A few hours ahead of Xi Jinping’s scheduled touchdown in Islamabad for his first-ever state visit to Pakistan, an op-ed authored by the Chinese president appeared in Pakistan’s Daily Times. While the article is predictably primarily written through the use of diplomatic platitudes and offers little insight into the actual state of bilateral affairs between the two countries, Xi’s editorial is a good indicator of what Beijing would like to publicly emphasize about the China-Pakistan relationship.
The editorial, titled “Pak-China Dosti Zindabad” (Long Live the Pakistan-China Friendship), begins with a quote from an Urdu poem, which Xi uses to set Pakistan up as “a good friend in my heart.” He continues:
When I was young, I heard many touching stories about Pakistan and the friendship between our two countries. To name just a few, I learned that the Pakistani people were working hard to build their beautiful country, and that Pakistan opened an air corridor for China to reach out to the world and supported China in restoring its lawful seat in the United Nations. The stories have left me with a deep impression. I look forward to my upcoming state visit to Pakistan.
Xi further notes that though this trip will be his first visit to Pakistan, he feels as if he is “going to visit the home of [his] own brother.” Chinese officials have described Pakistan as China’s “iron brother” in the past. The language in the editorial then goes on to emphasize the comprehensive and positive nature of the China-Pakistan relationship. Xi falls short of invoking the “all weather” descriptor, a rhetorical flourish commonly employed to suggest that bilateral ties are frictionless when, behind the facade of diplomatic niceties, Pakistan and China face their fair share of challenges (some of which I’ve discussed in my recent article, previewing Xi’s visit to Pakistan; see “An ‘All Weather’ Encounter: China’s Xi Jinping Heads to Pakistan” in The Diplomat).
The op-ed continues to invoke a range of phrases out of China’s diplomatic play book and a few of Xi Jinping’s catchphrases. “Community of common destiny,” “Chinese dream,” “great national rejuvenation,” and “win-win” all make an appearance. Xi notes that he’d like to see Pakistan succeed an emerge as an “Asian tiger” soon. Xi’s editorial also offers the closest thing to an official Chinese version of the agenda for the state visit (we’ve seen plenty of takes on the matter in the Pakistani media leading up to this visit).
Xi notes that he will “meet with President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other Pakistani leaders as well as people from various sectors for in-depth exchange of views on bilateral relations and issues of shared interest.” “I look forward to working with Pakistani leaders during the visit to explore the general framework for bilateral cooperation, make substantive progress in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and practical cooperation in other fields and push for the furtherance of bilateral ties at a higher level,” he adds.
Xi’s article confirms preliminary reports from Pakistani sources that this visit will overwhelmingly focus on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, an endeavor that Beijing envisages as critical to the more ambitious “One Belt, One Road” and 21st Century Silk Road initiatives:
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is located in where the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road meet. It is, therefore, a major project of the “Belt and Road” initiative. We need to form a “1+4” cooperation structure with the Economic Corridor at the centre and the Gwadar Port, energy, infrastructure and industrial cooperation being the four key areas to drive development across Pakistan and deliver tangible benefits to its people.
The op-ed concludes with a triumphant call for Pakistan and China to “stand shoulder to shoulder and work hand-in-hand to open up an even brighter future of China-Pakistan relations,” and ends with an Urdu crescendo, affirming the friendship between the two countries: “China-Pak dosti zindabad!”
Xi Jinping has turned to publishing op-eds ahead of his state visits, ostensibly as a method of reaching out to the broader populations of the countries he visits. Last fall, on his South Asia tour to Sri Lanka, Maldives and India–a trip that originally included a stop in Pakistan that was then postponed due to nationwide protests in the country–Xi published similar editorials in prominent national newspapers (see “Towards an Asian Century of Prosperity” in India’s Hindu, “Let Us Become Partners in Pursuit of Our Dreams,” in Sri Lanka’s Daily News, and “Close Friends and Partners for Development” in Maldives’ Sun).
Read his full editorial over at Pakistan’s Daily Times.