China-Pakistan Cooperation in Science and Technology: An Inevitable Trend of the Times

Suo Yinbu:

On September 24, 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out in his speech at the opening ceremony of a forum that “in today’s world, the development of science and technology must be with a global vision, grasp the pulse of the times and closely follow the new requirements put forward by human production and life. China attaches great importance to scientific and technological innovation and is committed to promoting global scientific and technological innovation cooperation. It will strengthen international scientific and technological exchanges with a more open attitude, actively participate in global innovation networks, jointly promote basic research, promote the transformation of scientific and technological achievements, foster new kinetic energy for economic development, strengthen intellectual property protection, create a first-class innovation ecology, shape the concept of science and technology being good, and improve global scientific and technological governance to better enhance human well-being.” President Xi Jinping’s statement conveyed to the global scientific and technological community that China will continue to promote global scientific and technological development under open conditions. In the future, China will continue to advocate and broaden international scientific and technological cooperation.

As an “all-weather strategic partner”, scientific and technological cooperation is one of the important components of China-Pakistan relations. In the mid-1960s, China began to provide large-scale economic and technical assistance to Pakistan, which opened the prelude of scientific and technological cooperation between the two countries. With the continuous development of friendly relations between the two countries, China-Pakistan scientific and technological cooperation is also deepening. On May 30, 1976, the Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was signed in Beijing. Since then, China-Pakistan scientific and technological cooperation has achieved rich results in various fields such as agriculture, energy, military affairs and aerospace.

For example, in the field of agriculture, China not only exports agricultural products to Pakistan, but also establishes laboratories, breeding bases and research and development centers in Pakistan to localize products, and in turn exports Pakistani agricultural products to other countries to increase farmers’ income. China-Pakistan Cotton Biotechnology Joint Laboratory, an important scientific and technological cooperation project of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor implemented by Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, also helps Pakistan to build a talent team in the field of cotton basic research through the Industry-University-Research cooperation mechanism. In the field of energy, China and Pakistan established the China-Pakistan Joint Research Center for Small Hydropower in Islamabad in 2015. The establishment of this institution is conducive to Pakistan’s own ability to develop small-scale hydropower. In 1986, China and Pakistan signed the Cooperation Agreement on Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy, which made it possible for the two countries to cooperate in the development of civilian nuclear technology. The first four units of Chashma Nuclear Power Complex, which was put into use in 2000, were designed by Chinese and Pakistani scientists and engineers based on China’s CNP-300 technology, and the fifth unit used the more advanced Hualong No.1 technology. In addition, China and Pakistan have extensive cooperation in other clean energy fields such as wind energy, solar energy and bio-energy. In the field of military science and technology, China and Pakistan have cooperated for more than 50 years. In 1990s, China cooperated with Pakistan to design and develop the Al-Khalid tank based on Type 90-II MBT main battle tank, which called MBT-2000 or VT-1 main battle tank in China. The most famous cooperation case in military science and technology should be a single-engine, single-seat, all-weather multi-role fighter jointly produced by the two countries. This fighter is called JF-17 or Thunder by Pakistan and FC-1 or Xiaolong by China. In the space field, China and Pakistan have also carried out cooperation for more than 30 years. As early as 1990, China put the first satellite BADR-A developed by Pakistan into orbit with the Long March-2 bundled rocket. On August 12, 2011, Paksat-1R communication satellite, an important milestone in the history of space cooperation between China and Pakistan, successfully entered the low Earth orbit. The satellite is the result of cooperation between China Great Wall Industry Group Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, and Pakistan Outer Space and Atmospheric Research Committee (SUPARCO), a Pakistani government. In addition, transportation, information, personnel training, medical and health care, infrastructure construction, etc. are all relatively extensive areas of China-Pakistan scientific and technological cooperation.

Extensive cooperation in science and technology is of great significance to both China and Pakistan. For the first time, with the acceleration of global integration and modernization, China needs broader emerging markets to add vitality to its economy, while Pakistan also needs to develop technology to maintain its national development. We should realize that the complementarity between China and Pakistan in the field of scientific and technological cooperation is far greater than the competitiveness, and further expansion of cooperation between the two countries will be the best option. Secondly, facing the current international geopolitical situation, the gap between India and Pakistan is gradually widening, and the regional balance is in danger of being destroyed. At the same time, with the shift of American strategic center, China has also begun to face a more complex international environment. At this time, China and Pakistan will continue to deepen cooperation, which will help each other to deal with its own geopolitical problems. Third, the ultimate beneficiary of technological progress brought about by China-Pakistan scientific and technological cooperation is undoubtedly the people of the two countries. For example, in June 2021, Pakistan, with the support of Chinese enterprises, completed the localized production of vaccines in COVID-19 through technology transfer, which is of great significance to the life, health and safety of the Pakistani people.

Of course, China-Pakistan scientific and technological cooperation also faces some challenges and shortcomings including the COVID-19 epidemic and its social problems, the constraints of international environment and relations between major powers, the worsening global economic and security situation, the threat of terrorism, environmental and climate problems, the lack of talents and funds, the differences in policies and regulations between the two countries, and the differences in folk customs, etc. At the same time, the author finds that although the two countries have a lot of cooperation in the field of science and technology, there is a serious lack of communication in the humanities and social sciences around science and technology. We should admit that humanities and social sciences are of great significance to the development of science and technology. If the development of science and technology can make a country invincible, then the development of humanities and social sciences can help this country avoid war. Science and technology cooperation will inevitably lead to various “science and technology disasters”, that is, social problems concerned on science and technology. Strengthening communication and cooperation in this area will benefit the long-term and stable development of scientific and technological cooperation between the two countries.

In today’s world, competition and cooperation coexist, and most countries choose to form cooperation and cooperation alliance to seek development and progress in the field of science and technology. In the process of regrouping the world’s scientific and technological forces, China and Pakistan have come together. Apart from the quasi-alliance relationship of “all-weather strategic partner” formed in the past 70 years, the main reason is that China and Pakistan, as important developing countries with potential, need to gradually move towards the center of the world science and technology stage in this way. This is not only the need of the development of the two countries, but also the trend of the times, and no one can stop it.

(Author of the article is Ph. D. Candidate from School of Ethnology and Sociology, MinZu University of China.)

Editor by: Muhammad Zamir Assadi