Pakistan and China established diplomatic relations on 21 May 1951.
This relationship has built on the strength of its successive achievements, and has become formidable with each passing day and year. The leadership of both countries is committed to taking this relationship forward.
To understand the depth of this unique relationship, here is a glimpse of the milestones reached over the years:
Milestones / Key Developments:
|1951||–||The two countries establish diplomatic relations|
|1955||–||Visit of Vice President Madam Song Ching Ling to Pakistan|
|1956||–||Visit of Prime Minister H.S. Suhrawardy to China|
|1963||Visit of Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to China|
|1963||–||Pakistan and China concludes boundary agreement through peaceful negotiations|
|1964||–||Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) starts its flights to Beijing, becoming the first non-communist country airline to fly from Beijing|
|1965||–||Agreement on Cultural Cooperation signed|
|1970||Pakistan facilitates first visit by US President Nixon to China, paving way for the first ever US-China official contact|
|1976||–||Agreement on Scientific and Cultural Cooperation signed|
|1978||–||The Karakoram Highway, a construction miracle, linking the mountainous Northern Pakistan with Western China officially opens|
|1983||–||Pakistan and China sign MoU on Educational Exchanges|
|1989||–||The two countries sign an agreement on Reciprocal Encouragement and Protection of Investments|
|1995||–||Agreement for Traffic in Transit is signed between the Governments of Pakistan, China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan|
|1995||–||Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto visits China as a special guest to attend the 4th Women’s Conference in Beijing|
|1999||–||The contract to jointly develop and produce JF-17 was signed|
|2001||–||Premier Zhu Rongji visits Pakistan on the occasion of 50 years of establishment of Diplomatic Relations|
|2001||–||China and Pakistan sign agreement on Tourism Cooperation|
|2003||–||Preferential Trade Agreement is signed between the two countries|
|2005||–||Bilateral MoU on Cooperation in Information Technology is concluded|
|2005||–||Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits Pakistan|
|2005||–||“Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighborly Relations” is signed between the two countries|
|2006||–||Chinese President Hu Jintao pays an official visit to Pakistan|
|2006||–||China and Pakistan sign Free Trade Agreement|
|2008||–||Pakistan welcomes the Chinese Olympic Torch in Islamabad|
|2010||–||Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits Pakistan|
|2010||–||JF-17 inducted in Pakistan Air Force|
|2013||–||Premier Li Keqiang visits Pakistan in May and both sides issue a Joint Statement on Deepening Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation|
|2013||–||Pakistan and China sign the landmark Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation for the Long-term Plan on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor|
|2013||–||Pakistan awards a contract for construction and operation of Gwadar Port to China|
|2013||–||Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif visits China and both sides agree to Common Vision for Deepening China-Pakistan Strategic Cooperative Partnership in the New Era|
|2013||–||Both countries sign Memorandum of Understanding on the Cooperation of Developing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Long-term Plan and Action|
|2014||–||The governments of Pakistan and China agree on the construction of 27 km Orange Line metro train project in Punjab|
|2015||–||Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Pakistan. The two sides conclude more than 50 agreements in infrastructure, energy and industrial development|
|2015||The two countries celebrate 2015 as the Year of Friendly Exchanges 2015 – Trade between the two countries reaches US $16 billion|
|2015||–||Chinese President Xi Jinping undertakes a landmark visit to Pakistan, both countries signed over 50 documents including agreement on CPEC outlining projects worth 46 USD.|
|2016||–||The two countries 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.|
|2016||–||China-Pakistan unveils the Long-term Plan of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)|
|2017||–||Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif attends the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.|
|2018||–||Prime Minister Imran Khan pays a historic visit China and both sides agree to further strengthen All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership and jointly build Closer China-Pakistan Community of Shared Future in the New Era.|
|2018||–||CPEC enters in its Second Phase|
|2018||–||Phase-II of China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement was signed|
|2018||–||Prime Minister Imran Khan attends the First China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai.|
|2018||–||Groundbreaking of Rashakai Special Economic Zone|
|2018||–||Pakistan launches Remote Sensing Satellite-1 (PRSS-1) from China’s Jiuquan Satellite Centre|
|2019||–||Prime Minister Imran Khan visits China to attend the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation|
|2019||–||The two sides celebrate 2019 as the year of sister-city / province|
|2019||–||Pakistan hosts the Third China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Foreign Ministers Dialogue in Islamabad|
Pakistan and China enjoy close and friendly relations since the establishment of diplomatic relations in May 1951. Pakistan was one of the first countries that recognized the People’s Republic of China. Over the years, the relationship has blossomed into an “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership”. Pakistan considers China as one of its closest friend and partner and China considers Pakistan as its “Iron Brother”.
The bilateral relationship between the two neighboring countries is characterized by feelings of mutual trust, respect and goodwill towards each other. There is a regular exchange of visits at the highest level between the two countries. The strategic cooperation between Pakistan and China has grown over the past several decades.
