INTERVIEW: CPEC needs ‘strategic consensus’ between Pakistani leaders –Li Jun, Assistant Minister for IDCPC Central Committee

Mian Abrar

China’s largest project overseas

Recently, China has expanded its diplomatic engagement with Pakistan – in the backdrop of breakneck cooperation regarding CPEC, of course. Along with economic/financial and diplomatic interaction, the two countries are also coming together politically in unprecedented ways.

The assistant minister for Central Committee of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (IDCPC) recently led crucial discussions with heads of political parties in Pakistan, among other crucial stakeholders.

He talked exclusively to DNA regarding various aspects of China-Pakistan cooperation.

Q: Can you please share the major objectives of your visit to Pakistan? How do you see the current state of bilateral relations between China and Pakistan? We understand that China is building its Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, short-named as One belt One Road Initiative, can you brief us about this Initiative? What is the relationship between CPEC and this Initiative?

Li Jun: I am in Pakistan to convey sincere greetings from the government and people of China to the people of Pakistan on the 65th anniversary of the commencement of the diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Pakistan was one of first few countries to recognise the New China after its coming into being following the Second World War. Pakistan was also first Islamic country to recognise China. Pakistan also played a key role in opening up a window for communication between China and the rest of the world.

The last 65 years have witnessed many changes at regional, national and international fronts but the only thing that has not changed is the time tested friendly bond between China and Pakistan.

The reason is simple — the relations between China and Pakistan are deep rooted in the hearts and minds of the people of the two countries. The driving force has been the long term strategic political and social relationship with strong mutual trust.

Now let me say something about One Belt and One Road (OBOR) which is a major endeavour by President Xi Jinping to open up China to the rest of the world. It is a historic step being taken in consultation with the relevant countries under mutual consultation with the objective of mutual development and shared benefits. We believe in delivering fruits of development to all the countries involved for a shared destiny.

Now let’s move to CPEC which is the flagship project of the belt and road initiative. Pakistan is located at a conjuncture of the belt and road initiative and it can benefit tremendously due to its strategic location. Pakistan has to play a significant role to make CPEC a success.

Q: With Sino-Pakistan relations translating into economic and strategic bonds, how do you see the developing relations between Communist Party of China (CPC) and political parties of Pakistan in general? What kind of role do you think party-to-party and media exchanges can play in promoting smooth progress of bilateral relations and CPEC?

LJ: The international department of the Communist Party of China (IDCPC) is the functional department for friendly exchanges of the CPC with the political parties of the countries of the world, respecting their autonomy, freedom and relevant laws.

We conduct these exchanges with the ruling coalition parties as well as the opposition parties of the concerned countries. These exchanges help promote friendly relations between respective political parties with the CPC.

My visit to Pakistan is aimed at further cementing the bilateral cooperation between the political parties of Pakistan with the CPC. The IDCPC is working to develop deeper trust with political parties of the world to promote the cultural, historical and economic relations with the rest of the world.

During my short stay in Pakistan, I have met with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed and KP Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra. I also attended a meeting held at Institute of Strategic Studies (ISS) with top scholars of Pakistan.

Q: Keeping in view the strategic significance of CPEC in China-Pakistan relations, in which areas do you think the two sides should enhance their cooperation to ensure smooth progress of the project?

LJ: Let me explain the concept of CPEC to the Pakistani audience. CPEC needs a strategic consensus between the political leadership of Pakistan.

CPEC is aimed at providing a foundation for a shared destiny of the people of China and Pakistan, focusing on boosting economic growth and providing industrial and infrastructure development.

It involves projects in energy, infrastructure, industrialisation and free economic zones. We believe CPEC would also play a guiding role in bringing China closer to South Asian countries.

Over the past year, CPEC has made tangible progress and its early harvest projects have reached near completion stage while security management was also improved. China is ready to actively engage with Pakistan for timely completion of the early harvest projects and other economic and infrastructure projects of CPEC.

China is also ready to work with Pakistan to turn the latter into an Asian Tiger as soon as possible by effectively implementing CPEC and to help the people of Pakistan and China to benefit from it.

Pakistan and China must fortify the bilateral cooperation and engagement for achieving wider consensus over CPEC. We need to evolve strategic composure to achieve desired targets. We need to work together to identify and achieve the easy targets in first phase and the hard ones in later stages.

