China and Pakistan Enhance Strategic Partnership

Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie

On September 26, 2008, Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie met with Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the Army Staff of Pakistan, in Beijing. The meeting, which called for the enhancement of bilateral strategic partnership, was held against the backdrop of deteriorating U.S.-Pakistan relations as a result of the sensitive security situation along the Afghan-Pakistani border (PLA Daily, September 27). Liang and Kayani both emphasized the “new circumstances” under which Sino-Pakistani relations are operating; Liang, also a senior state councilor, said that China will “raise the bilateral strategic partnership of cooperation to a new level” (PLA Daily, September 27). During a meeting with visiting Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, Pakistan’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman General Tariq Majid stated that the Sino-Pakistani “traditional friendship has evolved into a strong and vibrant, multidimensional strategic co-operative partnership.” General Majid highlighted Pakistan’s gratitude toward the assistance extended by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to Pakistan in developing F-22 P frigates, Al Zarrar and Al Khalid Tanks, JF 17 Aircraft, the National Electronic Complex of Pakistan, and other defense-related weapons and infrastructure (Associated Press of Pakistan, September 29).

After General Pervez Musharaf’s resignation paved way for a democratic regime change in Pakistan, there were concerns that the new regime may reset the gains in Sino-Pakistani defense relations and hinder security and economic cooperation between the two sides. However, President Asif Ali Zardari’s first-ever bilateral visit to China since assuming office on October 14 will likely explore new avenues of cooperation that include the possibility of further cementing their strategic bilateral relations through a nuclear deal similar to the Indo-US civilian nuclear treaty (Daily Times [Pakistan], October 1; RTTNews, October 2). In related news, the chief of the China National Space Administration, Sun Laiyan, said that China will establish the Asia Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO) by the end of 2008. APSCO is currently joined by nine countries: Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru, Thailand and Turkey. APSCO was a tripartite initiative between China, Thailand, and Pakistan proposed as early as 1992. The organization will reportedly focus on satellite applications and training (Associated Press of Pakistan, October 3).