Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is expected to fly Beijing on November 1, amid economic slump, for the first time since holding the chief executive’s office.
Shehbaz had to wait for over 6 months before China invited him to visit. It was unusual because the new prime minister often visits Beijing within weeks of taking charge of the office.
There were multiple reasons cited behind the delay in the visit. One of the reasons included the strict covid-19 protocol being followed by China. However, it is believed that China was concerned over the domestic political situation in Pakistan before inviting the prime minister.
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Observers believe the visit of Shehbaz indicates the Beijing’s trust in the incumbent government to complete the remaining term.
The agenda of the visit includes reviewing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and seeking debt restructuring. The government is keen to seek $6.3 billion rollover of the Chinese loans. Besides the roll over, Islamabad may seek more financial assistance in order to shore up its depleting foreign reserves.
An official handout issued by the foreign office said that Prime Minister Shehbaz will visit China on 1-2 November with a high-level delegation including Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. The prime minister is undertaking the visit at the invitation of Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China Li Keqiang.
This would be the prime minister’s first visit to China since assuming office in April 2022 and follows his meeting with President Xi Jinping in Uzbekistan on 16th September 2022, according to the official handout.
The prime minister will be among the first leaders to visit China following the historic 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. The 20th National Congress approved Xi’s third term as China’s President in a departure from the country’s Constitution that earlier restricted the President’s tenure for two terms.
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President Xi has become the strongest Chinese leader after the founder of Peoples Republic of China Mao Zedong.
The statement said the prime minister’s visit represents the continuity of frequent leadership level exchanges between Pakistan and China.
The prime minister will meet with President Xi Jinping and hold delegation level talks with Premier Li Keqiang. The two sides will review the all-weather strategic cooperation partnership and exchange views on regional and global developments.
The visit is also expected to advance the wide ranging bilateral cooperation agenda with the conclusion of a number of MoUs/agreements in diverse areas and consolidate the momentum of CPEC cooperation in the wake of the 11th meeting of the CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) on 27th October 2022.