The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor aims to strengthen China's strategic and economic ties in South Asia and help Pakistan reduce its dependency on the US and its allies in the West. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Many Chinese people wonder what will happen to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) if there is a change in government after the Pakistan general elections in July. They are concerned about the future of their ongoing projects, and whether their investments in Pakistan are safe.

First let’s review the history of the Pakistan-China relationship, before replying to their concerns. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations with China on May 21, 1951, we Pakistanis have gone through a series of political ups and downs. Unfortunately our democracy has its own way of dealing with its complex political nature, and one aspect is sometimes deviation from national and developmental policies due to change in the governments, but international agreements and commitments are always honored.

However, regardless of the different political ideologies and manifestos, one policy in particular has stood its ground, and that is, “China is our all-weather and time-tested friend and strategic partner.” This is not only true for civilian governments but also stood true for the military governments of the past. Simply speaking, changes of government or leadership in Pakistan have never had any negative impact on our relations with China.

Similarly, China has experienced its own political melodramas with various ups and downs in domestic politics – the Long March, the Cultural Revolution, the Open Door Policy, then economic reforms and the drive against corruption. None of these have had any negative impact on Sino-Pakistani relations. Whoever attained the leadership role in China never went back on China’s “all-weather friendship” with Pakistan.

Why are Pakistan and China such close friends? Why do we not have border tensions? Why do we trust each other and help each other without any reward in mind? It is because the basis of our relations are so principled, and the foundations so strong, that our relations will never be shaken.

We are friends, neighbors and partners, and believe in non-interference in each other’s domestic issues, respect each other’s sovereignty, support and complement each other. Our relations are termed as “higher than the Himalaya,” “deeper than the ocean,” “stronger than steel,” “sweeter than honey.” We are true “iron brothers.”

In the last nearly seven decades of China’s history, it has had conflicts with almost all of its neighbors. China enjoyed extremely good relations with Russia just after its liberation in 1949, but bitterness soon followed in the 1960s and ’70s. However, it has regained warmth in the last two decades.

With Japan, very hostile relations existed after the establishment of the  People’s Republic of China, but relations normalized in the 1980s and then chilled again in recent years.

China fought a war with India in 1962 and recently there was a border dispute in the Doklam region. China has had border disputes with Vietnam and Myanmar too. Even the relations with its close ally North Korea have been dwindling for the last several years but have tended to improve recently.

The South China Sea has been a major cause of tension between China and countries sharing the sea such as the Philippines and Vietnam.

Of all of China’s neighbors, Pakistan is unique in that it has never had any dispute or problem in the last 70 years. Our relations with China are based on very solid and durable footing.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is an artery of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. Total investment in the BRI is roughly US$900 billion, and CPEC in one of the six proposed economic corridors. It constitutes a small portion of the total investment, at only $62 billion . For the Chinese, CPEC may be a small investment, but because of its importance, we Pakistanis have declared it a flagship project. We wanted to make it an example and role model for the rest of the world. So it is critical and very important for the BRI’s success too.

CPEC is a strategic decision by Pakistan and a legal agreement between the two states. Projects covered under CPEC are based on strong legal footing, and relevant ministries, departments and institutions in both countries oversee it.

CPEC is a consensus-built initiative wholly backed by both China and Pakistan. CPEC is the future of this whole region and particularly for Pakistan. It is a guarantee for our economic growth as well as security

Generally speaking, CPEC is a consensus-built initiative wholly backed by both China and Pakistan. CPEC is the future of this whole region and particularly for Pakistan. It is a guarantee for our economic growth as well as security.

The importance of CPEC is very well understood by the 200 million people of Pakistan. Pakistan is a country ruled by law and its constitution, and its courts are guaranteed to protect Chinese investment in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s constitution protects all foreign investments, as does such legislation as the Foreign Private Investment and Protection Act 1976 and the Protection of Economic Reforms Act 1992. It is also receives reciprocal protection and promotion of investment through bilateral agreements Pakistan has signed with 47 countries, and avoidance of double taxation pacts with 52 countries.

In particular, China and Pakistan are one family, and any issue can be resolved within the family amicably.

Pakistan’s democratically elected government completed its five-year term on May 31 and a general election will be held in July. It is a routine matter and part of the democratic system of governance in most of the world. On Friday, a newly appointed caretaker prime minister, Nasir-ul-Mulk, took his oath and his interim government has been tasked to hold a fair election on time. However, he has in-depth understanding of CPEC and its importance. We hope whoever is elected in July will also be a strong supporter of CPEC. Above all, the 200 million people of Pakistan are behind CPEC and we will continue it with the same spirit.

Based on this background, I have a firm belief that CPEC will move forward, projects under CPEC will continue, and Chinese investment in Pakistan is very safe. I request that my Chinese friends trust the state of Pakistan, trust the constitution of Pakistan, trust the courts of Pakistan and the judicial system of Pakistan. CPEC and you, along with your investments, have a very bright future in Pakistan.

Zamir Awan

Professor Zamir Ahmed Awan is a sinologist at the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) Chinese Studies Center of Excellence, Islamabad, Pakistan. Posted to the Pakistani Embassy in Beijing as science counselor (technical affairs) from 2010-16, he was responsible for promoting cooperation between Pakistan and China in science, technology, and higher education.