Pakistan’s China connection strong as ever

April 9, 2008

Notwithstanding his weakened position at home, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf this week flies to China , the “all weather friend” that has stood by the country through all its troubles.
Chinese President Hu Jintao with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf during a trip to Islamabad in 2006 
Unlike its American friends, the Chinese have not blown hot and cold, although there have been challenges such as attacks on Chinese nationals in Pakistan, including the execution of three workers near Peshawar last year and concern that the Islamist fervour sweeping the northwest parts of Pakistan was spilling over to neighbouring Xinjiang, China’s troubled, predominantly Muslim region.
But the Chinese do not give Pakistan lectures on democracy, the dangers of nuclear proliferation – which arguably isn’t surprising since some of it is traced back to the Chinese, according to non-proliferation experts- or threaten to bomb them into the Stone Age , which is what Islamabad says the Bush administration did to enlist its support in its war on terrorism days after Sept 11.
China, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told parliament in his opening address last week, was a time-tested ally and the friendship “was deeper than the Indian Ocean and higher than the Himalayas”. On Monday, a Shanghai shipyard launched the first of four frigates to be delivered to the Pakistan navy, while the Pakistani air force has already inducted a fighter aircraft co-produced with China. Beijing has also helped Pakistan build civil nuclear plants.
Pakistan’s alliance with China is far more enduring that the one with the United States, a scholar writing for the YaleGlobal Online argued last month, characterising the relationship with Washington dating back to 1954 as an intermittent, Cold War marriage of convenience. The current U.S.-Pakistan relationship has been built on security interests and is already looking fragile following the outcome of the February elections when the party supported by ally Musharraf was routed.
Pakistan’s alliance with China, in contrast, is based on permanent strategic interests and immutable issues of geography, including China’s desire for access to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, scholar  Willem van Kemenade says in the article. And unlike the sometimes public polemics with Washington over the war on militancy, Pakistan and China are quietly cooperating to ensure things don’t go out of hand in China’s far west.  
                                                                                                  Traders in China’s Xinjiang region
Indeed, Musharraf will be winding up his visit in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, where he is expected to appeal to local Muslims to cooperate with the authorities and not to be misled by followers of Tibet’s spiritual leader Dala Lama trying to stoke fires there,  as B.Raman, a former additional secretary at India’s Research and Analysis Wing, the external intelligence arm, says in a paper for the India-based South Asia Analysis Group.

So has China been a better friend than the United States and is the relationship as solid as ever?


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Many thanks for bringing up this very interesting issue in regional Asian politics. Indeed Pakistan was the first Muslim and third non-communist country to recognize China back in 1950. The new Pakistani parliament has been vocal in its support to the Chinese over Tibet ( 08/pakistan-supports-china-on-tibet/)

Pakistan and China share something in common: a wariness of a belligerent US dictating what it can and cannot do. Indeed only recently the Chinese released their now annual Human Rights Record of the United States in 2007 in response to the US’s critical reports over Chinese and other countries annual record on this matter.

Following on from its war with India in 1962, China backed Pakistan in the two wars of 1965 and 1971. One should note that China officially recognized Bangladesh only in 1975 and had also blocked the country’s entry into the United Nations. It was also in the 70s that Pakistan facilitated the rapprochement between the United States and China.

In recent years Sino-Indian ties have improved and strengthened. Even in the face of the recent Tibet crises, the Indian Foreign minister warned the Dalai Lama against political activity which could have an adverse impact on India’s relationship with India. Only time will tell which direction India will go with this.

The case of the Turkic Uyghur separatist movement brings up a different context to Sino-Pakistan relations. A case could be made that Chinese have built such strong relations with Pakistan as a buffer against Indian hegemony in the region and to ward off any Pakistani sympathies for the Muslims in West China.

However because the United States is located in the other end of the world, its relationship with Pakistan has always been of a different nature. It is more about creating influence in the region in terms of a territory from which it can maneuver affairs in the Middle East, the Indian Sub continent and Central Asia.

The main issue to consider is that increasingly Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, China and other nations in the region must realize that cooperation is in the welfare of all concerned to get their poor out of the mud huts and enrich their people and setup new industries. Europe has done it through the European Union. The people of Asia can do this as well.

