BEIJING (AFP) – Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif started his first foreign visit since his May election in China Thursday looking to secure infrastructure projects to tackle a chronic energy crisis and economic malaise.
Since his victory at the polls, Sharif has sought to strengthen economic ties with close ally Beijing as he bids to tackle weak growth, inflation and power cuts of up to 20 hours a day.
His first meetings in the Chinese capital included appointments with leaders from state-owned heavyweights the China Investment Corporation sovereign wealth fund, China Development Bank and China Power Investment Corporation.
Sharif will also meet President Xi Jinping on Thursday and Premier Li Keqiang the following day, according to a schedule provided by Pakistani officials.
Over the weekend he will attend a China-Pakistan Energy Forum in Shanghai and meet with a power company in the southern city of Guangzhou, before flying home on Monday.
Pakistan, where Sharif won praise for pulling off high-impact infrastructure projects such as a motorway during his two previous tenures in office, has opened its arms to Chinese investment.
Premier Li -- the first foreign leader to visit Pakistan after Sharif's election -- said in Islamabad that Beijing was ready to speed up work to upgrade the Karakoram Highway as part of a proposed economic corridor between the two countries.
Earlier this year, China took control of Pakistan's Gwadar port, giving it access to the Arabian Sea and Strait of Hormuz, a gateway for a third of the world's traded oil.
China-Pakistan trade last year reached $12 billion and is targeted to rise to $15 billion in the next two to three years.
The threat of militancy is also likely to figure during Sharif's discussions.
China is concerned that the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement -- which seeks an independent homeland for Muslim Uighurs in China's western Xinjiang region -- is training "terrorists" in Pakistan.