Economically, China is Pakistan’s largest trading partner and a major investor, especially in infrastructure and energy sector. During 2018, bilateral trade between the two countries reached US$ 18 billion. With the official launch of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the bilateral relationship has been elevated to a higher level. CPEC is a flagship project of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s initiative of “One Road and One Belt”. It aims at enhancing connectivity and improving infrastructure between Pakistan and China. Several projects are being implemented under CPEC, for enhancement of infrastructure and generation of energy. People-to-people contacts are an important aspect of the bilateral relationship. The year of 2015 was celebrated as the Year of Friendly Exchanges between Pakistan and China and several high profile events were organized including seminars, exchange of visits and cultural events to highlight people-to-people interactions.
High Level Visits:
High Level visits are the hallmark of China-Pakistan bilateral relations.
Prime Minister’s Visit to China (7-9 October 2019):
Prime Minister Imran Khan visited China from 7-9 October 2019 at the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. During the visit, the Prime Minister met with President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and Chairman NPC Li Zhanshu. The Prime Minister was a Chief Guest at the Beijing International Horticulture Expo-2019 along-with Premier Li Keqiang. In addition, the Prime Minister also met with CEOs/Heads of leading Chinese enterprises. Both sides signed a number of MoUs/Agreements. It was Prime Minister Imran Khan’s third visit to China since assuming office in August 2018.
Chinese Vice President’s Visit to Pakistan (26-28 May 2019):
Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan visited Pakistan from 26-28 May 2019. He called on the President and held bilateral talks with the Prime Minister. During the visit, the Nishan-e-Pakistan was conferred upon the Vice President in a special investiture ceremony. Moreover, several MoUs and projects were signed and inaugurated. The Vice President also visited Lahore, where he met with Chief Minister Punjab and Governor Punjab. The Vice President also toured Pakistan’s cultural sites, including Taxila Museum, Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque.
Prime Minister’s Visit to China (25-28 April 2019):
The Prime Minister visited China from 25-28 April 2019 to participate in the 2nd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. He delivered a speech at the Opening Ceremony of BRF on 26 April and participated in the Leaders Roundtable on 27 April. During the visit, the Prime Minister held meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in which the entire range of bilateral relationship, including implementation of Phase-II of CPEC, was discussed. Both sides reaffirmed their resolve to further strengthen the All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership. Both sides also discussed important regional and international issues, including peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and peace and stability in South Asia, and agreed to deepen cooperation at the multilateral fora. The Prime Minister attended a Pakistan Business and Investment Forum attended by leading businessmen of Pakistan and China. 14 B2B agreements were also signed. He also attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing International Horticulture Exhibition. During the visit, 7 new MoUs were signed on a range of bilateral issues, including the Second Phase of Pakistan-China FTA, Completion of Preliminary Design of ML-1, Rashakai SEZ Joint Venture, Socio-Economic Cooperation, Economic and Technical Cooperation and Cooperation in Marine Sciences.
Prime Minister’s Visit to China (2-5 November 2018):
Prime Minister Imran Khan had paid his first official visit to China on 2-5 November 2018. In Beijing, he had met with President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, Chairman Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), Li Zhanshu and Vice President Wang Qishan. He had also met with Minister of International Department of the CPC Central Committee, Song Tao, Chairman of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and had interactions with leading corporate leaders of China. In Shanghai, the Prime Minister had attended the opening ceremony of the 1st China International Import Expo (CIIE).
The two sides reached a number of important understandings and long-term consensus, reiterated strong commitment to bilateral relations and the leaders developed good rapport for future cooperation. During the visit, two sides had signed fifteen (15) agreements/MoUs on a range of bilateral issues, including transfer of sentenced persons, poverty reduction, agriculture, socio-economic development, and cooperation in combating illicit traffic in drugs.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif paid an official visit to Zhengzhou from 14-15 December 2015, to participate in the SCO Summit. During the visit, he met with Premier Li Keqiang. President Mamnoon Hussain visited Wuzhen from 16-18 December 2015, to participate in the 2nd World Internet Conference. During the visit he met with President Xi Jinping on 16 December.
On the invitation of Chinese leadership, President Mamnoon Hussain paid an official visit to China from 1-4 September, 2015, to participate in the commemoration ceremony of the 70th Anniversary of China’s victory in World War II. During the visit, delegation level talks were held with President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.
Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a historic State visit to Pakistan from 20-21 April 2015. During the visit, it was agreed to intensify cooperation under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. China pledged to invest US$46 billion in Pakistan’s energy and infrastructure sectors in Pakistan. President Xi was also awarded Pakistan’s highest civil award of ‘Nishan-e- Pakistan’ during the visit.
