China’s Foreign Minister’s visit to Dhaka

by Barrister Harun ur Rashid | May 5, 2008 9:19 am

Chinese Foreign minister Yang Jiechi arrived in Dhaka 24th April on a two-day visit. He was warmly welcomed at the airport by his counter part, the Foreign Affairs Adviser Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury.

On the same day, both the government leaders held bilateral talks. The Foreign Minister met with the Chief Adviser on 24th April and invited him to visit China later this year.

At the end of bilateral talks with the Foreign Affairs Adviser, Foreign Minister Jiechi reportedly said at a joint press conference: “ China deeply appreciates Bangladesh’s firm support for One China policy and for what China has done to protect the interests of the Tibetan people”.

During the visit, it is reported that Chinese Foreign Minister offered Tk.6,000 million in ‘free aid’ to Bangladesh’s development and Tk.5 million in ‘token gift’ to mark his visit. The two countries signed an exchange of notes for construction of Bangladesh-China Exhibition Centre in Dhaka involving Tk 1890 million.. He also indicated that China was willing to assist Bangladesh in energy generation including nuclear energy in Ruppur 300-500 MW plant.

It is reported that Chinese Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi, said military to military cooperation is an important part of overall bilateral relation between Bangladesh and China. Jiechi, who met the army chief, General Moeen U Ahmed, made the remark to journalists. He conveyed greetings of the Chinese Defence Minister to General Moeen U Ahmed. During the meeting, they discussed exchange of training programmes of military personnel of the two countries.

Why the visit?

A visit by the Chinese Foreign Minister is to strengthen and expand bilateral cooperation. Relations need to be nurtured occasionally through exchange of visit at a political level. However this visit took place in the background of Bangladesh position on Olympics in August in Beijing. This time, the Olympic slogan, One World, One Dream, calls upon the world to unite in the Olympic spirit.

It may be recalled on 20 March, when his attention was drawn to reports of rioting in Tibet, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that "Bangladesh looks forward to the successful holding of 2008 Olympics in Beijing and believes that no quarter should seek to politicise the Games".

It was reported that Foreign Adviser Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury also telephoned the Chinese envoy in Dhaka, Ambassador Zheng Qingdian, to apprise him of Bangladesh’s position in this regard.

Dhaka’s unambiguous stance on Olympics must have pleased China at a time when the wave of violent protests of monks in Lhasa on 14th March could not have come at a worst time for the Chinese government. They do not want want the monks’ protests to become the country’s image before the Olympics in August.

Furthermore, China’s long-standing three “Nos. policy” to Taiwan are well known: No two China, No independence, No representation to international bodies. Bangladesh has always consistently supported and committed to One China policy. This means that Bangladesh considers Taiwan is a province of China. It also regards Tibet as a part of China.

Against the background, the Chinese Foreign Minister’s presence in Bangladesh ( he left on 25 April for Pakistan from Dhaka) appears to be a “thank you” visit for a friendly country, especially for the stand Bangladesh had taken on the Olympic Game in Beijing and Tibetan protests.

Bilateral Relations:

China is only 100 miles from Bangladesh over the Himalayas. Because of the barrier of the mountain range, Bangladesh can only visit China through eastwards by air. Guangzhou (Canton) and Dhaka stand on the same latitude and is a two-hour journey from Dhaka.

The cultural interaction between China and Bangladesh dates back to centuries. A Buddhist monk from Bangladesh named Atish Dipankar, traveled to China in the 11th century and preached Buddhism there for 17 years. He died in modern day Chinese Tibet and the Chinese Government has returned his ashes to his place of birth in Dhaka as a mark of friendship between the two countries.

Since 1975, the bilateral relations between the two countries have been growing steadily over the years. Almost all heads of state or governments of Bangladesh visited China to consolidate relations. Successive governments have broadened economic and technical cooperation with China.

A large portion of our infrastructural development including roads and bridges, power plants and mining and industrial establishments were built with Chinese assistance and technology. The recent 4.8 kilometer bridge (Mukterpur Bridge) over the river Dhaleswari, built by China Road and Bridge Corporation, was inaugurated on 18th February, 2008 by the Chief Adviser.

The Mukhterpur bridge was the 6th one built by Chinese assistance during the last 20 years. All the bridges have contributed to the accelerated socio-economic growth of the country, besides facilitating the movement of people and goods within the length and breadth of the country.

There have been regular people to people contacts at all levels, between government leaders and government officials, between political parties and eminent citizens and professionals and students. And over the past two decades, there has been increasing interactions among the businessmen and private sectors of the two countries.

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.

As many as fourteen agreements on bilateral cooperation were signed during the two visits. This track record speaks for itself the relevance of Bangladesh in China’s South Asia policy.

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.

Generating US$3.2 billion worth of trade volume in 2004, 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.

Strategic importance of Bangladesh:

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, 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, harmony and stability through these organizations.

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 th

e 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. 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, is a gesture of goodwill and 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.

Source URL: