Sino-Pakistani relations

China-Pakistan relations



China–Pakistan relations began in 1950 when Pakistan was among the first countries to end official diplomatic relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan and recognize the PRC. Since then, both countries have placed considerable importance on the maintenance of an extremely close and supportive relationship.[1][2][3] Since then, the two countries have regularly exchanged high-level visits resulting in a variety of agreements. The PRC has provided economic, military and technical assistance to Pakistan and each considers the other a close strategic ally.[4][5]

Bilateral relations have evolved from an initial Chinese policy of neutrality to a partnership that links a smaller but militarily powerful Pakistan, partially dependent on China for its economic and military strength, with China attempting to balance competing interests[which?] in the region. Diplomatic relations were established in 1950, military assistance began in 1966, a strategic alliance was formed in 1972 and economic co-operation began in 1979. China has become Pakistan’s largest sup­plier of arms and its third-largest trad­ing partner.[6][7] Recently, both nations have decided to cooperate in improving Pakistan's civil nuclear power sector.[8]

Maintaining close relations with China is a central part of Pakistan's foreign policy. China supported Pakistan's opposition to the Soviet Union's intervention in Afghanistan and is perceived by Pakistan as a regional counterweight to NATO and the United States[dubious ]. China and Pakistan also share close military relations, with China supplying a range of modern armaments to the Pakistani defense forces. China supports Pakistan's stance on Kashmir while Pakistan supports China on the issues of Xinjiang, Tibet, and Taiwan. Military cooperation has deepened with joint projects producing armaments ranging from fighter jets to guided missile frigates.

Chinese cooperation with Pakistan has reached economic high points, with substantial Chinese investment in Pakistani infrastructural expansion including the Pakistani deep-water port at Gwadar. Both countries have an ongoing free trade agreement. Pakistan has served as China's main bridge between Muslim countries. Pakistan also played an important role in bridging the communication gap between China and the West by facilitating the 1972 Nixon visit to China. The relations between Pakistan and China have been described by Pakistan's ambassador to China as higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, stronger than steel, dearer than eyesight, sweeter than honey, and so on. [9]


Pakistan has a long and strong relationship with China. The long-standing ties between the two countries have been mutually beneficial. A close identity of views and mutual interests remain the centre-point of bilateral ties. Since the 1962 Sino-Indian War, Pakistan has supported China on most issues of importance to the latter, especially those related to the question of China's sovereignty like Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Tibet and other sensitive issues such as human rights.[10]

The Chinese leadership has acknowledged Pakistan's steadfast support on key issues. Pakistan helped China in reestablishing formal ties with the West, where they helped make possible the 1972 Nixon visit to China. Pakistan has collaborated with China in extensive military and economic projects, seeing China as a counterweight to India and the United States[dubious ]. Pakistan has also served as a conduit for China's influence in the Muslim world.[11]

China also has a consistent record of supporting Pakistan in regional issues. During the Pakistan-Indian tensions in 2008, it implied that it would support Pakistan in the event of a war. Pakistan's military depends heavily on Chinese armaments, and joint projects of both economic and militaristic importance are ongoing. China has supplied equipment to support Pakistan's nuclear program.

Diplomatic relations

Diplomatic relations between Pakistan and China were established on 21 May 1951, shortly after the Republic Of China lost power in the Mainland in 1949.[12] While initially ambivalent towards the idea of a Communist country on its borders, Pakistan hoped that China would serve as a counterweight to Indian influence. India had recognized China a year before, and Indian Prime Minister Nehru also hoped for closer relations with the Chinese. However, with escalating border tensions leading to the 1962 Sino-Indian war, China and Pakistan aligned with each other in a joint effort to counter perceived Indian encroachment. One year after China's border war with India, Pakistan ceded the Trans-Karakoram Tract to China to end border disputes and improve diplomatic relations.

Since then, an informal alliance that initially consisted of joint Indian opposition has grown into a lasting relationship that has benefited both nations on the diplomatic, economic and military frontiers. Along with diplomatic support, Pakistan served as a conduit for China to open up to the West. China has in turn provided extensive economic aid and political support to Pakistan.

Pakistan's military initially depended almost entirely on American armaments and aid, which was increased during the covert U.S. support of Islamic militants in the Soviet war in Afghanistan. America under US President Richard Nixon supported Pakistan in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.[13] However, the period following the Soviet withdrawal and the dissolution of the Soviet Union led indirectly to the increasing realignment of America with the previously pro-Soviet India. The Pressler Amendment in 1990 suspended all American military assistance and any new economic aid amidst concerns that Pakistan was attempting to develop a nuclear weapon.[14] Given the support that Pakistan had given them during the War in Afghanistan, many Pakistanis saw this as a betrayal that sold out Pakistani interests in favor of India. This belief was further strengthened as India had developed a nuclear weapon without significant American opposition, and Pakistan felt obligated to do the same. Consequently, the primarily geopolitical alliance between Pakistan and China has since 1990 branched out into military and economic cooperation, due to Pakistan's belief that America's influence and support in the region should be counterbalanced by the Chinese.

