Visit of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to China

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Pakistan labels China as a “good and bad days’ friend” since it gained its independence in 1947. That’s why it is seen that Islamabad develops close relations with Beijing. Thus, the Pakistani people support the development of relations with China. One of the reasons that Pakistan approached China was that the Communist Party of China (CPC) cares about the Islamabad administration. The disagreement between the two countries with India, Pakistan is a nuclear power and the fact that Beijing attributes critical roles to this country in its global strategies are also factors that contribute to the development of relations between the parties.

As it is known, in the 20th Congress of CPC on October 16, 2022, President of China Xi Jinping was reelected for the third time as CPC Secretary General. Thus, after the success of Xi, the first foreign leader to visit China was the Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahbaz Sharif. The visit was in a quite constructive atmosphere. Because, before the visit of 1-2 November 2022, in the analysis that Sharif wrote for “Global China Daily”, he clarified that the relations with China are building blocks of the foreign policy of Pakistan.[1] During his speech in China, he said that “The world faces different issues. In such a situation, China and Pakistan will strengthen their strategic relations, and Pakistan is ready to establish constructive relations with its all neighbors.”[2]

On the other hand, after Sharif came to power, it is seen that he followed a policy close to the West. In fact, on the occasion of this visit, the Prime Minister of Pakistan put that he follows a balanced policy between the West and China. Because, Sharif observed that the former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s policy of rapprochement towards China was not enough to solve the economic and political issues in the country; therefore, he focused on restoring the relations with the United States of America (USA) in private, and with the West in general.

It should be noted that it is observed that the Sharif Government’s policy of enhancing relations with the West brought significant acquisition to the country. For instance, the International Money Fund (IMF) loaned 1,7-billion-dollar worth of credit to Pakistan. Moreover, the USA started to express that it sees the Islamabad administration as a partner, in contrast to criticizing Pakistan. In addition, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) declared that they exclude Pakistan from the grey list, which is terrorist-supporter countries take place in.  In addition, the Washington administration said that it will provide 450-million-dollar worth of military aid to Pakistan for the repair of the F-16 fighter jets.

As it can be understood, while normalizing relations with the West, especially with the USA, the Sharif administration has also visited China, demonstrating that it is pursuing a multilateral foreign policy based on balance. Therefore, as the first leader to visit the country during Xi’s third term, Sharif has shown that he aims to improve and deepen relations between Islamabad and Beijing.

In this context, it can be said that the main agenda of Sharif’s visit to China was Chinese investments and security issues in his country.[3]  In addition, the Prime Minister of Pakistan also tried to convey the message that developing relations with the West should not disturb Beijing. This is because Islamabad’s foreign policy orientations have made China uneasy. As a reflection of this, China halted electricity exports to Pakistan due to Pakistan’s default on its debt. Sharif, on the other hand, used the occasion of his visit to send the message that Pakistan sees China as a “friend on a bad day.”

The most important issue discussed during Sharif’s meetings with Chinese officials was the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). CPEC is one of the six economic corridors of the Belt-Road Project. China plans to invest 63 billion dollars in CPEC. Despite the USA’s discomfort with CPEC, Sharif has stated that he cares about the interests of his country and that Pakistan will not give up on CPEC because it is a vital project for Islamabad. However, it is also known that the project has been stalled for some time. In this environment, Sharif, as if to show that he cares about relations with China despite the West, stated that Pakistan is ready to take every step for the realization of the project. As a matter of fact, during the negotiations, the parties agreed on the urgent implementation of the ML1 Railway Project within the scope of CPEC.[4]

Another issue discussed during the visit was the deferment of Pakistan’s debts and the request for new loans from China. Allegedly, Pakistan has a debt of 6.3 billion dollars to China. However, due to economic problems, the Islamabad administration wants this debt to be postponed. As a matter of fact, in addition to economic problems, it is stated that even seasonal floods have caused 30 billion dollars of damage to Pakistan. In this context, the Chinese President’s announcement that he will provide 500 million yuan in aid to the country is very important.[5]

