The lavish events to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, marking the victory of the Communist forces under Chairman Mao and the formation of the modern Chinese state, were of a grandeur befitting China's place in the world. If Beijing 2008 was China's 'coming out party', this was its statement of intent, designed to stamp its emergence as a global superpower. Coming at a time when some within Western countries have chosen to openly defy China's inexorable rise, it was perhaps to be expected.
It is only in viewing international relations as a zero sum game that one can be perturbed at China's progress, instead of looking to accommodate it such that all sides benefit (as the Chinese like to say, "win-win"). Specifically, Washington must face up to the fact that there can be no winners in a trade war between two such evenly-matched powers.
Not after China's achievements of the last 70 years, and particularly the last 40, that have allowed it to emerge from isolation and become one of the world's greatest economic powers. Since initiating market-based reforms in 1978, China has witnessed what the World Bank terms "the fastest sustained expansion by a major economy in history". That has seen more than 850 million people lifted out of poverty. According to David Mann, global chief economist at Standard Chartered Bank, even if the rate of growth in China eases to between 5% and 6%, the country will still be the most powerful engine of world economic growth. That is worth pondering before looking to challenge them.
It was fitting also, that overseeing the parade on this anniversary was a leader of the stature of Xi Jinping. Already being talked about in the same breath as Mao and Deng Xiaoping (who initiated the economic reforms after assuming power in 1976), Xi is the visionary behind the Belt-and-Road Initiative: on the face of it, an ambitious connectivity programme spanning Asia, Europe and Africa through a series of Chinese-funded infrastructure projects. In the context of history, it may be understood as a Chinese Marshall Plan for the world.
Bangladesh of course is very much a part of the BRI. A 2016 visit by President Xi sought to add new impetus to the two nation's ties, but not just financially. During that visit, the two countries agreed to elevate the bilateral relationship to a strategic partnership. It is within the ambit of that elevated status that Bangladesh subsequently purchased its first submarines from China. Bilateral trade, which amounted to $12.4 billion in 2017-2018, is expected to reach $18 billion mark by 2021, according to economists. And the Belt-and Road may do for Bangladesh's connectivity what years of promise held out in the form of schemes such as the Asian Highway never did.
All roads now lead to China.
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