stressed the need for both nations to continue to improve overall planning and scale up bilateral cooperation under the CPEC.
Xi said Beijing will always stand in solidarity with Islamabad despite all changes in the international landscape.
He urged both sides to forge ahead in solidarity to carry forward the ironclad friendship, coordinate development and security, and pursue cooperation of higher standards, broader scope and greater depth.
Vice-Premier He Lifeng, the special envoy of President Xi, spoke at Monday’s event in Islamabad.
The two nations should work toward the upgrading of the CPEC and build it into a corridor for growth, public well-being, innovation, green development and opening-up, he said.
The CPEC has included a variety of infrastructure projects such as roads, railways and oil and gas pipelines from Pakistan’s Gwadar Port to Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. According to statistics provided by the Chinese embassy in Pakistan, the CPEC has brought about a direct investment of $25.4 billion to Pakistan, created a total of 236,000 jobs, and built 510 kilometers of highway and 886 kilometers in power grids.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said in his social media account after the event that the “CPEC has emerged as a bedrock of Pakistan’s socioeconomic trajectory, helping us end crippling energy shortages, building high-quality infrastructure, and promoting connectivity and integration not only within Pakistan’s various regions but also with the neighboring countries”.
“For us, CPEC is not merely a collection of different projects but a symbol of prosperity and shared development. It is a reflection of our relentless fight against poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment,” he said.
He said the first phase of the CPEC was about fixing the “hardware” side of development, and the upcoming second phase will upgrade the “software” of development by focusing on agriculture, science and technology, skills development, innovation, industrialization, economic growth, health and education.
“President Xi’s global leadership and vision of shared development is making a huge difference in the betterment of our world, especially the Global South,” he said. “Together China and Pakistan will redefine not only the destiny of their people but also of the region.”
Zoon Ahmed Khan, a Pakistani researcher at the Belt and Road Strategy Institute of Tsinghua University and a research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, said the message from Xi clearly demonstrated the commitment from the Chinese side that the “CPEC remains a priority”, which also offered a confidence boost to various sectors in Pakistan.
“There is a consensus across political parties, across institutions, across all the provinces and regions of Pakistan that the CPEC is part of the solution to the challenges that Pakistan is facing. It is helping Pakistan address systemic economic challenges,” she said.
Khan said women are becoming more economically independent in many parts of Pakistan, with the Chinese government and companies investing in women’s education and creating opportunities for employment.
“The biggest change is that Pakistan’s focus now is a human-centric perspective on development, on governance. We are thinking about poverty alleviation in a way that we have never thought before,” she said.
“We are thinking in a more synergized way, investing in sectors that can help develop parts of the country that have remained underdeveloped for the last seven-and-a-half decades.”