Posted by Syed | Report as abusive

Both Pakistan and China have become pariahs in the international community: Pakistan for supporting terrorism, and China for its occupation and oppression of the Tibetan people.

The international community must put diplomatic and economic pressure on these two countries in order to help bring peace to South Asia. In the end, everyone in Asia, including Pakistan and China, will benefit.

Posted by barry | Report as abusive

China and Saudi Arab are just two friends of Pakistan who helped the Pakistan out of every trouble.. I think Pakistan should work on straightening its relationship with Russia rather than US.. US has betrayed Pakistan in every bad time. I think Pakistan should work on Russia, Germany, Brazil rather than relaying on US and other European countries!

Posted by Waqas Yousaf | Report as abusive

China and Pakistan have excellent bilateral relations, Not only do they cover the political, economic and military spheres this alliance has also made in-roads into the culture of both countries.

India should learn the lesson of Sino-Pakistan relations, China and Pakistan stand for peace and progress but if India wants to play spoiler then India will find itself totally isolated in Asia.

Best Regards

Posted by Dr Idris Shah Ebrahimi | Report as abusive

According to unconfirmed reports, Musharraf is intending to stay in China and won’t be returning to Pakistan, where he is facing an increasingly aggressive oppostion in the new regime and parliamant. Some senior opposition leaders state that this is the best opportunity for Pakistan to go ahead without Musharraf, who is considered the most destablizing person by most Pakistanis.
Other analysts claim that there have been disscusions on how to get rid of Musharraf in a peaceful and respectful manner. Others have it that it was Musharraf himself who suggested a “China visit” as the best opportunity to abonden Pakistan, probably forever.

Posted by Kabura | Report as abusive

Both Musharraf and China are both destabilizing figures in South Asia and the world in general. China’s cheap manufactured goods are increasing global poverty and death due to starvation as it is helping to collapse the economies of Asian and African countries. Pakistan is setting the world back by supporting Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism around the world. I had expected that as a superpower, China would reign in Pakistan, but it seems both countries have lost any decency they may once have had.

Posted by barry | Report as abusive

Barry wrote:

“China’s cheap manufactured goods are increasing global poverty and death due to starvation as it is helping to collapse the economies of Asian and African countries.”

Depends on which countries you’re talking about. Vietnam seems to be doing well for itself. Ultimately, the quality of labor and goods produced will decide if a country succeeds in global trade.

There’s a demand for cheap manufactured goods, and China is meeting that demand. The recent scares concerning the quality of Chinese goods may mitigate that demand somewhat, but whatever else one can say about China, one cannot deny that the Chinese have risen to the challenge of international trade.

“Destabilizing figures”? Depends on your point of view. Many would argue that the US has assumed the mantle of leadership of that crowd.

Posted by Mike in NYC | Report as abusive

If the new Pakistani Government is smart, they will stop Musharraf from coming back. He has exiled several people. This is a good time for him to be on the receiving end. Good luck to the people and the new democratic government of Pakistan.

Posted by Azeem | Report as abusive

Quoting someone like B. Raman who has built a career out of Pakistan-bashing as well as his fundamentalist Hindu views nullifies any credibility that exists in this blog. That Musharraf is going to China where “he is expected to appeal to local Muslims to cooperate with the authorities and not to be misled by followers of Tibet’s spiritual leader Dala Lama trying to stoke fires there” is utter non-sense.

Posted by Dawood Khan | Report as abusive

mussharaf raf raf should stop wagging its tail wherever they see meat.have some self respect please,you look so desperate and cheap.what are trying to achieve,have some self respect. Being a pakistani myself i am ashamed to have a leader like you

Posted by kamal hassan | Report as abusive

I agree with you Barry!

China-Paki combination is not a good omen for peace and stability in South Asia and the rest of the world. China is becoming unpolite and arrogant. China doesn’t realize the limits on her influence in the world.
If China really wished peace, stability and progress in her neighborhood, it would have seased propping up the Paki military, which is being supported against India and Afghanisan.
The signals are negative from China, but it will lose when confronted with reality.

