China-Pakistan Relations - Dynamics and Prospects
By James Lamont in New Delhi and Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad, Financial Times, December 19 2010
When China’s prime minister opened the gleaming white latticed China-Pakistan friendship centre in Islamabad at the weekend, the gesture of friendship might easily have been mistaken for naked ambition.
Wen Jiabao was simultaneously unveiling $35bn worth of trade and investment deals to give wings to Pakistan’s stumbling economy by binding it closer to the world’s fastest growing economy. Alongside a newly agreed $16bn package with India, the engagement with Pakistan gives China a sizeable economic footprint in south Asia
Pakistan is the latest country where Beijing is deploying economic power for diplomatic ends. Last month, China agreed $20bn worth of deals with France and is considering the possible purchase of Portuguese government bonds.
The three-day visit by Mr Wen to Pakistan was a crowning moment in a 40-year partnership underpinned by military hardware and increasingly infrastructure development. Beijing is warmly described as “an all weather friend” by top Pakistani officials – a description that differentiates it from Washington, viewed as one of the more fair weather variety.
Islamabad plays the two powers off against each another to get what it wants at lower cost and with less fuss.
Chinese officials in Islamabad say Beijing has sought to be visible with its assistance. It helps with nuclear power plants, roads, railways, hydroelectric power and military supplies. The result is that, unlike the US, which long prioritised military assistance and is seen by many Pakistanis as the enemy, China enjoys widespread popularity
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