ISLAMABAD: Chinese Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Zhao Lijian on Wednesday said that the modalities of Chinese assistance to Pakistan are being worked out mutually and experts from both sides are in contact to formulise the details of the new package.
“China is trying to extend every possible support to Pakistan but we do not plan to reveal the exact numbers. Modalities are being discussed between the two sides and officials are involved in consultations,” said Zhao Lijian who was flanked by leading Chinese scholars, including China Institute of International Studies Vice President Rong Ying, Department of Asian Affairs Counsellor Zhang Zhixin, Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation’s International Trade Research Centre Vice President Zhu Caihua and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Centre for South Asia Study Director Ye Hailin.
Talking to the media about Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at the Chinese Embassy, Zhao Lijian said that Pakistan and China were all weather and time-tested friends and Beijing would keep supporting Islamabad through thick or thin.
He said that in the past when Pakistan sought immediate help from Beijing out of its financial crisis, China offered support to Pakistan more than the Saudi Arabian package of $6 billion.
He said that when Pakistan had sought immediate help, China’s central bank had opened its channel with the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) besides lining up credit lines by Chinese commercial banks for the transfer of foreign exchange reserves to help boost Islamabad’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
Detailing the Chinese Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for Pakistan, Zhao Lijian said that China had made $60 billion FDI to the BRI countries out of which over 20 per cent had been invested only in Pakistan.
“China invested $19 billion in Pakistan. Out of the total 200,000 jobs created across the BRI countries, Pakistan got the biggest share as 75,000 jobs were created only in Pakistan, thus making Pakistan the biggest destination overseas for the Chinese investment,” he added.
Zhao Lijian made it clear that BRI was not a geopolitical or a geostrategic (military) alliance and rather it was purely an economic initiative aimed at laying a network of connectivity for trade, economic and cultural cooperation and exchanges.
Referring to the reports of the American strings for International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout package for Pakistan, Zhao Lijian said that while others ask (read US) others to take sides for financial assistance, China is not asking Pakistan to take sides.
When asked to comment about the inclusion of Saudi Arabia into China – Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Zhao Lijian said that the matter can be discussed in the upcoming sitting of Joint Cooperation Committee due late November or early December.
“We can discuss Saudi Arabia’s inclusion in CPEC but Saudi Arabia is not being invited as a third partner under the JCC. JCC is a bilateral forum between Pakistan and China,” the Chinese envoy said.
Rong Ying said that Pakistan’s economic issues were chronic in nature and it needed a comprehensive strategy to get out of the crisis.
“China will not sit idle as Pakistan struggles with the financial crunch. We will lend all possible help to break this logjam,” he said and added that in five years since BRI was launched, the focus has been laid on development of connectivity and infrastructure building in the BRI countries. Rong said that China had made it clear in the early days of BRI launching that the initiative would provide a platform for international economic cooperation based on three principles – close consultation, joint participation contribution not a foreign aid, and sharing of benefits or win-win cooperation.
He said that till date, 130 countries or international organisations had either signed memorandums of understandings (MoU) or had expressed interest in joining BRI which is an open-ended and inclusive initiative.
“There are many opportunities under BRI. CPEC, being the pilot project of BRI, is a test case for both Pakistan and China. In this context, let me say that the CPEC has been warmly welcomed and is rather a game-changer not only for the two friendly countries but for the entire region and beyond,” he said.
Underlying the need for a sense of responsibility and cooperation by partner countries in making BRI a success, Rong Ying said that it was also an equal responsibility of Pakistan to make CPEC a success.
Talking about the responsibility of media, the Chinese scholar said that negative propaganda had no place and Pakistani and Chinese media should join hands to deny any space to the negative propaganda on CPEC or BRI for the good of the future generations.
“For me, one of the pressing challenges for academia and media is to present the correct picture of CPEC and BRI in an objective and balanced way. We should also bring forth all the challenges and issues in a positive and responsible manner if we want to make CPEC and BRI a success story,” he added.
He said that the under the CPEC pledges, new projects of capacity building would largely help transform Pakistani youth into a skilled and useful asset which would help make CPEC a success. He said that new and better employment opportunities for youth would also improve standards of livelihood of common Pakistani citizens besides boosting Pakistani exports.