Chinese President Xi Jinping meets Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Friday. AP
China’s President Xi Jinping reiterated his support to Beijing’s “all-weather strategic partner” as Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan told of his country’s growing fiscal crisis during his first official visit to China.
“I attach great importance to China-Pakistan relations and am willing to work together with the Prime Minister to strengthen the China-Pakistan all-weather strategic partnership and build a new era of China-Pakistan destiny,” Xi said during his meeting with Khan.
China and Pakistan refer to themselves as “all-weather friends”, sharing close economic and military ties. Pakistan has, over the years, received billions of dollars from China, which were used to fund infrastructure projects. Estimates suggest that China has so far pledged a total of more than $60 billion to Pakistan in the form of loans and investments for roads, ports, power plants and industrial parks. Some of these loans have been granted under Xi’s ambitious “Belt and Road” connectivity project.
Pakistan’s precarious fiscal condition has, however, raised questions over its ability to service these Chinese loans. Pakistan is presently seeking an emergency bailout loan of $8 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It is also seeking new loans from Saudi Arabia and China. During his meeting with Xi in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Khan did raise the issue of his country’s economic situation.
“Countries go in cycles. They have their high points, they have their low points. Unfortunately, our country is going through a low point at the moment with two very big deficits, a fiscal deficit and a current account deficit. And so we, as I’ve said, have come to learn,” Khan said. He said his party had been in power for only two months and had inherited a difficult economic situation. Xi reiterated China’s support to Pakistan, but made no mention of plans for an economic bailout.
However, in a separate meeting, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi told his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi that China would help in Pakistan’s economic development.
“The Chinese side will continue to provide support and help to the best of its ability for Pakistan’s economic and social development and national construction,” China’s Foreign Ministry cited Wang as saying.