Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif Visits China To Greet Xi Jinping

Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif, who is visiting China at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang, was received by senior Chinese officials at the Beijing Airport.

Shehbaz Sharif

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif arrived in Beijing on Tuesday on a two-day official visit to China during which he will meet the top Chinese leadership, including President Xi Jinping, for talks aimed at boosting business and strategic all-weather ties.

Sharif, who is visiting China at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang, was received by senior Chinese officials at the Beijing Airport.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Railways Minister Saad Rafique and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah are part of Sharif's delegation.

During his stay, Prime Minister Sharif will meet President Xi and hold delegation level talks with Premier Li, state-owned Radio Pakistan reported.

This is Sharif's first visit to China since assuming office in April this year.

Sharif will be the first head of the government to felicitate 69-year-old Xi in person for securing an unprecedented third five-year term at the recently held Communist Party Congress, becoming the first leader after party founder Mao Zedong to continue in power after 10-year tenure.

The two sides will review the all-weather strategic cooperation partnership and exchange views on regional and global developments.

Sharif's visit represents the continuity of the frequent leadership-level exchanges between Pakistan and China. 

The Prime Minister's Office in Islamabad said Prime Minister Sharif was looking forward to meeting the Chinese leadership for a series of “productive and fruitful meetings” aimed at boosting business, strategic and people-to-people relations. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian during his briefing in Beijing said China warmly welcomes Prime Minister Sharif’s upcoming visit, Radio Pakistan reported. 

He said China looks forward to further advancing high-level strategic cooperation with Pakistan and bringing more fruitful outcomes from the Sino-Pak friendship to the benefit of the two peoples.

The spokesperson said no matter how the international or domestic situations evolve, the friendship between the two nations has been carried on from generation to generation.

He said both countries have always supported each other on issues concerning respective major interests and have stood together. 

Separately, Dawn reported that Prime Minister Sharif will try to revive the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and expand trade and investment ties with the neighbouring country by making optimal use of the second phase of the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement. 

Launched in 2013, the CPEC is a corridor linking Pakistan's Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea with Kashgar in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which highlights energy, transport and industrial cooperation.

The USD 60 billion CPEC is part of China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a pet project of President Xi.

"Pakistan can serve as the manufacturing base for China and an extension of its industrial and supply chain network,” Sharif wrote in an opinion article published in the Chinese newspaper Global Times on Sunday.

"There are three types of good friends: one that is dir­e­ct and honest; one that is trustworthy, dependable and generous when you need help; and one that is knowledgeable and talented to gui­de you and show you what you can’t see,” he quoted Con­­fucius as having once said about friends and friendships.

Sharif further said in the article that the 21st century demanded a new paradigm to deal with the emerging challenges as well as opportunities and to wean the region away from conflict and conflagration.

He also wrote that the two countries could fast-track bilateral cooperation to boost corporate farming, efficient water usage, development of hybrid seeds and high-yield crops and establish cold storage chains. 

"This cooperation has assumed an added importance to address common concerns related to food security,” he added.

He said the CPEC’s next phase would encompass key areas such as industry, energy, agriculture, ICT, rail and road network and developing Gwadar port as a hub of trade and transhipment, investment and regional connectivity.

“Our overall aim is to harness the potential of CPEC for Pakistan’s inclusive and sustainable growth, socio-economic development and for improving the livelihoods of our people,” he added. 

In a press conference, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal while terming Pakistan and China iron brothers stressed the need for exploiting the potential of their economic cooperation.