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Saturday, 12 May, 2001, 21:45 GMT 22:45 UK
China backs Pakistan military
Zhu Rongji plants a tree in Islamabad
Zhu held out hopes of more agreements in the future
By Susannah Price in Islamabad

The Chinese Prime Minister, Zhu Rongji - who is visiting Pakistan - has praised the military government there for bringing political and economic stability.

Speaking to the Pakistani business community, Mr Zhu said the downward spiral of the economy had been reversed.

Shortly after the coup in October 1999, China expressed its concern about events in Pakistan, but has now changed its approach. Their long-standing friendship appears to have been restored.

It was suggested that China was worried the new Pakistani leadership could be sympathetic to Islamic separatists in its Xinjiang region.

General Pervez Musharraf has obviously quelled those fears and may have been asked by Mr Zhu to try to stop the Taleban authorities in Afghanistan from backing the separatists.

Shifting the balance

General Musharraf will also appreciate the endorsement of his attempts to revive the ailing economy.

Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji and Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf
Rongji said Pakistan had much improved under Musharraf's rule
Mr Zhu said people's living standards had improved and that the two countries needed to build on what had been achieved by expanding trade and investment.

The balance of trade has always been strongly in China's favour.

Mr Zhu said this had been discussed and imports from Pakistan would be prioritised.

However, he said Pakistan had to produce commodities that were needed in China.

Economic co-operation

In terms of practical assistance, Mr Zhu announced that China would support the development of the port at Gwadar, west of Karachi, and its link road.

Several agreements have been signed during the visit covering mining, telecommunications, railways and tourism, and both sides say they hope to expand co-operation in science and technology.

Mr Zhu held out hopes of more agreements in the future, saying he hoped China-Pakistan economic co-operation would be brought to a new high in the new century.

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See also:

12 May 01 | South Asia
China warned over India 'threat'
29 Mar 01 | South Asia
Pakistan opens second nuclear plant
18 Jan 01 | South Asia
China and India reach out
10 Aug 00 | South Asia
China accused over Pakistan missiles
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