Pakistan-China relations: bumps on the road to Shangri-La

International relations Defence China

This paper examines sources of stress in the Pakistan-China relationship.

Pakistan-China relations have been deepening on several fronts for the last 60 years. There have also been, however, a number of issues that have dampened the relationship, notably attacks against Chinese citizens, the presence of Muslim Uighur militants in Pakistan, who wish to establish an independent Islamic state in the western part of China, and policy differences over Afghanistan. While none of these issues is going to seriously affect the relationship, they have nevertheless created notable stress in an otherwise relatively trouble-free relationship. Moreover, China is only too well aware of the many domestic problems afflicting Pakistan. Accordingly, it will continue to be the cautious player in the relationship.

Key points:

  • Three issues, notably attacks on Chinese citizens, the presence of Uighur militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas and policy differences over Afghanistan, have put stress on an otherwise trouble-free, 60-year old bilateral relationship.
  • Pakistan is keen to deepen the bilateral relationship even further but China remains cautious.
  • Beijing is not about to displace Washington as Pakistan’s main economic patron.
  • When examining its relationship with Pakistan, China factors in its growing bilateral relationship with India.
Publication Details