PM Imran, Chinese President discuss strengthening of bilateral ties, CPEC

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BEIJING: Imran Khan, who is on his first official visit to China after assuming charge as Pakistan’s prime minister, met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Friday.

The meeting between the heads of the states took place at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. High-level delegations from both the sides were also in attendance.

The two sides discussed strengthening of bilateral relations and matters of mutual regional and international interests, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. They also reviewed all the aspects of Pakistan-China strategic partnership.

Prime Minister Imran Khan thanked President Xi Jinping for extending warm hospitality to him upon arrival.

Praising China’s progress, PM Imran said President Xi’s vision and leadership are exemplary and China’s phenomenal achievements are worth emulating. He further said he had come to China to learn.

“My party has only been in power for two months. Unfortunately we have inherited a very difficult economic situation,” PM Imran said, as quoted by Reuters.

“Countries go in cycles. They have their high points, they have their low points. Unfortunately, our country is going through a low point at the moment with two very big deficits, a fiscal deficit and a current account deficit. And so we, as I’ve said, have come to learn.”

President Xi told the Pakistani premier that he highly valued the two countries’ relations, reaffirming they were “all-weather” friends.

“I attach great importance to China-Pakistan relations and am willing to work together with the prime minister to strengthen the China-Pakistan all-weather strategic partnership and build a new era of China-Pakistan destiny,” Xi said.

During the meeting, PM Imran extended an invitation to President Xi to visit Pakistan.

According to sources, PM Imran also took the Chinese premier into confidence regarding investments from other countries in CPEC.

Pakistan is expected to receive $6 billion economic package from China during PM Imran’s visit, the sources said. A loan of $1.5 billion and a grant of $1.5 billion are expected to be offered, along with an additional package of $3 billion for CPEC.

$1.5 billion are expected to be deposited in the State Bank of Pakistan, while Pakistan Railways may also be included in the package.

The Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, told Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a separate meeting that China would not let Pakistan down.

“The Chinese side will continue to provide support and help to the best of its ability for Pakistan´s economic and social development and national construction,” China´s Foreign Ministry cited Wang as saying, without giving details.

PM Imran reached China on Thursday night, where he was welcomed by Chinese Transport Minister and Ambassador to Pakistan, Li Xiaopeng and Yao Jing, respectively, at the Beijing Capital International Airport.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Finance Minister Asad Umar, Planning Minister Khusro Bakhtiar, and Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid are accompanying the premier. Abdul Razak Dawood, the adviser to Khan on commerce, textiles, industries production and investment, and Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal are also with the PM on his China visit.

On November 3, PM Imran will visit the Monument to the People’s Heroes at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and also meet the chairman of the National People’s Congress.

He will meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang the same day, when the two countries are expected to sign a series of agreements.

On November 4, the PM will speak at the Central Party School before leaving for Shanghai to participate in the first China International Import Expo. The premier will be a keynote speaker at the inauguration of the expo, and among 18 heads of state and government who will be attending the expo.

More than 2,800 companies from 130 countries and regions, and 160,000 buyers from over 80,000 Chinese and foreign companies will participate in the expo.

‘Lot to learn from China’

Prior to his departure to Beijing, PM Imran said Pakistan could learn more from its all-weather strategic partner China than any other country in the world.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, the premier said: “We have a lot to learn from China. China went through a lot of problems that we face right now.

“Like Pakistan, China too had a lot of corruption and poverty. But the way it has dealt with corruption and poverty has been an example for not just Pakistan but for a lot of the developing world.

“We can learn more from China because China has recently developed as opposed to western economies, which are way ahead of us in terms of their development evolution,” he noted.

The prime minister also stressed the economic potential of the CPEC. “It has given a great opportunity to Pakistan to bring in foreign investment and get out of the difficult economic situation which we are in.

Pakistan has enormous potential, but unfortunately through mismanagement, we have not really achieved that potential through poor governance, [and] corruption being one of the main reasons.

“Corruption is always a reason that stops a country from achieving its potential,” he had said, adding that China could share with Pakistan its expertise in fighting white-collar crime, which the PTI-led government was also trying to combat.

PM Imran said the main plank of his party’s manifesto was to bring people out of poverty, and that it was one area where he looked forward to meeting the Chinese leadership and learning from all the various steps taken by China to bring its people out of poverty.

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