Interview with Zhao Lijian, Chinese Deputy Chief of Mission

20 Jan

Excellency, please share a brief introduction and tell us about your achievements/key appointments?

Zhao Lijian: Well, this is my third appointment. My first appointment was in 1999 in Islamabad and worked four and half year and then I served in Washington DC USA and now since 2015 I am working as DCM at the Islamabad embassy.

What are your views regarding relations between China and Pakistan?

China and Pakistan have all weather strategic partners, sharing good history and best friends. I would saw iron brothers to each other. Pakistan and China are enjoying best mutual, trade, bilateral, cultural and social relations.

  How you look at the Pak-China trade ties and what are the Key sectors?

Pakistan and China both are enjoying exemplary political relationship and now with China Pakistan Economic Corridor, this relation has been diversified into economic cooperation, trade, infrastructure development and science and technology. China had invested massive in Power and Infrastructure sectors that resulted in improved electricity and better road network in Pakistan under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

 What are the opportunities to improve the trade relations between these two countries?

CPEC is the flagship project of China’s One belt one road initiative and we see more solid base for our relationship and it will grow further in coming days. Recently I was nominated as the focal person for ongoing power projects under the CPEC to facilitate and resolution of issues pertaining to the ongoing projects under the CPEC in order to ensure their timely completion. This reflects the seriousness of the Pakistani government and it will further strengthen our brotherly relations.

We acknowledged the Power Sector performance as a success story under the CPEC. More than 11000 MW electricity has been added to the national grid. I remember in 2013 when I visited Islamabad with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, I was told that Islamabad is facing 7 to 8 hours load shedding and now its zero. China made huge investment in power sectors under CPEC. This will ultimately help Pakistan to meet its domestic and industrial need.

Will China inject more investment under CPEC?

CPEC project has four key areas marked as top priority, Power, Infrastructure, Gawadar port and Special Economic Zones (SEZ). With heavy investments in power and infrastructure, within four years, everyone in Pakistan can witness the progress made in these areas. CPEC’s early harvest projects would be completed at a rapid pace. Now we have low load shedding and better road network, motorways and this will help the overall economy of Pakistan. Now we are heading towards the next phase, SEZ (industrial cooperation) and we both Pakistani and Chinese Governments are working hard to complete all projects given under CPEC timeline.

Where do you see role of Business Community/Private Sector of both countries in terms of joint ventures?

As I said that now we are heading towards industrial cooperation phase where both governments have identified nine economic/industrial zones. Here I would say a big opportunity for the private sector. The real purpose of CPEC was to help Pakistan to develop its industrial sector. This will generate more jobs and manufacturing sector will help to increase the exports. The largest adventure for private sector here is cheap labor. Keeping large population and consumer market of Pakistan, CPEC will attract more foreign investment. Pakistani companies can help foreign investors to market their products, another advantage. The joint ventures between Chinese and Pakistani companies, having a benefit of expertise, low labor cost, English language and a win win situation for both of them.

 Language and skill set is a big issue in reaping true benefits of CPEC, what steps will be taken from your country in improving industry academia linkages?

China is encouraging international students to study in China. China is the seventh largest country who has more foreign students. According to official data (year 2016) available more than 18000 Pakistani students are studying in China. Chinese government is offering largest number of scholarships to Pakistani students. Out of these 18000 students 5000 were given scholarships in different universities. This reflects special and cordial relationship between China and Pakistan. We continue to encourage Pakistani students to visit China.


Pakistan’s economy, a fumbling drive

30 Oct

Pakistan, a country whose population has surged to 208 million and its economy entering the $300 billion mark amongst the world economies, has passed through different phases of ups and down. Few years back this country was on Number 3 at Global Terrorism Index, foreign reserves were at $8 billion, Industry was suffering from power outages, gas shortage doubled the pain of small and medium enterprises; Pakistan Stock Market (PSX) 100 Index was hovering around 18000 points, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate was below 3%.

A comprehensive policy was adopted by Government of Pakistan to revive its economy and improved its security situation. Macro and micro economic indicators which were blinking red turned into yellow and later jumped into green map.

Now, the security situation has been remarkably improved over the years, LEAs did a nice job, the trust and confidence of investors both local and foreign also improved. Key indicators of economy started radiating positivity, PSX touches 53000 Bench Mark, GDP crosses 5%, revenue collection jumps up 50%, Power generation crosses 19000 MW and FDIs improved via multi-billion projects CPEC.

China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a unique opportunity to integrate with regional economies and Pakistan will become a hub of trade and manufacturing. Business community believes that $51 billion CPEC project is the part of $1465 Billion One Belt One Road (OBOR) will serve as a game changer and will set a new direction for Pakistan’s economy. It offered great regional connectivity and integration from South Asia to Central Asian Countries and beyond.

Pakistan’s economic outlook offered promising future and foreign investors should explore Pakistan for joint ventures and investment in energy, Pharmaceutical, infrastructure development and other sectors. Business community also believed that CPEC should not be centric to any specific country. The chambers of commerce and business community should come forward and play their due role in the completion of industrial zones under CPEC.

