CA's visit to China consolidates further bilateral relations

by Barrister Harun ur Rashid | September 25, 2008 3:10 pm

On 14th September, Chief Adviser Dr. Fakruddin Ahmed went to China for a four-day visit at the invitation of the China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

The visit was timely and is bound to strengthen the existing bilateral relations in all their aspects—political, economic and cultural.

It may be recalled that during the visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister in April to Bangladesh, he called on the Chief Adviser and invited him on behalf of the Chinese counter-part.

The Chief Adviser was afforded a red carpet reception and warmly received at the Beijing airport.

The Chief Adviser held official talks with the Prime Minister on 15th September. On the same day he called on President Hu Jintao.

China: Emerging global power:

China is the fourth largest economy in the world. . Within a few years China’s GDP is expected to surpass the world’s third largest economy, Germany .

China’s strategic and economic importance has been recognized by G-8 leaders and China was invited to the Summit of G-8 in Japan last July.

China’s economy continues to soar and it is called by many as Asia’s “walking giant”. It is the economy that overwhelms all other aspects of the relations between China and the West. In what appears to be a marriage of convenience for both sides, the West has taken softer approach towards China. For example, all the important leaders from the West including President Bush attended the inauguration of the Beijing Olympics last month.

China is taking a more active role at the UN. China’s increasing confidence, diplomatic dexterity, and veto-wielding power in the UN Security Council has been demonstrated with care and caution.

Bangladesh is fully aware that China has been emerging as a great military and economic power and being sandwiched between China and India, Bangladesh is deeply interested to extend its cooperation with both the countries in a globalised world where economies are being integrated.

Dynamics of bilateral relations:

Few people realise that China is 100 kilometres from Bangladesh across the Himalayas. Bangladesh’s relations with China dates back to centuries. A Buddhist monk Atish Dipankar from Vikrampur ( Mushiganj) travelled to China in the 11the century and preached Buddhism for 17 years. He died in modern day Chinese Tibet and the Chinese government returned his ashes to his birthplace as a mark of friendship between the two countries.

Since the opening of diplomatic relations 33 years ago, the bilateral relations between the two countries have been founded on mutual trust and respect.
From the very beginning of bilateral relations, Bangladesh adhered to Chinese three “nos” policy to Taiwan—no independence, no representation to international bodies and no two China. This means that Bangladesh considers Taiwan an integral part of China.
Dhaka’s unambiguous stance in March this year to support Beijing Olympics must have pleased China when violence took place in Lhasa and there was a call of boycott of the Beijing Olympics. Bangladesh Foreign Affairs Adviser reportedly telephoned the Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka to assure him all the support from Bangladesh for the Beijing Olympics.
The first official visit to China was made by President Ziaur Rahman in 1977 and later all the heads of state/government of Bangladesh visited China and consolidated relations between the two countries. President Ershad visited China six times during his Presidency.

Bilateral relations reached its peak in 2005 when the two countries celebrated the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Premier Wen Jiabao paid a state visit to Bangladesh in April 2005 and Prime Minister of Bangladesh paid her return visit to China within three months in August 2005.

Generating US$4.2 billion worth of trade volume in 2007 the Sino-Bangladesh relationship is founded on the corner stone of economic cooperation. Bangladesh is also China’s third largest trade partner in South Asia.

Chinese entrepreneurs are encouraged to invest in Bangladesh in such areas as infrastructure, textiles, electronics, information technology and ceramics.

There are many agreements signed between the countries in areas such as agriculture, transport and communications, machinery, energy, science and technology. Joint Economic Commission was constituted in 1983.

China has shown interest in mining sector and a Chinese company was given the lease in Khalaspir coal field in Rangpur district. It also signed an agreement in 2000 to set up a feasibility study in utlising waters from hilly areas for generating power in Bangladesh including the possibility of hydro-electric power from Matanuhuri and Sangu rivers.

China provided loans and grants to Bangladesh and heavily invested in infrastructure. The Muktarpur Bridge over river Dhaleswari was the sixth bridge built and completed in February this year. All the bridges have contributed to interconnectivity within the country and boosted trade and economic growth.

During the visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi to Bangladesh in April this year, he offered Tk.6,000 million in “free aid” to Bangladesh and Tk 5 million in “token gift” to mark his visit to the country. He showed interest in assisting for generation of nuclear energy in the plant in Rooppur for 300-500MW, conceived in the 60s

Talks fruitful during the visit:

Official talks between Bangladesh and China were held at the Great Hall of the People on 16th September, where the Chief Adviser, Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, led the Bangladesh side while the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, headed the host country.

During the talks, China’s assurance came to assist Bangladesh. These include that China will provide special preferential treatment for access of some Bangladeshi products to its market to reduce the prevailing trade imbalance between the two countries and cooperate in paving the way for implementation of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant undertaken for peaceful purpose.

Beijing will also consider Dhaka’s request for engaging China in the Bangladesh-Myanmar Road Link scheme meant for enhancing trade and people-to-people contact.

Chinese leaders also assured cooperation in constructing Meghna and Gumti bridges in Bangladesh. Besides, they will provide technological support in developing hybrid seeds.

Three agreements on cooperation were concluded during the visit. This track record speaks for itself the relevance of Bangladesh in China’s South Asia policy.

Strategic importance of Bangladesh to China:

The two countries have closely worked together in the multilateral forums, particularly in the United Nations by keeping the focus on the development and peace issues. The strategic importance of Bangladesh in China’s South Asia policy is obvious. Let me enumerate a few:

First, Bangladesh stands between China and India and both are emerging as global economic and political powers. Bangladesh’s cooperation may help achieve their goal in South Asia.

Second, Bangladesh has a sizeable middle class of about 40 million and is emerging as a lucrative market for China.

Third, Bangladesh is a bridge between South Asia and South Asia. Bangladesh’s membership to ARF (Asean Regional Forum) has made Bangladesh critically important for any country which wishes to engage in South and South East Asia.

Fourth, China has built a train from Beijing to Lhasa (Tibet) and has plans to extend it to Kathmandu (Nepal). If interconnectivity and transit routes are in place within South Asian nations, Dhaka may connect a link to Beijing by train through Kathmandu

Fifth, Bangladesh is a member of Commonwealth, Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), Non-Aligned Movement and the UN. A few countries are members of all these organizations. Bangladesh can play an important role in ensuring global peace, ha

rmony and stability through these organizations.

Sixth and finally, Bangladesh is a moderate and tolerant Muslim- majority country. It is a multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-ethnic country (45 ethnic groups live in the country). It has considerable influence among the members of the OIC. Its role in curbing Islamic extremism within the country has been praised by international community.


Sino-Bangladesh relations have been characterized by comprehensive partnership of cooperation with China for more than 32 years, based on mutual respect and trust. Bangladesh-China cooperation was not limited to just bilateral relations. Bangladesh could find understanding in China of its problems and concerns to reduce poverty through economic growth and development.

The basic course of Bangladesh’s relationship with China has been firmly set and will continue for further expansion. The visit, although a brief one, will consolidate further bilateral relations for mutual benefit of peoples of both countries.

By Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

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