Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up his two-day “historic” visit to Pakistan this Tuesday. The occasion provides us an opportunity to reflect upon the Sino-Pakistan relationship. However, instead of focusing on the impact of the visit, this piece examines the relationship in the context of rapid changes in the regional geopolitical landscape. There are several aspects of the China-Pakistan relationship that can and should be properly analysed. However, to avoid distraction and to maintain focus, only two are taken into consideration in this article, namely Afghanistan and the Middle East. To begin with, Afghanistan witnessed tangible changes recently. In December 2014, US-led western forces completed a partial withdrawal from Afghanistan. This will reduce, hopefully, direct US influence in the region and should provide an opportunity to Pakistan to devise a more independent counterterrorism policy. An even greater change took place in September 2014 when Ashraf Ghani became the new Afghan president. Ghani, after assuming power, reoriented the country’s foreign policy, making Beijing and Islamabad the top priority. It is no wonder he chose China for his first overseas visit. He also adopted measures, reciprocated in a befitting manner by Pakistan, to improve Islamabad-Kabul ties. Within a few months, two-way relations have improved beyond one’s expectations. In fact, the current Afghanistan situation provides Pakistan and China with new opportunities for strategic cooperation expanding beyond bilateral ties. Pakistan has strong, historical bonds with Afghanistan based upon common culture and religion. It will not be wrong to state that the way to Kabul passes through Islamabad. On the other hand, China maintained low profile engagement in Afghanistan in the past and, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, has shown active engagement with Kabul. Beijing has promised to make efforts with the international community to actively facilitate political reconciliation in Afghanistan, support the peace process and contribute in the reconstruction of the war-torn country. China’s renewed interest was obvious from the level of assistance it committed during Ghani’s visit. Against these developments, Pakistan needs to re-visit its strategic Afghanistan policy, the war on terror and its relations with neighbours. Islamabad should reduce its perpetual strategic dependence on the US. As history is witness, in spite of entering into formal defence pacts and acting as a proxy in protracted US wars (during the 1980s against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and since 2001 in the war on terror), Islamabad has lost far more than it has gained. If Pakistan shows courage, China is the most suitable alternate, one that is ready to help. Both countries have a convergence of strategic interests in Afghanistan to a level never seen before. They should take this opportunity to coordinate their policies and fill the gap left by the US. Similarly, changing strategic contours in the Middle East can provide China and Pakistan with another opportunity to cooperate and contribute diplomatically and commercially to help this perturbed region see a semblance of relative stability. The US’s policies towards the region, which revolved around support for despotic rulers, have failed miserably. Contrary to this, China’s Middle Eastern policy, based on non-interference, an objective approach towards the Palestine-Israel conflict and emphasis upon the peaceful settlement of conflicts has earned good repute for Beijing. On the other hand, Pakistan has historically maintained a strong relationship with Middle Eastern countries based on the commonality of religion. Not only this, owing to its active support to issues confronting the Muslim world, Pakistan generally enjoys respect in the Muslim world. In the past, Pakistan worked as a bridge between China and the Muslim world, bilaterally as well as from the platform of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC). This bridge can further be expanded. In fact, the perception, policies and interests of China and Pakistan greatly converge on the Middle East region.Importantly, changes in these regions are taking place parallel to the launch of new diplomacy in China. If one looks closely, both have a great degree of congruence with one another. In October 2013, China unveiled its new neighbourhood policy, which stressed closer relations with neighbouring states. China regards the Middle Eastern region as its extended neighbour while China’s energy needs further underpin the significance of the region. Under its new diplomacy, Beijing intends to link with all neighbours through economic integration, political engagement, security cooperation and people-to-people contact. This new policy is quite comprehensive. China’s establishment of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), various economic corridors, and Maritime Silk Road are part of it. Out of all these initiatives, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Gwadar Port are flagship projects. For the smooth implementation of these initiatives, Beijing has allocated huge resources. It is clear that Pakistan and China have identical views on the situation in Afghanistan and in the Middle East. This provides them with new avenues of cooperation and coordination. Secondly, these developments provide Pakistan with the historic opportunity to review its foreign policy that had been largely based on unnecessary alliances with distant powers. It should perceive such changes and adopt fresh approaches in line with the changing geopolitical landscape. China’s ascendency to a great power status is beyond any doubt. Pakistan is lucky that it shares a common border with this rising global power and has the trajectory of good relations based on mutual trust. On top of that, China is willing to help Islamabad stand on its feet and restore its peaceful past. Given this backdrop, it is important to observe the Pakistani government’s attitude in the days to come. It is to be keenly observed whether Islamabad highlights the signing of a number of agreements to create media hype about its economic performance and whether it makes decisions with the next elections in mind, shows understanding of the titanic shifts and makes historic decision by aligning itself more closely with China. Dr Zhang Jiamei is an associate professor and the head of department of Urdu at Peking University. Dr Ghulam Ali has specialised in Pakistan-China foreign policy from Monash University, Australia and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at Peking University. Dr Ejaz Hussain is an independent political scientist with an interest in China’s politics, foreign policy and culture. He tweets at ejazbhatty.