With the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, there is a general sentiment in Pakistan to adopt a foreign policy which favors China over the United States.[15] Washington has been accused deserting Pakistan in favor of a policy that favors stronger relations with India, while Pakistan sees China as a more reliable ally over the long term.[16]

Since 9/11, Pakistan has increased the scope of Chinese influence and support by agreeing to a number of military projects, combined with extensive economic support and investment from the Chinese. This is partially due to Pakistan's strategy of playing off the two powers against each other, but also a genuine effort to prevent America's influence in the region from becoming too strong. In return, the Chinese hope to strengthen Pakistan as a counterbalance to American and Indian influence.

Military relations

There are strong military ties between People's Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.[17] This alliance between two neighbouring Asian nations is significant geo-politically. The strong military ties primarily aim to counter regional Indian and American influence, and was also to repel Soviet influence in the area. In recent years this relationship has strengthened through ongoing military projects and agreements between Pakistan and China.

Since 1962, China has been a steady source of military equipment to the Pakistani Army, helping establish munition factories, providing technological assistance and modernizing existing facilities.[18]

Most recently, the Chinese Chengdu J-10B fighter was compared to its closest American counterpart, the Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 52/60, the most advanced F-16, for orders on either aircraft for the Pakistan Air Force, resulting in the wins of the Chinese Chengdu J-10B. Accordingly, the Chengdu J-10B had more advanced technology such as its radar and OLS targeting system, and its new generation stealthy features, such as its DSI intake gave it an edge over the Lockheed Martin F-16.

China and Pakistan are involved in several projects to enhance military and weaponry systems, which include the development of the Chinese tailor made for Pakistan JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft, K-8 Karakorum advance training aircraft, a tailor made training aircraft for the Pakistan Air Force based on the Chinese domestic Hongdu L-15, space technology, AWACS systems, Al-Khalid tanks, which China granted license production and tailor made modifications based on the initial Chinese Type 90 and/or MBT-2000. The Chinese has designed tailor made advanced weapons for Pakistan, making it a strong military power in the Asian region. The armies have a schedule for organising joint military exercises.[19]

China is the largest investor in Pakistan's Gwadar Deep Sea Port, which is strategically located at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz.[20] It is viewed warily by both America and India as a possible launchpad for the Chinese Navy, giving them the ability to launch submarines and warships in the Indian Ocean.[21] However the Gwadar Port is currently delayed due to a multilateral diplomatic standoff between the project leaders and the Singaporean government.

China has offered Pakistan military aid in order to fight against terrorism in Pakistan. Pakistan has purchased military equipment from China in order to bolster their efforts against Islamic militants.[22]

In the past, China has played a major role in the development of Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure, especially when increasingly stringent export controls in Western countries made it difficult for Pakistan to acquire materials and uranium enriching equipment from elsewhere. China has supplied Pakistan with equipment to advance their nuclear weapons program, such as the Chinese help in building the Khushab reactor, which plays a key role in Pakistan's production of plutonium. A subsidiary of the China National Nuclear Corporation contributed in Pakistan's efforts to expand its uranium enrichment capabilities by providing 5,000 custom made ring magnets, which are a key component of the bearings that facilitate the high-speed rotation of centrifuges. China has also provided technical and material support in the completion of the Chashma Nuclear Power Complex and plutonium reprocessing facility, which was built in the mid-1990s.[23] China may also have supplied nuclear technology to the Pakistanis, enabling Pakistan to become a nuclear state with an estimated 100 warheads as of 2011.[24][25]

China has become increasing concerned about al-Qaeda linked terrorism originating in Pakistan and is seeking to set up military bases on Pakistani soil to deal with the problem.[26]

Economic relations

Economic trade between Pakistan and China is increasing at a rapid pace and a free trade agreement has recently been signed. Military and technological transactions continue to dominate the economic relationship between the two nations, although in recent years China has pledged to vastly increase their investment in Pakistan's economy and infrastructure. Among other things, China has been helping to develop Pakistan's infrastructure through the building of power plants, roads and communication nodes. Current trade between both countries is at $9 billion, making China the second largest trade partner of Pakistan.[27]

Both countries are keen on strengthening the economic ties between the two, and have promised to 'propel' cross-border trade. This has led to investment in Pakistan's nascent financial and energy sectors, amidst a surge of Chinese investment designed to strengthen ties. Pakistan has in turn been granted free trade zones in China.[28]