Posted by Kabura | Report as abusive

Kabura and Barry, thank you for sharing your wisdoms, though I have found a particularly hard time to follow the logic hehind your statement. Finally, I worked it out. So to put it down in words, may I interpret it as the world would be far better-off if governed and dominated by civilized, courteous, peace-loving, law-ruling and democratic western powers than any other nations, FOREVER? If that is what you mean, I must have to say you guys are really genius in proposing that. May I humbly suggest you extend it even longer to publish it, which would definitely exert a huge earth-shaping, ground-breaking, sea-splitting and sky-falling repercussion on the course of human history thereafter.

Posted by Wilson | Report as abusive

Barry, Kabura, your right on with your comments but we can’t forget the US propping up the Paki military either and especially a frontier corps who for the last 30 years were trained in waging Jihad. Now the expectations are for them to turn and fight Jihad. Utter chaos!

Posted by Rick | Report as abusive

‘China is becoming unpolite and arrogant. China doesn’t realize the limits on her influence in the world.’

It is good that there is finally a real power from east rising up to show the west how the taste of ‘unpolite and arrogant’ is. The western powers really need someone to remind them about this.

‘the limits on her influence in the world’. It is also the time for the west to realize the limits (both in time and space) of their powers. The Chinese will realize those limits too after they reach the limits.

Pride is on the every list of the born deadly sins of human beings. It is the time for western people to realize this.

Posted by orsino | Report as abusive

Is it “Charlie Wilson”? Probably not.

Wilson needs to know that western democracies are the best system of government/governance in the world today. Neither Communism nor Islamic fundamentalim (Islamism) are the answer of the day. Paki-China combination means Islamism and totalitarianism. Please compare western democracies to any system that you are aware of.

To Rick: You are right about U.S. support for Paki military. It is a crazy and counterproductive policy.

Posted by Kabura | Report as abusive

Western powers, US in particular, has always been perceived to be preying on “strategic” countries under some familiar pretexts of democracy, liberation, human rights, WMD, nuclear and since 2001, terrorism, with agendas only known to their respective de facto commander-in-chief.

If these report and analysis are credible, they are indeed sinister to the core. fulltext/56145 ina-tibet-pakistan

Posted by Anderson LH | Report as abusive

“Mush”harraf so called “American in pakistan” after crackdown on “Jehadis” is doin everything in order to keep relations with other countries like Us and China,i think it is more of personal relations rather than countries relation,musharraf is doin all this,in order to save his presidentail seat,Pakistanians support to Musharraf has been already proved in recent general elections in pakistan,where slain leader Benazir Butthu’s party succeeded,now it is time for Mushraff to make good relations with people of pakistan and political parties rather than dependind on other countries, and put an end to the Shameful political imbalances in his Country “PAKISTAN.

Posted by Showkat Rather | Report as abusive

Kabura writes “Neither Communism nor Islamic fundamentalim (Islamism) are the answer of the day.” A close look at Iran reveals that a combination of Totalitarianism and Islamic fundamentalism already exists and does not function well . The Taliban of Afghanistan are another example of this and Talibanism represents the most despicable combination of religion and government seen in the past 100 years . Good riddance to them .

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive

I, being a Pakistani, am extremely ashamed of Musharraf. The parliament should expel him from the position of President immediately. I don’t see why national interests of a rogue communist authoritarian state like China to be more important than the the security of all countries in South and Southeast Asia. Musharraf has allowed China to build a deep sea port in Gwadar and as if this was not enough he is allowing China to build rail and road links into Pakistan under the name of trade.

History is being created as we speak and if we spinelessly bow down in front of a belligernat regime of China, I have no doubt that it would be opening up the way for Chinese invasion into Pakistan for our natural resources. I hope Pakistan does not become the “next Tibet” to be occupied or rather peacefully liberated by China in a few decades.

The best solution is a Free Tibet and a Free Xinjiang. The world should give them a chance and a helping hand to come out extreme oppression at the hands of the Communists. It is possible only with a unified and coordinated attack by the whole world on diplomatic, military, ecnonomic fronts.

Posted by Adeel Khan | Report as abusive

[…] like we’re not the only ones betting on the wrong horse: Notwithstanding his weakened position at home, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf this week flies […]

Posted by Morning Thread: Musharraf Serves Two Masters – The Seminal :: Independent Media and Politics | Report as abusive

The Chinese always treated the Pakistani as the most reliable friends in their troubles. Throughout the years, when there are waves of anti-Chinese movements in the world, the Pakistani stood by China.

