ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday said that Islamabad was looking forward to working with Beijing under the leadership of China’s newly appointed premier Li Qiang, expressing his hopes that the appointment would begin a “new era of cooperation” between the two nations.
Li Qiang, the former Communist Party chief of Shanghai, took office on Saturday as China’s new premier. The close ally of President Xi Jinping has been put in charge of reviving an economy battered by three years of COVID-19 curbs.
Li’s appointment comes as tensions rise with the West over a host of issues, including US moves to block China’s access to key technologies and as many global companies diversify supply chains to hedge their China exposure due to political risks and the disruptions of the COVID era.
“I extend my warm congratulations to H.E. Mr. Li Qiang on his election as [the] new premier of [China],” PM Sharif wrote on Twitter Saturday.
“Look forward to working closely with him to further advancing Pakistan-China Strategic Cooperative Partnership. I am confident our bilateral relations will enter a new era of cooperation.”
Pakistan boasts fraternal relations with China and has signed various agreements with Beijing, especially under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). CPEC is a $65 billion project, part of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, aimed at establishing a network of roads, railways, pipelines, and ports in Pakistan that will connect China to Pakistan’s ports and help Islamabad expand and modernize its economy and meet major energy needs.
Throughout the history of diplomatic relations between the two countries, China has helped Pakistan overcome its economic woes and is the South Asian nation’s single largest creditor, with its commercial banks holding around 30 percent of Pakistan’s external debt.
Earlier this month, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd. also approved a rollover of a $1.3 billion loan for cash-strapped Pakistan to shore up its depleting foreign exchange reserves.