A few hours ahead of Xi Jinping’s scheduled touchdown in Islamabad for his first-ever state visit to Pakistan, an op-ed authored by the Chinese president appeared in Pakistan’s Daily Times. While the article is predictably primarily written through the use of diplomatic platitudes and offers little insight into the actual state of bilateral affairs between the two countries, Xi’s editorial is a good indicator of what Beijing would like to publicly emphasize about the China-Pakistan relationship.
The editorial, titled “Pak-China Dosti Zindabad” (Long Live the Pakistan-China Friendship), begins with a quote from an Urdu poem, which Xi uses to set Pakistan up as “a good friend in my heart.” He continues:
When I was young, I heard many touching stories about Pakistan and the friendship between our two countries. To name just a few, I learned that the Pakistani people were working hard to build their beautiful country, and that Pakistan opened an air corridor for China to reach out to the world and supported China in restoring its lawful seat in the United Nations. The stories have left me with a deep impression. I look forward to my upcoming state visit to Pakistan.
Xi further notes that though this trip will be his first visit to Pakistan, he feels as if he is “going to visit the home of [his] own brother.” Chinese officials have described Pakistan as China’s “iron brother” in the past. The language in the editorial then goes on to emphasize the comprehensive and positive nature of the China-Pakistan relationship. Xi falls short of invoking the “all weather” descriptor, a rhetorical flourish commonly employed to suggest that bilateral ties are frictionless when, behind the facade of diplomatic niceties, Pakistan and China face their fair share of challenges (some of which I’ve discussed in my recent article, previewing Xi’s visit to Pakistan; see “An ‘All Weather’ Encounter: China’s Xi Jinping Heads to Pakistan” in The Diplomat).