There is a dire need to exploit the country’s full export potential to capture markets of Central Asian States. Pakistan has great advantage of benefiting from the regional trade by increasing volume of its existing exports to the land-locked Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan being a trade-corridor for them.

Coming to fumbling side of the economy, the government and the business community missed the opportunity to take advantage of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) plus scheme granted by the European Union (EU). It required a focus and result oriented strategy to double the fruits of GSP Plus.

Another key issue, the cost of doing business, here the government must have taken immediate steps to lower the cost of doing business in the country. The cost of doing business had increased phenomenally in Pakistan over the past decade and this affected the consumers. Manufacturers need relaxation in tariff rates, lesser regulatory duties on raw material, cheap electricity and better transportations.

Similarly, the imposition of four percent super tax on the banking industry and three percent on other large taxpayers for another year has seriously dented the businessmen’s confidence. The extra profit earned by large tax payers can be invested in new initiatives for creating more job opportunities. Pakistan’s exports were already on decline, and additional taxation would further hurt the manufacturing sector. The investors are more inclined towards neighbouring countries, where cost of doing business is less and high profit margins.

Lets hope that the government would take concrete measures to improve governance, document the economy, reduce the burden of the existing tax payers, reform the taxation system and improve Pakistan’s rating in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index. The road ahead is very much clear; Pakistan should not miss the bus here.


China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a lifeline for Pakistan

14 Dec

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), no doubt very crucial for Pakistan’s economic stability and prosperity. The CPEC project must be kept away from politics and all political groups should adopt a matured approach and desist from making it controversial for the benefit of the people of this region.

Its true that the CPEC is a mega development initiative – a game changer for the country and the region. The project showed the eternal friendship and strategic partnership between Pakistan and China and would serve as a lifeline for the national economy. It was unfortunate that some political elements as well as certain organizations and even countries due to vested interests are trying to make it controversial. The CPEC is a national project and does not belong to any political party, individual or province.

Here is a detail break-up of CPEC project: the number of projects included: Balochistan 16, KPK 8, Sindh 13 and Punjab 12.


These include: Khuzdar-Basima Highway (N-30), D.I.Khan-Quetta Highway (N-50), Hubco Coal Power Plant, Gwadar Power Plant, Gwadar-Nawabshah LNG Terminal and Pipeline, Gwadar Eastbay Expressway, Gwadar New International Airport, Gwadar Smart Port City Master Plan, Expansion of Multi-purpose Terminal including Breakwater & Dredging Wastewater, Treatment Plants for Gwadar City, Gwadar Primary School, Gwadar Hospital Upgradation, Gwadar Technical & Vocational College,Gwadar Eastbay Expressway II, Fresh Water Supply and Gwadar Free Zone.

Khyber Pakhtunkwa:

This includes Joint Feasibility Study for Upgradation of ML1, Establishment of Havelian Dry Port, KKH II (Havelian-Thakot) Upgradation of ML-1, KKH III (Raikot-Thakot), D.I.Khan-Quetta Highway (N-50), Suki Kinari Hydropower Project and Optical Fiber Cable from Rawalpindi to Khunjrab.


There are 13 projects for Sindh and this includes, Matiari- Lahore Transmission Line, Matiari-Faisalabad Transmission Line, Port Qasim Power Plant Engro Thar Power Plant & Surface Mine in Block II of Thar Coal Field Dawood Wind Farm, Jhimpir Wind Farm, Sachal Wind Farm,China-Sunec Wind Farm,Upgradation of ML-1, Thar Coal Block I & Mine Mouth Power Plant,Gwadar-Nawabshah LNG Terminal & Pipeline,Karachi-Lahore Motorway (Sukkur-Multan), Joint Feasibility Study for Upgradation of ML1.


There are only 12 projects under CPEC relate to Punjab: Optical Fiber Cable from Rawalpindi to Khunjrab, Haier & Ruba Economic Zone II, Karachi-Lahore Motorway (Sukkur-Multan), Joint Feasibility Study for Upgradation of ML1, Upgradation of ML-1, Sahiwal Coal-Fired Power Plant, Rahimyar Khan Coal Power Plant, Karot Hydro-Power Plant, Lahore Orange Line Metro Train, Matiari-Lahore Transmission Line, Matiari-Faisalabad Transmission Line Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park in Bahawalpur.

China is a good friend of Pakistan and we Pakistani always considered China as a life savior and the Cino-Pak friendship is everlasting. But at the same time China is considered as the bad friend of Pakistan among traders community. Local manufacturers failed to compete with low quality Chinese goods due to energy crisis. Pakistan suffered hard on industrialization. Cost of doing business went higher that resulted in higher volume in imports. This disturbed the trade balance and GDP growth targets missed for the year 2016. The only solution, what I see, re-industrialization in Pakistan through joint ventures with Chinese companies. CPEC should not be translated in terms of a trade route; we need Industrial Zones along with this route. Equal opportunities and equal incentives must be given to local investors as well. Again, Pakistan has a lot to do to meet the global dynamics of economy under CPEC. Pakistan Government should set the deadlines and meet the timelines for energy projects so that we can witness the revival of industrialization in Pakistan.


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