China wants to deepen ‘all-weather’ strategic ties with Pak, upgrade CPEC during Sharif’s tenure

Shehbaz Sharif vowed to further promote the CPEC projects with China

Pakistan China relations Pakistan's newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, inspects the honor guard at the Prime Minister's House in Islamabad, Pakistan | Reuters

As Shehbaz Sharif took the oath as the Prime Minister of Pakistan for a second time on Monday, China said it hopes to deepen its "all-weather" strategic ties and upgrade the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.

China warmly congratulates Shehbaz Sharif on being elected as Pakistan's Prime Minister, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a media briefing here.

On Sunday, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang sent congratulatory messages to Sharif soon after his election.

China highly appreciates Prime Minister Sharif's positive statements on China-Pakistan relations and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Mao said.

We stand ready to work with Pakistan to carry forward our traditional friendship, advance exchanges and cooperation across the board, upgrade the CPEC, and deepen China-Pakistan all-weather strategic cooperative partnership, she said.

In his victory speech yesterday, Shehbaz Sharif vowed to further promote the CPEC projects with China.

The CPEC, a global infrastructure and investment initiative by Beijing, was launched in 2013. It connects Gwadar Port in Pakistan's Balochistan with China's Xinjiang province.

There is a sense of relief among the official circles here that Pakistan, a key ally of China, which has been going through grave economic and political crises for the last several years, has an elected government that Beijing could deal with.

China had an uneasy relationship with former prime minister Imran Khan's government, which was blamed for the slow pace of the CPEC.

Both Shehbaz and his brother, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, are familiar political figures for the ruling Chinese Communist Party as both of them along with the Pakistan military strengthened the all-weather alliance during their tenures. They are also firm backers of the strategic CPEC project.

China has been providing forex loans and rollover of its debt periodically to bail out Pakistan which is facing a severe economic crisis.

Recent reports from Islamabad said China has agreed to roll over a USD 2 billion loan due to be paid in March.

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