On the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif paid an official visit to Beijing from 7-8 November 2014 to participate in the “Dialogue on Strengthening Connectivity Partnership” during the 22nd APEC Summit. Prime Minister Sharif endorsed President Xi’s vision on regional connectivity and infrastructure development, stressing that Asia would need to strengthen both to excel in international arena.
President Mamnoon Hussain visited Shanghai from 19-22 May 2014, to attend the 4th Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA). Pakistan’s participation in the CICA Summit at the highest political level sealed its endorsement of the vision of Asian collective security based on cooperation and dialogue.
President Mamnoon Hussain paid an official visit to China from 18-21 February 2014. The second Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting on Economic Corridor Project (ECP) was held on the sidelines of the President’s visit.
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif paid an official visit to China from 3-8 July 2013. This was Prime Minister’s first overseas visit after assuming office in June 2013. During the visit, the two sides concluded the MoU on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Premier Li Keqiang paid an official visit to Pakistan from 22-23 May 2013. It was the first visit of Premier Li Keqiang abroad after assuming office.
Other High Level Visits:
From Pakistan side, the other recent high-level exchanges include the meeting of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi with State Councillor and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, in August 2019 and on the sidelines of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers in May 2019. Earlier, the Foreign Minister had met with Wang Yi when he visited Beijing in March 2019 for the first session of Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue and later when he was in Beijing for the 2nd Belt and Road Forum in April 2019. The Foreign Minister also participated in Political Parties’ Dialogue between PTI and CPC and Political Parties Forum on CPEC. He also met Vice President Wang Qishan and Minister for IDCPC, Mr. Song Tao. Foreign Minister had earlier visited Beijing on 25 December 2018.
Former Foreign Secretary visited China on 8-11 April 2019 to formally launch the JWG on International Cooperation. The Foreign Secretary also met with Vice Minister Le Yucheng and Mr. Yang Jiechi, Director Foreign Affairs Commission of CPC. Bilateral ties between the two countries; Prime Minister’s visit to China for 2nd Belt and Road Forum (25-28 April 2019); current regional situation; and cooperation at multilateral fora were discussed during the visit.
The Deputy Chairman Senate, Saleem Mandviwalla, visited China from 17-19 April 2019 and held meetings with Shanghai Media Group, Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Shanghai Committee, Shanghai Federation of Industry and Commerce, East China Central Factory of Bright Dairy. Previously, Chairman Senate visited China from 16-20 August 2018. Former President Mamnoon Hussain had visited China to attend the SCO Heads of State Summit in Qingdao in June 2018. Former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi participated in the Boao Forum for Asia held on 8-11 April 2018.
From Chinese side, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Pakistan in September 2019 to attend the Third China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers Dialogue in Islamabad. Vice Chairman CMC Gen. Xu Qiliang visited Pakistan recently.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou visited Pakistan on 6 March 2019. He discussed the regional situation with the Foreign Secretary and also called on Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Chief of the Army Staff. Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou had earlier visited Pakistan to attend the first round of reconstituted Political Consultations between Pakistan and China on 10 December 2018.
The other high level visits from China included those of Mr. Gao Yunlong, Vice-Chairman Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) (13-16 February, 2019); visit of Mr. Zhang Chunxian, Vice Chairman of Standing Committee of National People’s Congress (NPC) in November 2018; visit of Mr. Song Tao, Minister for International Department of Communist Party of China (CPC) on 13-16 October; State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit (6-9 September); and visit of General Zhang Youxia, Vice Chairman of Central Military Commission of China in May 2018.
Pakistan and China have several Consultations mechanisms including Strategic Dialogue at Foreign Ministers’ level, Political Consultations at Foreign Secretary/Vice-Minister level; consultations on South Asia, Arms Control, Counter-terrorism; Human Rights; Peacekeeping; Maritime Dialogue; Border management consultations, and Consular affairs.
Pakistan-China Defence collaboration forms the backbone of the relationship. The cooperation spans high-level military exchanges, structured defence and security talks, joint exercises, training of personnel in each other’s institutions, joint defence production and defence trade. The militaries of the two countries have institutionalized three tiers of bilateral consultations to enable close cooperation at all levels. There is an extensive range of cooperation, including joint ventures, for the production of military equipment, aircraft, submarines and tanks. China is also the recipient of the largest number of military training officials from Pakistan.
Economic & Trade Relations:
China is currently Pakistan’s largest single trading partner; while Pakistan is China’s second largest trading partner in South Asia. Major imports from China include machinery and mechanical appliances, metals, chemical products, mineral ores, plastic scrap and transport equipment. Main exports include cotton yarn, cotton fabric, rice, leather and fish products.