Another issue discussed during the leaders’ meeting was the security of Chinese citizens in Pakistan. It is well known that separatist Baloch groups in Pakistan’s Baluchistan region have been carrying out attacks targeting Chinese investments and Chinese workers. This makes Beijing concerned about the security of CPEC. What should not be overlooked here is that before Sharif visited Beijing, the Pakistani government ratified a security agreement aimed at ensuring the security of Chinese citizens. In this context, it was also announced that Pakistan will establish a special battalion consisting of 28 thousand people.[6]

The Afghan issue was also discussed during the Prime Minister of Pakistan’s visit to Beijing. In line with its desire to develop and deepen its relations with the West, Islamabad is currently engaged in various processes with the West on Afghanistan-based developments. This inevitably disturbs China. For instance, by opening its airspace to the USA, Pakistan allows Washington to conduct surveillance activities in Afghanistan. It can be said that Beijing has concerns about this. Sharif has tried to allay these concerns. In fact, in his statements at the UN General Assembly, Sharif tried to gain Beijing’s support by stating that some radical organizations that threaten China’s national security are active in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, in his meeting with Sharif, Xi stated that Afghanistan’s security and stability are important for regional development and that the country should join CPEC.[7] This means that CPEC could lead Beijing and Islamabad to act together in the context of the Afghan Question.

As a result, relations between Pakistan and China are strategic in nature. The fact that Sharif was the first foreign leader to visit Beijing during Xi’s third term confirms this. The messages given by the parties also herald that the relations will continue to take shape at a positive momentum. Therefore, it is possible to say that Pakistan has successfully maintained its multilateral foreign policy based on balance.

[1] “شهباز شریف: پاکستان خواستار توسعه تجارت و سرمایه‌گذاری با چین است”, ISNA,, (Date of Accession: 02.11.2022).

[2] “سفر نخست وزیر پاکستان به چین؛ شریف از این سفر چه می‌خواهد؟”, IRNA,, (Date of Accession: 02.11.2022).

[3] “سفر نخست‌وزیر پاکستان به چین؛ شهباز شریف در باره مسایل اقتصادی و بدهی آن کشور گفتگو می‌کند”, Afintl,, (Date of Accession: 02.11.2022).

[4] “رایزنی نخست وزیر پاکستان با شی جن پنگ رئیس جمهور چین”, Raaznews,, (Date of Accession: 02.11.2022).

[5] “سفر نخست‌وزیر پاکستان به چین؛ شهباز شریف در باره مسایل اقتصادی و بدهی آن کشور گفتگو می‌کند”, Afintl,, (Date of Accession: 02.11.2022).

[6] “سفر نخست وزیر پاکستان به چین؛ شریف از این سفر چه می‌خواهد؟”, IRNA,, (Date of Accession: 02.11.2022).

[7] “رایزنی نخست وزیر پاکستان با شی جن پنگ رئیس جمهور چین”, Raaznews,, (Date of Accession: 02.11.2022).

Ahmad Khan Dawlatyar graduated from Kunduz University, Department of Law and Political Science in 2013. He received his master's degree from Ankara University, Institute of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science in 2019 with his thesis titled "A Comparative Analysis on the Principle of Separation of Powers in the Constitutions of the Republic of Turkey and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan". Participating in various scientific events, Dawlatyar has presented papers and articles on the Afghanistan problem. In this context, his presentation titled "Religious and Ideological Causes of the Afghanistan Problem" was published. He is currently continuing his doctoral studies at Ankara University, Institute of Social Sciences, Department of International Relations. Ahmad Khan Dawlatyar, who contributes to the studies carried out within ANKASAM, mainly works in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Dawlatyar is fluent in Farsi, Uzbek, Turkish and Pashto. He also has an intermediate level of English.