The economic relationship between Pakistan and China is composed primarily of Chinese investment in Pakistani interests. China's increasing economic clout has enabled a wide variety of projects to be sponsored in Pakistan through Chinese credit. Pakistani investment in China is also encouraged, and cross-border trade remains fluid.[16]

In 2011 China Kingho Group canceled a $19 billion mining deal because of security concerns.[29]


The support with which China and Pakistan give each other is considered significant in global diplomacy, and has been compared to Israel – United States relations.[30] In 2010, when a US delegate confronted a Chinese diplomat about Beijing's uncompromising support for Pakistan, the Chinese reportedly responded: "Pakistan is our Israel."[31] According to a Pew survey of Pakistan public opinion in 2010, 84 percent of respondents said they had a favorable view of China and 16 percent had a favorable view of the United States. These results showed that Pakistan is the most pro-China country in the world[dubious ].[32] Similarly, the Chinese state-run media has portrayed Pakistan in a favorable light in regional issues. In 2013, this figure increased to 90% of Pakistanis having a favorable view of China.[33]

Pakistan and China have long praised the close ties the two countries have with each other. China has been referred to by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as their "time-tested and all-weather friend", while in return Chinese president Hu Jintao has referred to Pakistan as "a good friend and partner".[34] These statements are noted by some observers as occurring after Pakistani relations with the United States or India have become strained, such as after Osama Bin Laden was killed by American forces without Pakistan's prior permission.[16]


The ETIM is a Waziri based mujahedeen organization that is said to be allied with the Taliban,[35] which has received funding from rogue elements in the ISI.[36] As these militants are labeled as terrorists from the Chinese province of Xinjiang, Pakistan's inability to prevent this is a potential source of conflict.[37][38]

The U.S. War On Terror has the Chinese wary of U.S. influence in the region, and as Pakistan is a US ally and major recipient of US military and economic aid, China is obligated to step up its support in order to maintain its influence in the region.


Important events:

1950 – Pakistan becomes the third non-communist country, and first Muslim one, to recognize the People's Republic of China.
1951 – Beijing and Karachi establish diplomatic relations.
1963 – Pakistan cedes the Trans-Karakoram Tract to China, ending border disputes.
1970 – Pakistan helps the U.S. arrange the 1972 Nixon visit to China.
1978 – The Karakoram Highway linking the mountainous Northern Pakistan with Western China officially opens.
1980s – China and the U.S. provide support through Pakistan to the Afghan guerrillas fighting Soviet occupational forces.
1986 – China and Pakistan reach a comprehensive nuclear co-operation agreement.
1996 – Chinese President Jiang Zemin pays a state visit to Pakistan.
1999 – A 300-megawatt nuclear power plant, built with Chinese help in Punjab province, is completed.
2001 – A joint-ventured Chinese-Pakistani tank, the MBT-2000 (Al-Khalid) MBT is completed.
2002 – The building of the Gwadar deep sea port begins, with China as the primary investor.
2003 – Pakistan and China signed a $110 million contract for the construction of a housing project on Multan Road in Lahore[39]
2007 – The Sino-Pakistani joint-ventured multirole fighter aircraft – the JF-17 Thunder (FC-1 Fierce Dragon) is formally rolled out.
2008 – Pakistan welcomes the Chinese Olympic Torch in an Islamabad sports stadium, under heavy guard amidst security concerns.[34]
2008 – China and Pakistan sign a free trade agreement.
2008 – Pakistan and China to build a railway through the Karakoram Highway, in order to link China's rail network to Gwadar Port.
2008 – The F-22P frigate, comes into service with the Pakistani Navy.[40]
2009 – The ISI arrest several suspected Uyghur terrorists seeking refuge in Pakistan.
2010 – Pakistan and China conduct a joint anti-terrorism drill.
2010 – China donates $260 million in dollars to flood hit Pakistan and sends 4 military rescue helicopters to assist in rescue operations.
2010Wen Jiabao visits Pakistan. More than 30 billion dollars worth of deals were signed.[41]
2011 – Pakistan is expected to buy air to air SD 10 missiles from China for its 250 JF 17 thunder fighter fleet
2013 - Management of Gwadar port is handed over to state-run Chinese Overseas Port Holdings after previously being managed by Singapore’s PSA International,[42] and it becomes a matter of great concern for India.[43]
2013 – Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visits Pakistan. Trade between China and Pakistan hit a 12-month figure of $12 billion for the first time in 2012.[44]


External links

  • The limits of the Pakistan-China alliance
  • China hints at ally Pakistan's hand in Xinjiang unrest
  • Ahmed Rashid on the Sino-Pakistani relationship
  • Eager Eyes Fixed on Eurasia Russia and Its Neighbors in Crisis Russia and Its Neighbors in Crisis, Edited by IWASHITA Akihiro, Slavic Research Center
  • CHRONOLOGY-Main events in Chinese-Pakistani relations
  • Xinjiang-Pakistan