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Xi greets Sharif on election as Pakistani PM

By XU WEI | | Updated: 2024-03-03 23:49
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President Xi Jinping extended congratulations to Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday on his election as Pakistan's prime minister, in a diplomatic gesture underscoring the ironclad ties between the two neighbors and their shared commitment to upgrading the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The congratulatory message came as Sharif, 72, was elected to a second term by the newly formed Parliament of the South Asian country on Sunday.

Xi expressed in the message his belief that under the leadership of Sharif and the new Pakistani government, and with the united efforts of all sectors in Pakistan, the country will surely secure new and greater accomplishments in the cause of national development and progress.

He emphasized that the two nations should carry forward their traditional friendship, strengthen exchanges and cooperation in various fields and jointly build an upgraded version of the CPEC, a landmark project of the Belt and Road Initiative.

The two sides should build a closer China-Pakistan community of shared future in the new era, creating more benefits for the peoples of both countries, he added.

Premier Li Qiang also sent a congratulatory message to Sharif on Sunday.

The CPEC, which has included a variety of infrastructure projects such as roads, railways and oil and gas pipelines, has brought direct investment of $25.4 billion to Pakistan, created a total of 236,000 jobs, and built 510 kilometers of highways as well as an 886-km-long high-voltage power transmission line, according to the Chinese embassy in Pakistan.

Sharif returned to the role he held until August last year, when Parliament was dissolved ahead of the elections and a caretaker government took over.

He said on social media platform X last year that the CPEC "has emerged as a bedrock of Pakistan's socioeconomic trajectory", helping the nation solve its crippling energy shortages and building high-quality infrastructure.

Liu Zongyi, director of the Center for South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said the upgrade of the CPEC is set to usher in more tangible benefits for the Pakistani people going forward.

He said he expects that the new Pakistani government will prioritize economic growth and the improvement of public well-being, adding that the support from China will continue to be pivotal for the nation's development.

"As for the CPEC, it is important for the two nations to explore more projects that can deliver more tangible benefits to the residents involved and further improve regional connectivity," he said.

Liu Jieyi, spokesman for the second session of the 14th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, also named the CPEC as one of the exemplary projects of the Belt and Road at a news conference on Sunday ahead of the annual session of the National Committee of the CPPCC, China's top political advisory body.

Taking a question from a Pakistani journalist, Liu said the corridor has "made tangible contributions to Pakistan's national development and regional connectivity".

In an article published in February, Pakistani Ambassador to China Khalil Hashmi said that the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor showcases a people-centered development concept that aligns with China's development philosophy.

"Pakistan is eager to learn from China's successful experience," he wrote. The two countries should bolster people-to-people exchanges and encourage visits by entrepreneurs, scholars, students, youths, artists and media members, share their success stories, experiences and practices, and promote mutual learning, he added.

According to statistics from the Foreign Ministry, China has remained Pakistan's largest trading partner, its largest source of imports and the second-largest export destination for eight consecutive years since fiscal year 2015.

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