This friendship had gone deep into the heart of common Chinese. When there are troubles like the hostage of Chinese workers, the Chinese knew there it was not a reflection of the feeling of Pakistani people. In fact, those terrorist kidnappers are separatists who wanted independence from Pakistan.

In Europe, the Chinese used to treat the French people differently. They though many Chinese current leaders, like former Premier Zhou, and Deng Xiaoping, studied in France. Old generation French leaders also gave an understanding to China, willing to listen, and had forged a very good relationship with China. To many Chinese, France represents the warmth of Europe, a friend and an ally. You can guess how shocked they are when they see all those violent actions by the Frenchmen in Paris. (Though, I have to admit, many of those violent attackers of the Olympic torch may not be Frenchmen. I noticed the man who attacked the handicapped Chinese sportswomen on the wheelchair was in London a day ago. Professional protesters, I guess. And later he was exposed to live in Salt Lake city. But the Chinese could not distinguish).

French report is also totally biased. Simply ignoring the fact that it was the Tibetan mobs who were killing Han Chinese and Muslims on the streets (18 killed, a baby stoned to death with her mother, 5 girls burnt to chars), they used the mob center: Da Liar lama’s governments information with no source to describe the Tibetan mobs as peaceful demonstrators. The 1200 shops set on fire by the Tibetan mobs were used evidence of “Chinese crack down”–when the Chinese policemen were not even in town yet. The arrogant and younger leftists in France, unwilling to even look a bit more into the facts, quickly reacted by accusing China of being a hooligan. The Chinese, on the other side, felt deeply wronged and betrayed by their friends in France, and their emotions are now backfiring into the current anti-France movement.

A tragedy, is not it?

Limo liberals like to think they are the archangels of a new world order, but many times, they are like some Red guards, start to think what is good for me, must be good for others, and I am all-seeing, all-liberating, free Tibet! (What a joke! Tibet under Dalai lama was a theocracy with 95% of the populations being slaves to all those temples. Should the Chinese restore the King to France after the French revolution and Free France?)

Posted by Shiming Fang | Report as abusive

Shiming Fan Writes: “(What a joke! Tibet under Dalai lama was a theocracy with 95% of the populations being slaves to all those temples. Should the Chinese restore the King to France after the French revolution and Free France?)

The strange thing is that China helped two destructive states to develop nuclear technology. One of those states happens to be a “theocracy” like Iran. The other one is a mixed of religious extremism and militarism, Pakistan.

Posted by Kabura | Report as abusive

Pakistanis are simple people they think china is their friend.Well here’s a tip in statecraft,there are no permanant friends only permanant interests which is why you should never ever paint yourself into a corner lest the dynamics change.

Your utility to china is a nuisance to harass India but in the next 15-20 years if we become china’s #3 trading partner and settle the border dispute and find ourself on the same side of WTO and other issues where would you be?
Have you considered what would happen if the world moves beyond oil?Where would S Arabia be?

Learn from us we are moving closer to the US(and the West) but are still staunch allies of Russia.

If China is such a dear then why isn’t it giving you a massive aid package given their forex reserves you know 50-60bn USD their forex reserves are almost 2 trillion.Instead they give you something like 1 bill and in return ask you to sign a FTA which is guarenteed to wreck what little industries you have.

Don’t let your hatred of India blind you.We frankly don’t like pakis but we love India a lot lot more than we hate Pakistan.

Posted by Shantanu Chatterjee | Report as abusive

To My More Than Friends Chinese Neighbours:

Dear All,

Firstly, through this message, I want to convey my heartiest apologies for the loss of your lives on our soil. We truly deem those lost lives as ours. That unfortunate event, a cowardly act of our common enemy, has indeed embarrassed the entire Pakistani Nation.

Being a Pakistani (thus actually knowing the genuine great feelings and goodwill in the hearts of Pakistanis for the Great Chinese Nation) I must say without a moment of delay that most of the comments above are irrelevant. China-Pak Friendship has always been pain in the A of the helpless failure haters. They would continue to make every conceivable effort to deceive us and we will continue to fail them and burn them each time even more in the hell of their jealousy :o)

Pak-Cheen Dosti Zindabaad!!!!!!!!!!




Posted by Ali | Report as abusive