Ambassador of China to Bangladesh Yao Wen on Saturday said Bangladesh and China “should deepen the strategic partnership” for cooperation and explore new growth points.
“China is willing to work with Bangladesh to continue exploring cooperation opportunities under the Global Development Initiative (GDI), Global Security Initiative (GSI) and Global Civilization Initiative (GCI),” he said.
In particular, the ambassador said, they are willing to promote upgrading of industries and digitalization process in Bangladesh, and to improve the quality and competitiveness of “Made in Bangladesh”.
He was delivering keynote speech at a symposium as part of the Cosmos Dialogue
Ambassadors’ Lecture Series entitled “Bangladesh-China Relations: Prognosis for the Future” at a hotel in Dhaka.
The discussion was chaired and conducted by President of Cosmos Foundation and renowned scholar-diplomat and former Advisor on Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh Caretaker Government Dr Iftekhar Ah-med Chowdhury.
While delivering the welcome remarks, Chairman of Cosmos Foundation Enayetullah Khan said Bangla-desh and China are moving closer together as friends on the international stage.
The ties received a major boost during the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to China in 2019 and the watershed point of this transformation was President Xi Jinping’s all-important visit to Bangladesh in 2016, he said, adding that this heralded the beginning of the “strategic partnership”.
“It is a great source of inspiration to Bangladeshis as we witness China’s peaceful rise. We know from President Xi that the Chinese people have a dream; so do we in Bangladesh as we strive to achieve mid-dle-income status, of which we are on the cusp,” Khan said.
“It is my firmest conviction that ties with China will continue to form the bedrock of our efforts to ful-fill these aspirations,” he added.
Dr Iftekhar Chowdhury said it appears to all of them that China is rising; and the Chinese saw this as a peaceful rise.
“Now, being even more careful, they no longer talk of ‘peaceful rise’ but only peaceful development,” he said, adding that established global powers, of course, see this as a threat.
Referring to PM Hasina’s visit to Beijing in 2014 and President Xi’s visit to Bangladesh in 2016, he said these visits saw an “all-weather” friendship elevate to a strategic partnership.
Dr Iftekhar said Bangladesh-China relations are, therefore, emerging as an equation in the diplomatic calculations in Asia that will not fully show for itself tomorrow, nor the day after but in the long run in a continent where time for many is not the essence.
Ambassador Yao said his country has noticed the “Indo-Pacific Outlook of Bangladesh” released recent-ly, and believes that many of its ideas are similar to those of China.
“China supports Bangladesh in playing a more active and more significant role in regional and interna-tional affairs while preserving its foreign policy of independence,” he said.
The world today is undergoing major changes unseen in a century, and the pendulum of prosperity is pivoting to the East, said the Chinese envoy.
“Both China and Bangladesh are facing unprecedented opportunities and challenges,” he said.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the launching of the BRI.
Eight mega projects in Bangladesh, such as the Padma Bridge Railway Link Project, will be completed and put into use.
The construction of the Rajshahi Surface Water Treatment Plant Project will also kick off, said the Am-bassador sharing the outcomes of the high-level visits in 2016 and 2019 and deepening cooperation un-der the BRI.
Talking about the future of relations, Ambassador Yao said Bangladesh and China should continue to firmly support each other in following a development path that suits our respective national conditions.
The modernization of both China and Bangladesh involves a huge population.
“We should always bear realities in mind as we address issues, make decisions, and take action. We should adhere to the path of peaceful development, and refuse to tread the old path of war, colonization, and plunder taken by some countries,” he said.
“Standing on our own feet, both China and Bangladesh have made a miracle of rapid socio-economic development, thus attracting the attention of the whole world,” he added.
The envoy said China respects Bangladesh’s choice of its own development path, and is willing to strengthen strategic communication and mutual learning with Bangladesh on this basis.
“China and Bangladesh should continue to support each other on issues of core interests, and say “no” to external interference with one voice,” he said.
