Why Pakistan-China relationship will become even more crucial


China received praise for its model of governance and economic achievements, from leaders of countries which share close ties with China, during The Communist Party of China (CPC) and World Political Parties Summit. China’s governance model drew generous praise from Pakistan PM, Imran Khan. Khan said that China’s model of governance had been effective in achieving economic progress and was focused on the welfare of the people.

Days earlier, Khan in an interview had said that China had been successful in providing an alternative model to that of western democracy – which according to Khan was far more meritocratic. Khan also made the point, that while in western democracies change was not easy because they were bound by rules and regulations.

Second, Khan also hailed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) specifically highlighting the progress of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Said Khan

“Our friendship with China and CPEC complement [the] vision of peace for our citizens and for others and shared prosperity and common development for our region and the world.

The Pakistan PM also said that the vision of the CPC and the Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI )government, which had been in power for three years, had a similar vision.

CPEC Project

 Many BRI related projects, specifically CPEC, have drawn flak in recent years for lacking transparency, and being economically unsustainable (there has also been a slow down in CPEC projects in recent years). Members of Khan’s own cabinet had raised question marks over the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. Amongst those who had raised questions with regard to the economic sustainability of CPEC related projects were Abdul Razak Dawood, Advisor for Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production, and Investment to Imran Khan and Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed. Beijing expressed its displeasure with regard to the statements by these ministers, and no member of Imran Khan’s government has criticised CPEC project in public after the Chinese rebuke.

 It would also be pertinent to point out, that in certain instances Beijing had been compelled to renegotiate projects due to local pressures. One instance is the Kyaukpyu deep-sea port project in Myanmar in 2018.

It is not just Imran Khan, but Cambodian People’s Party President and Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen who praised the CPC for ensuring political stability, while giving primacy to people’s happiness and prosperity in its political decisions. Hun Sen dubbed the BRI as ‘a crucial win-win development strategy for socio-economic development and prosperity of countries in the region and around the world through promoting trade and investment’.

The Cambodian PM thanked China for its assistance during the covid19 pandemic.

The support for China’s governance model as well as the BRI comes days after Chinese President Xi Jinping in the 100th commemoration of the CCP stated that Beijing would not tolerate any bullying hinting at the US. Said Xi

;..we will never allow anyone to bully, oppress, or subjugate [China]. Anyone who tries will find them on a collision course with a steel wall forged by 1.4 billion people.”

Xi also warned against ‘sanctimonious preaching’ from the West.

US-China relations in recent months

 In recent months, US and other western countries have been critical of China’s belligerent approach vis-à-vis its neighbors, violation of human rights, the lack of transparency of the BRI and most importantly, its handling of the covid19 pandemic. A statement issued by the members of the G7, after last month’s G7 summit, called for an inquiry into the pandemic, and was critical of China for human rights violations in Xinjiang, as well as its increasingly belligerent approach vis-à-vis neighbours. Said the G7 statement:

“We will promote our values, including by calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” 

The G7 also proposed an alternative to the BRI in the form of Building Back Better World (B3W). The B3W a brainchild of US President, Joe Biden who has been batting in favor of US and its allies working jointly and coming up with an alternative to the BRI. Other members of the G7 extended their support to the ambitious project which aims to fulfill the needs of developing countries by drawing private sector investment in areas like climate, digital technology.


Imran Khan’s remarks on China especially important because with the changing geopolitical dynamics in South Asia as a result of US withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan , and the election of a hardliner, Ebrahim Raisi as Iranian President, the Pakistan-China relationship is likely to strengthen and become even more crucial. In the broader context, US and its allies critical of China and the BRI project need to realise that unless they actually deliver on the ground (the B3W is a good beginning but a lot will depend upon its implementation), developing countries will be left with no alternative, but to seek Chinese support, even if it leads to piling up of unsustainable debts and political interference from China.

Tridivesh Singh Maini
Tridivesh Singh Maini
Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi based Policy Analyst associated with The Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat, India


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