BEIJING: Former prime minister Shaukat Aziz said on Sunday that relations between Pakistan and China had stood the test of time and the two countries were now looking forward to deepening that relationship under the Belt and Road Initiative of China.

Proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the initiative comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and is aimed at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes.

“The two countries have maintained a close friendship, based on mutual respect, peace and harmony and their relationship is not against any third country,” Mr Aziz told China Daily on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan province.

The forum is a non-profit organisation that hosts high-level conferences for leaders from government, business and academia in Asia and other continents to share their vision on the most pressing issues in the region and the world at large. It is modelled after the World Economic Forum.

Mr Aziz said the two countries had already cooperated closely on multiple infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative and would do so on more projects in future.

The former prime minister said that the Belt and Road Initiative had strengthened the links between China and Pakistan in areas of telecommunication, transport and digitalisation.

He lauded services of the Chinese president, adding that he was a great leader who was doing what it took to move China forward.

Meanwhile, government and business leaders attending the annual conference agreed that the Belt and Road Initiative was doing a key job in restructuring the global production value chain amid profound changes in the world.

“Traditional international investment and trade structure is undergoing a readjustment,” they said.

They observed that dwindling investment from the developed world and the rich countries’ focus on rebooting their own manufacturing industry would result in sluggish trade and production around the world, but a new type of globalisation would be driven more by the East than the West.

Speaking at the forum, Chairman of China’s Minsheng Investment Group, Dong Wenbiao, said that more than 30 years of opening up and rapid development had lifted China into the status of the world’s second largest economy.

“It is transforming from a manufacturing powerhouse to a country stressing more on high-tech-led progress,” said Mr Dong, adding: “We hope to share our experience with the rest of the world, and the Belt and Road Initiative is a pilot project of such endeavours.”

He said that Chinese investors attached great importance to training of local people, especially in less developed regions, in realisation of the initiative. The trainees included not only senior managers, but also technicians and other workers, he added.

Speaking on the occasion, China’s Central Bank Governor Zhou Xiochuan said the country had decided to substantially cut the number of sectors closed to foreign investment.

He said Beijing was in talks with Japan, European and Asean countries on bilateral trade and investment agreements.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2017

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