Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has hailed Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative as a means of lifting his debt-ridden country out of poverty despite continuing international scepticism over the economic benefits of the Chinese projects. Khan spoke to Li Shimo, a venture capitalist and director of the advisory committee of the China Institute at Fudan University, in an interview published by Chinese news website Guancha on Wednesday. “I do not understand why there is this suspicion about CPEC [China-Pakistan Economic Corridor] and the Gwadar port … what China achieved is really [why] we look at China as a role model, because never has a nation lifted so many people out of poverty as did China,” Khan said. CPEC is China’s flagship project in the South Asian country under its multibillion-dollar infrastructure scheme and the port in Gwadar is a centrepiece that has promised to boost connectivity in the region. “This is really my main concern: how do I lift people out of poverty, how do we create wealth in our country? We see CPEC and Gwadar as a great opportunity for our geoeconomics, I think this is not exclusive between Pakistan and China. We invite any other country to join and invest in CPEC projects,” Khan said, referring to his policy on strengthening trade and investment with regional countries. “We want to lift our poverty using the example of China,” he said. What does Pakistan’s national security policy say about India, China, US? Khan was interviewed on Saturday while in China for the Winter Olympics . He was one of the few world leaders to attend the Games opening ceremony in Beijing on Friday amid a diplomatic boycott over concerns about human rights, and the coronavirus pandemic. Khan and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang signed an agreement to start the second CPEC phase on Saturday. When Khan met Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday, he said Pakistan would support China at any time as its “all-weather friend”, according to the Chinese official statements. Pakistan has been one of China’s closest partners in terms of investment and diplomatic support at a time Beijing faces increasing pressure from Western countries on a range of issues, including its rivalry with Washington. Meanwhile, Islamabad has been questioned over its deals with China under CPEC. Pakistan had to borrow from Beijing for projects that would cost at least US$62 billion, while it continued to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund . CPEC comprises a network of roads, railways, ports, power plants, oil and gas pipelines and optical fibre cables. A main feature of the project is a road from Xinjiang in China’s far west to Gwadar port in Balochistan . Only around a third of the projects have been completed. In the interview with Li, Khan expressed his wish for Pakistan to be a bridge between China and the US, but said it could not have the same entrusted relationship with Washington as it has with Beijing. “The US is also a good friend of Pakistan, but it is different from the all-weather friendship with China,” Khan said, adding that in the past the US had switched between being friendly towards his nation and then sanctioning Pakistan over regional issues, including conflicts in Afghanistan . “Pakistan-China relations have been stable for the past 70 years,” Khan said. On international concerns over the treatment of the mostly Muslim Uygur minority in Xinjiang , Khan said he was informed by the Pakistani ambassador to Beijing, who had visited the region, that there was no targeting of Uygurs as the media had reported. Islamabad in talks with Taliban to expand China-Pakistan infrastructure scheme China has been accused of locking up more than 1 million Uygurs in Xinjiang , according to the United Nations and the US State Department. Beijing has denied these accusations and said its policies in the region were about alleviating poverty and counterterrorism. Khan has been criticised by Uygur activists who have accused him of not standing up for Muslims in Xinjiang .