In recent years, the bilateral trade volume between China and Pakistan has increased rapidly with stable commodity structure. However, despite robust investment from China, bilateral trade remains anemic. China’s imports from Pakistan reflect a downward trend whereas China’s exports to Pakistan are on an upward trajectory. Bilateral trade, which stood at US$ 1.3 billion in 2002, reached US$ 19.08 billion in 2018. Imports from China stood at US$ 16.90 billion and exports from Pakistan to China at US$ 2.17 billion.
According to the State Bank of Pakistan Annual Report 2018, during FY 2018, China was the biggest investor in Pakistan with an investment of US$ 1.591 billion out of a total of US$ 2.537 billion which amounts to 63% of total FDI. With the initiation of CPEC, there has been an upsurge in investment flows into Pakistan especially in infrastructure and energy sectors.
China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC):
Pakistan and China have constituted a Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) to implement CPEC. The JCC is co-chaired by Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform and Vice-Chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission. It is supported by 8 Joint Working Groups covering the various areas of cooperation as follows:
Eight JCC meetings have been held to date, with the last taking place on 20 December 2018. Next meeting of the JCC will be held in Islamabad.
Current Status of CPEC Projects:
The Port and Free Zone of Gwadar are being operated by Chinese state-owned company China Overseas Port Holdings Co. Ltd. (COPHCL). The Port and First Phase of the Free Zone are already operational. Auxiliary projects include the Eastbay Expressway, the New Gwadar International Airport (NGIA), the Gwadar Friendship Hospital, and the Vocational and Technical Training Institute.
The 300 MW power plant at Gwadar is another significant project for the port city’s long-term growth. A fresh water treatment plant with an estimated cost of US$ 130 million is also part of the Gwadar Development Plan.
In Energy sector 5,320 MW of electricity has been added to the national grid while work on 7 projects with 4,170 MW is ongoing.
In infrastructure sector, a total of 1,544 KM roads have been completed. Another 1,456 KM are under construction.
Cross border optical fiber project stretching over 820 KM has been completed.
Industrial Capacity Cooperation:
Industrial capacity cooperation is an important component of CPEC, which can accelerate Pakistan’s industrialization process through adoption of the Chinese model of Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Thus far, three SEZs have been identified for fast-track development: (i) M-3 near Faisalabad, (ii) Dhabeji near Karachi, and (iii) Rashakai along the motorway between Peshawar and Islamabad. In May 2019, the Rashakai SEZ was inaugurated. Remaining two SEZs are at an advance stage.
Socioeconomic Development under CPEC
The JWG on Socioeconomic Development was established as a major outcome of the visit of the Prime Minister to China in November 2018. Projects under this cluster would cover all parts of Pakistan and would be financed with Chinese grants and interest-free loans. These projects would focus on the following six areas: (i) agriculture, (ii) education, (iii) medical treatment and health care, (iv) poverty alleviation, (v) water supply, and (vi) vocational training.
Other Socio-Economic Cooperation:
In recent years, Pakistan and China have intensified cooperation in socio-economic sector. The two sides have agreed to jointly design and develop two pilot projects for poverty alleviation.
Culture and People-to-People:
To enhance collaboration in the fields of film, television and publications, “The Executive Program for Cultural Agreement between the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People’s Republic of China for the year 2017-2021” was signed and concluded during the Minister for Information’s visit to China in February 2018.
Pakistan has also established sister-province relations with seven Chinese provinces and sister-city relations with 10 Chinese cities. Both sides have agreed to celebrate 2019 as the Year of Sister-city and Sister-province relationship between Pakistan and China. Minister for IPC Dr. Fehmida Mirza visited Beijing on 28March for inaugural ceremony to celebrate 2019 as year of sister city/provinces relations between Pakistan and China. The second event in this series is scheduled to be held in Islamabad later this year. Both sides have also established Youth Communication Committee for exchanges.
China has become one of the preferred destinations for Pakistani students in the world. There are about 28,000 Pakistani students in China. Most students are enrolled in Graduate and PhD programmes. Chinese government offers 7034 scholarships to Pakistani students. Currently, there are ten Pakistan Study Centers and eleven Urdu Language Departments in prominent Universities of China. The Chinese side has established four Confucius Institutes in Pakistan. A CPEC Consortium of Universities, that initially consisted of business schools of the top 9 Chinese and top 10 Pakistani universities, has been established as a platform for exchange of students, researchers and faculty for utilization under CPEC. The two sides are also exploring possible establishment of China-Pakistan Joint Working Group under the Proposed Executive Programme on Education Cooperation and Exchanges between China and Pakistan (2019-2023).
Cooperation in Science and Technology and Space Technology:
Cooperation in the field of Science and Technology between Pakistan and China is pursued under the framework of “Agreement on Scientific & Technical Cooperation” signed in May 1976. Cooperation initiatives areorganized through a total of 18 protocols signed alternately at Islamabad and Beijing. The 18th Protocol for S&T cooperation was signed on July 8, 2017 for a duration of 4 years.
Last modified: January 8, 2020
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