There is also a need for launching extensive media drives to educate the people about future prospects and economic development involved with CPEC.

CPEC is the largest scale investment and co-operation project China has ever conducted overseas. Pakistan and China will become major beneficiaries of this win-win co-operation.

We must launch proactive publicity campaigns on CPEC so that the people at large understand its significance and work to attain economic benefits linked to it.

Q: While both the houses of China’s top legislature are going to hold the crucial meetings, what role does CPEC occupy in China’s 13th 5-year, also called ShiSanWu?

LJ: Let me explain for Pakistani audience the recent important sessions of both houses of parliament of China. The 4th session of the 12th National Committee of the National Peoples (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) were concluded on March 16.

The NPC adopted the guidelines for the 13th five-year-plan which covers the macro economy of China. China is implementing its 13th five year plan which would be implemented by year 2020.

The plan aims at helping Chinese society attain the benefits of prosperity. China aims at an innovative, balanced, green, open and shared development plan. For the next five years, the Chinese government would focus on six areas by making sure that economy attains a medium to high development maintaining the rate from 6.5-7 per cent.

This would mean that Chinese GDP reaches USD16 trillion per year by 2020. The Chinese government also aims to attain the per capita income to USD12,000 and this plan is very ambitious by all means.

The Chinese economy would be innovative during the next five years and more emphasis would be put on scientific and technological projects. The Chinese government would also evolve a balance in rural and urban population and urbanisation ratio would be kept at 60 per cent. The Chinese government would also promote green life styles among public and development on modern trends.

China will be adopting a target-oriented growth rate which would have innovation as the main driver.

We would allocate more funds to scientific research and technological development for innovation in products. Moreover, the growth model would be balanced. We would also be shifting focus on green development.

Under the plan of balanced growth, rural development would be focused as now China’s urban development rate is about 60 per cent. We want now to modernise the rural areas so as a balance could be attained between rural and urban development.

We would also promote people to adopt green development. Under this vision, agriculture promotion would be encouraged so as ecological balance could be maintained and a clean environment could be ensured under the United Nations guidelines.

During the next five years, China would also encourage reforms and opening up to the world. It has been decided that China would also be focusing on overseas investments by Chinese companies under an Open-China policy.

We have also decided to ensure benefits of development to all the Chinese people. We plan to pull people out of poverty so benefits of development reach all levels of society equally.

Q: With the New Normal introduced by President Xi Jinping, how can the Chinese economic transition benefit the world in general and Pakistan in particular?

LJ: The New Normal initiative was launched by President Xi Jinping. Over the past three decades China was developing at a growth rate of around nine per cent. Due to this phenomenal growth, China’s per capita income grew massively. It was USD254 in 1978 and increased to USD8,016 in 2015. This reflects the quantum of economic development China achieved in the past three decades.

Under the New Normal vision, China has identified new drivers of its economic growth while shifting focus to innovation driven growth. In the past, the Chinese economy was investment driven. Since the international market trend has been sluggish, it has helped the Chinese leadership to reduce the high speed growth rate to medium to high speed.

China now plans to shift its focus from exports to domestic consumption and scientific and technological up-gradation would be the driving force for future economic development. China would now open up to the world, which would enable foreign commodities to make their way into the Chinese market. Last year, Chinese imports touched USDF1.5 trillion. China would also focus on foreign investments and strengthen the industrial production capacity of other countries as part of its future strategy.

Q: With Pakistan, China and the US supporting the peace process in Afghanistan and crucial direct dialogue between Afghan government and the Taliban set to commence, how much time do you think this peace process may take?

LJ: China wants Pakistan to play a bigger role in bringing peace to war-torn Afghanistan. China firmly supports an Afghan-owned peace process and would extend full support to the Quadrilateral Cooperation Group (QCG) engaged with the negotiations.

China will always cooperate with Pakistan in its greater role in the region. We believe that with the help of Pakistan, the Afghan peace project will gradually make progress.

As an old Chinese saying goes, “the journey of a thousand miles start with the first step”, we believe that the efforts by China, Pakistan and other members of the QCG would help bring peace and prosperity in war-affected Afghanistan.

Courtesy: Pakistan Today