Chinese Vice President Visit to Dhaka: A sign of friendship

Chinese Vice President Visit to Dhaka: A sign of friendship

The two-day (14-15 June) visit of the Chinese Vice-President, Xi Jinping to Bangladesh is significant for bilateral relations. It is noted that Xi Jinping has been anointed as the likely successor to President Hu Jintao as party chief in 2012. It is a coincidence that the Chinese leader will observe his 57th birthday on 15th June in Bangladesh.

This has been the first visit by a top Chinese state leader since the Awami League-led government assumed power in January last year. Official sources said that this was apparently the return visit against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina trip to China in March.

Both countries will celebrate 35th years of establishment of diplomatic ties this year by holding commemorative activities in Dhaka and Beijing to enhance further their friendship.

As China has been emerging a superpower, across the world, countries large and small have been seeking to forge close relations with China. Germany, France and Britain frequently vie with one another to win trade deals with China.

Following sinking of a South Korean warship in March in disputed South-North Korean waters, Presidents of both South and North Koreas visited Beijing to brief their side of stories.

Israel also cultivates China relations on the issue of Iran. In recent years Costa Rica, Chad and Malawi have severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan and opened their relations with China. These instances amply demonstrate China’s economic might and diplomatic clout in world and regional affairs.

Relationship with China has become one of the priorities of Bangladesh successive governments. The heads of government of Bangladesh irrespective of their political affiliation invariably visited China and met with Chinese leaders to strengthen relations in every possible sector.

Bangladesh’s relations with China have taken a multifaceted direction. China has assisted the country in infrastructure, power including hydro-power, coal mine, industrial plants, telecommunications, flood control, disaster prevention, river training, irrigation and water resources utilization.

According to China, although the sum of money provided to Bangladesh is not the largest among all development partners, they put emphasis on the actual result of the assistance and whether such assistance can bring about concrete good to Bangladesh people.
By 2009, China’s direct investment in Bangladesh reached $88 million dollars, much higher than previous two years and by 2010, there are about 186 Chinese enterprises with a registered capital of $320 million in Bangladesh.

As of 2009, the volume of trade between the countries stood at about $4.5 billion, positioning China as Bangladesh’s largest trading partner. During Bangladesh Prime Minister visit, China agreed to provide preferential tariff treatment more products from Bangladesh (In July this year China will offer zero tariff to another 4,721 products from Bangladesh).

China has been a major supplier of defence materials in Bangladesh. Senior armed officials including chief of the armed services have developed cooperative relations with their counter- parts.

During the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister in March 17-21, China signed the Letters of Exchange on the construction of the seventh Bangladesh-China Friendship bridge at Kajirtek of Madaripur. China agreed to intensify efforts for the early start of the eighth second Meghna bridge and the construction of Bangladesh-China Friendship Exhibition Centre.

During the visit, China also agreed to “enhance transport links and to continue to discuss possibility of building road and rail links between the two countries” turning Bangladesh into an economic hub of activities because of its geographical location between India and China.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina offered that deep- sea port to be built near Cox’s Bazar could be used by regional countries including India and China.. Chinese Ambassador in Bangladesh on 10th June reportedly said that China would contribute to projects related to connectivity and was waiting a concrete proposal for the deep-sea port from Bangladesh.

Some years ago Bangladesh economists have floated “the Kunmin Initiative” (Kunmin is the capital of Yunnan province next to Myanmar) to provide economic cooperation among Bangladesh, India’s northeastern states, Myanmar and China. China has disclosed its positive attitude of interconnectivity by highway among three countries-China, Myanmar and Bangladesh

China also may extend help in Bangladesh’s efforts to mitigate the severe effects of climate change in the shape of floods and other natural calamities. In river training and dredging China has enormous reservoir of know-know which it can share with Bangladesh.

During the visit of the Vice President, two agreements are expected to be concluded—one for Shahjalal Fertiliser Factory and another one- the establishment of 2.5 3G telecommunication project. Chinese leader may also declare to turn Bangladesh’s debt ($800 million) to China as a grant.

China also needs Bangladesh because of strategic location between China and India. Bangladesh has a good market of Chinese low-end products for about 160 million people. China is aware Bangladesh is a member of the UN, Commonwealth, Non-Aligned Movement and Organisation of Islamic Conference and has been active in these forums. Bangladesh is a tolerant Muslim-majority country with more than 12% per cent of its population of other religion and can act as a sobering influence on Islamic extremism.

The visit is evidence of the strength of the economic and political connections between Bangladesh and China. It has set a scene for greater understanding between the two countries.

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

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