Bangladesh's ministers and leaders have been saying so many things that are contradictory and making so many claims that if there is one seriously confused public, it's the people of this land. From claims to great achievement in every sector made by Ministers regularly, we have gone to admissions of desperation. It's almost a riches to rags overnight story.
The Energy minister has said that the national economy may go bankrupt if such extreme measures were not taken including the price hike. The economic 'near miracle "which everyone including international institutions were saying is Bangladesh has been replaced as a state with a reasonable flop profile. Sri Lanka comparisons have become so common that one wonders if any state identity is left intact. Meanwhile the Sino-Bangla relations seem to have gained a puzzle or two going by the speculations of the Chinese Foreign Minister's visit, co-incidence of the US minister also visiting and the global complications around the Taiwan crisis.
China is facing a not-so--easy phase and super power vulnerabilities start to show. The US lived in happier super power times when messing around the world had a lower cost but globalization has made everything intricately linked. It now seems invading Taiwan is not such a simple matter and big powers invading smaller ones also have to pay for it.
While Nancy Pelosi triggered a "confrontational" situation, it also points to the fact that China is not the only player in town in that region. Taking over Taiwan would be great for China but no longer a certain success. No one is sure after the Ukraine war that wars and invasions are really safe investments in today's globalized military and economic world.
In case of a China -US -Taiwan war
The US isn't saying what it will do if such a war breaks out but the US can't afford not to get involved if it does happen. Each time Taiwan has been threatened in the past, America has sent ships and troops. Should guns be fired, chances of returning that fire is there. But an attack on Taiwan even without the US interfering would not be easy.
Taiwan has a modern army, equipped with American weapons but most importantly, they have been readying for a Chinese invasion for long. Taiwan's main island is larger than Belgium and is surrounded by dozens of smaller islands. Understandably, resistance would be intense and fighting would take place, island by island.
But Taiwan is also one of the most densely-populated countries in the world so civilian casualties would probably be high. That makes wars unpopular.
Economic sanction against each other, the world's two largest economies - will cripple the global economy at large. Taiwan is close to shipping channels and if disrupted, China could deeply hurt the global economy including China's own. Taiwan is the world's single-largest manufacturer of semiconductors which are used to make computer chips and a stoppage of production would cause shortages of everything from computers to smartphones and cars.
BD and China
Given China as it parades now, a war can't be dismissed and the diplomatic moves, including in Bangladesh, shows aggressive intent in mobilizing support. Bangladesh has always been a One-China policy follower so why it was so necessary to reinstate Bangladesh's support is not clear.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has sought support on the Rohingya repatriation issue which has no chance of succeeding. China needs Myanmar no matter how bad it looks and behaves including hanging activists and showing thumbs to all. Dhaka is full of speculation that in view of Bangladesh's current economic health, it sought help from China and this was not met positively. China was not keen to do the same in either Pakistan or Sri Lanka either. However, this sounds more like tea wala gossip but indicates how nervous everyone is.
While none knows the answer if made to the Chinese, the response of the Finance Minister discussing economic issues included a critique of BRI, perhaps the first from such a senior policy leader. The Minister said that BRI projects should be better analyzed by China and many have not gained the kind of returns it should have or was expected. He warned that developing countries should be more careful of BRI projects before taking them on.
Whether this has an implication beyond a casual statement is not known but it's clear the situation is not black and white. China has lost a bit of its shine in South Asia after the Sri Lankan mess and smaller countries may be carrying out course correction strategies on mutual relations. However, once Bangladesh starts paying its big debts in a year or two, it will be clear if BRI has a future in Bangladesh or not. Till then breath holding won't help.
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