Yao said Bangladesh and China should make the relations a model of friendship among developing countries, thus making their contribution to the building of a human community with a shared future.
Vice Dean for Research, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, Pro-fessor Kanti Bajpai, mentioned three opportunities where Bangladesh-China would have fruitful relation-ships.
He said the first one is a diplomatic opportunity to play the role of a bridging nation in multiple ways.
Kanti Bajpai also talked about cooperation on the climate change front and in the area of renewables and to bring in new technologies.
Highlighting Bangladesh’s “Indo-Pacific Outlook” and China-Bangladesh cooperation Senior Fellow and Secretary General of South Asia and China Center, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies Liu Zongyi said Bangladesh released the “Indo-Pacific Outlook”, which formulates a blueprint for the inter-action between Bangladesh and stakeholders in the Asia-Pacific region.
“From my humble observation, the release of Bangladesh’s “Indo-Pacific Outlook” is not only an initia-tive for Bangladesh to maintain its diplomatic independence and pursue its own national interests, but also a helpless move under constant pressure from the United States and India to take sides,” he said.
This document of Bangladesh, like that of ASEAN, is called Outlook, which itself shows its neutrality rather than its specific strategic implications, said the expert.
“At the same time, I also noticed that Bangladesh’s Indo-Pacific Outlook is tailored to the country’s spe-cific threat perception and strategic reality, with a focus on managing non-traditional security issues, strengthening connectivity, and promoting economic development and prosperity,” Liu said.
He thinks Bangladesh’s choice is representative of the global South. “In order to contain China and Rus-sia, the United States is now engaging in global diplomacy to gain support from developing countries, regardless of the harm the United States has done to these countries before.”
China dislikes the term “Indo-Pacific” because it is a geopolitical design aimed at China from its source around 2006, and its security implications are obvious, Liu said.
Especially in areas such as flood control and drought prevention, poverty reduction and disaster relief, river governance, and urban river sewage treatment that Bangladesh particularly needs, he said, Bangla-desh and China can further strengthen cooperation and exchange.
Appreciating Bangladesh’s infrastructure development, Professor of Institute of International Studies, Fudan University, China Lin Minwang said Bangladesh is on a right path to becoming the next economic miracle in the coming decades.
Talking about Bangladesh’s balancing foreign policy, he said, “From the Chinese side, we are really comfortable with Bangladesh foreign policy which tries to make a balance between the two powers in this region (China and India).”
Prof Lin said China was just seeking cooperation with Bangladesh in all areas, not just limited to econo-my.
He said international companies including Japanese and the US are paying attention to Bangladesh and Bangladesh has more bargaining power now. “This is really beneficial to Bangladesh.”
Assistant Research Fellow, Institute for International Strategic and Security Studies, SIIS, China LI Hongmei said she is very surprised to see the rapid development of Bangladesh. “I still see so many con-struction sites on the roads. I think this is a land of hope for the future.”
Highlighting geopolitical completion among big powers, she said they are in a world of uncertainty and turbulence.
She said the United States pays more attention to the Bay of Bengal and focuses more on countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka which joined the BRI.
Prof Li laid emphasis on development and encouraged Bangladesh to engage with everyone the best
“We want development in the region,” she said, asking to join hands for realizing the Dream of Sonar Bangla and the Chinese Dream.
Former Bangladesh High Commissioner to India and former Ambassador to the United States Tariq A Karim said history matters and laid emphasis on having respect for sovereignty of all nations, principle of noninterference, respect for territorial integrity and commitment to non-alignment
“We want a good relationship with everyone,” he said, adding that China has been a partner in helping Bangladesh in its aspirational drives.
“Our geography mixes us naturally with the bridging nation. We are a middle power with 170 million people. We want to keep developing our relations in our own way with active and positive neutrality with every nation with whom we build friendship,” said the foreign affairs expert.