In a landmark development, Pakistan’s civilian government, military leadership and Chinese administration are working hard together to shift Pak-China relations into a higher gear and make the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is also a pilot project of BRI, a success story.
The troika passed the toughest test of trustfulness and friendliness when terrorists attacked the Chinese Consulate Karachi on November 23, 2018.
Surprisingly, the Chinese embassy in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan and other Chinese consulates especially the Chinese Consulate in Lahore proved themselves resilient with no sign of panic.
The Chinese Consul General in Lahore, Mr. Long Dingbin, said, “Chinese are safe”, and added that China would continue to cooperate with the government to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens as well as the CPEC projects, so as to enhance bilateral relationship. The following is an interview with Mr. Long Dongbin.
China-Pakistan relations are expanding in various sectors. In your perspective, how can these cordial ties be deepened further culturally, socially, economically and politically?
Mr. Long Dingbin: “The friendship between Pakistan and China has withstood the test of time and change of various surrounding environments, and has continued to deepen. China’s relationship with Pakistan is always a matter of highest priority in its foreign policy. As President Xi Jinping put it, China-Pakistan relations should be a model of good-neighborly friendship, a pillar of regional peace and stability, and a benchmark for international cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative
s (BRI). Successive Pakistani governments have taken its relationship with China as the cornerstone of foreign policy.
Prime Minister Imran Khan paid his first official visit to China on November 2-5, 2018. During his visit, the leaders of the two countries had an in-depth exchange of views on bilateral, regional and international issues. During the visit, the two sides signed 15 Agreements/MoUs on a range of bilateral issues, and published a Joint Statement on Further Strengthening the China-Pakistan All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership, and Building Closer China-Pakistan Community of Shared Future in the New Era. This statement lays out in detail ways which the two sides can build a closer China-Pakistan community with shared future, covering eight areas such as political relations, economic relations, people to people and culture links, social sector cooperation and so on. I believe that as long as the two sides take the joint statement as the guide and implement the contents of the relevant agreements, the relationship between the two countries will surely reach a higher level.”
China’s 40 years of reform and opening-up has set a new precedent of determination and success. It also has strong global appeal for developing countries like Pakistan. What lessons can Pakistan learn from it? How can it help them thrive in the modern era?
Mr. Long Dingbin: “Over the past 40 years of reform and opening-up, the Chinese people, under the strong leadership of the CPC, have worked hard with persistence, achieved epic accomplishments and brought great changes to China. China has pursued development with open doors and succeeded in transforming a closed and semi-closed economy into a fully open economy. Openness has become a trademark of China. China has grown by embracing the world, and the world has also benefited from China’s opening-up.
As the Chinese President Xi Jinping said, it is important for all countries to open wider and expand the space for mutually beneficial cooperation. It is important for all countries to pursue innovative growth and speed up the transformation of growth drivers. To this end, it is important for all countries to pursue inclusive development for the benefit of all.”
What do you expect from the new Pakistan government in order to complete the CPEC projects without any loss of time?
Mr. Long Dingbin: “China believes that the new Pakistani government will lead its people to overcome difficulties and move toward building a new Pakistan under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan. China as a good friend, good partner and good neighbor will resolutely stand with Pakistan during this new historic progress.
CPEC is an important economic cooperation project which was implemented at the instigation of the Pakistani side. Within the framework of CPEC, there are currently 22 cooperation projects of which nine have been completed and 13 are under construction. With a total investment of US 19 billion dollars, the CPEC projects have driven Pakistan's economic growth by increasing 1 to 2 percentage points per year and have created 70,000 new jobs in the country.
China will provide all-out help to Pakistan with its new development goals, consolidate strategic trust and coordination, better improve the construction of the CPEC, elevate the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries to a new level, and create a closer community with shared future with Pakistan.”
How much is the role of the Chinese Lahore consulate playing in fostering Pak-China friendship and Pak-China business ventures in Punjab?
Mr. Long Dingbin: “Officially inaugurated on September 30, 2015, the Chinese Consulate General in Lahore has been working hard to make concrete advancements for the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between our two countries. We are the bridges between the governments, enterprises and people of both China and Pakistan.
One of the priorities of the Consulate is to ensure the successful completion of the CPEC and non-CPEC projects under the agreements of Punjab and Chinese Government. Since I assumed office as the Chinese Consul General in Lahore, I have inspected all the CPEC projects and major non-CPEC mega-projects many times, and listened to progress reports. As for the problems which exist with the projects, we have conveyed them in a timely manner to the relevant departments so they can find sufficient solutions to resolve them.
Another important job for the Consulate General is to ensure the safety and security of Chinese projects, institutions and nationals in Punjab. To this end, the Consulate General works closely with the Punjab Government and has established a two-tier working mechanism. The mechanism includes all the law enforcing agencies of Punjab and holds meetings regularly to work out security-related issues. It works efficiently and effectively, thus ensuring the smooth progress of the Chinese projects, and the safety of the Chinese enterprises and staff involved.
To strengthen the friendship between our two countries, the Consulate General sponsors a number of Punjab governmental, youth, women and media delegations to visit China every year. These visits have deepened the understanding of the delegates about China’s development, culture and people.”
What is the popularity of the Chinese language and its growth in Punjab? Do you have plans to open up more institutes to help more people learn Chinese?
Mr. Long Dingbin: “In correspondence with the request for learning the Chinese language, the Consulate General has coordinated with the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) and other institutions to designate Chinese teachers to open Chinese language courses in Technical Education & Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA), the University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Government College University (GCU) and other colleges. The Consulate has also donated language laboratory equipment to these institutions for better Chinese language education.
Two Confucius Institutes have been established in Punjab, one in the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, and the other one in Punjab University Lahore. Both institutes have been running well and have trained a great number of Pakistani learners how to speak the Chinese language.”
The writer is a senior journalist working for China Today and China Radio International. He also contributes to national mainstreams newspapers on economy, international relations and human rights. He is a fellow of ICFJ. , @yasirkhann