Bangladesh-China bilateral relations have entered a new era, Ambassador Zhang Zuo tells Dhaka Courier

Bangladesh and China have always remained good friends during the 43 years of diplomatic relations. Especially after the grand state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping - even by Chinese standards, a leader of elevated stature - in October 2016, when the status of the bilateral relationship was elevated to that of a Strategic Partnership of Cooperation. Thus started a new chapter in bilateral relations.

Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Zhang Zuo has said China and Bangladesh will emerge as "great partners of win-win cooperation" taking the relations to a next level through greater cooperation in core areas as it expects a stable political environment in Bangladesh.

"I do hope Bangladesh will have a very smooth general election and the political situation will remain stable during the whole election process," he said in an exclusive interview with Dhaka Courier.

Apparently putting emphasis on the continuation of stable political environment, Ambassador Zuo said China would respect the choice to be made by Bangladeshi people.

"I also hope the friendship between China and Bangladesh will last forever," he said adding that lots of opportunities have emerged in Bangladesh-China relations that can be explored through joint efforts.

Referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Bangladesh in October 2016, Ambassador Zuo said the two leaders -- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Xi -- elevated the bilateral relationship to strategic partnership of cooperation with the historic visit.

"This has created opportunities for greater cooperation...both the countries have opened a new chapter in their relations," said the Ambassador.

He said efforts are on to take cooperation and collaboration between the two countries on core areas -- economic and commerce, investment, cultural and people to people contact -- to the next level.

Ambassador Zuo, who arrived in Dhaka in February 2018 taking up his new assignment here, said since the visit of Chinese President to Bangladesh, the cooperation in commerce and trade between China and Bangladesh as well as people-to-people relationship have reached a newer height.

Talking about the much-hyped Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), he said Chinese President Xi put forward the BRI in 2013 and it got a very positive response from all over the world.

The BRI wants to promote the connectivity of Asian, European and African continents and their adjacent seas, set up all-dimensional, multi-tiered and composite connectivity networks, and realise diversified, independent, balanced and sustainable development in these countries.

It aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea route.

"In terms of development assistance and investment, we're now in a very good shape," said the Ambassador adding that they look forward to fully availing of the opportunities created by the State visit of President Xi and bring more results for the people of the two countries.

Stressing the importance of people-to-people contact, the Chinese envoy said enhancing people-to-people exchanges and connectivity is one of the key components of strengthening China-Bangladesh strategic partnership of cooperation.

The Ambassador laid emphasis on deeper cooperation among the media organisations of the two countries saying that the media have an important role to play in promoting the relations.

"I would like to stress the importance of the role of media. I believe both the traditional and new media can help build a bridge between China and Bangladesh when we look at economic cooperation and many other aspects," he said.

Highlighting cooperation in education sector, Ambassador Zuo said China wants to promote cooperation in the areas of education and scientific research.

"Every year over 3,000 Bangladeshi students go to China for education. I believe this is an important part of our relations. I hope we can together promote collaboration in this area," he added.

Ambassador Zuo, who has a PhD in Management, said he also looks forward to promoting communication linking youths and women.

The Chinese sideinvited 150 Bangladeshi youths to China for a 15-day youth camp and the programme went very well, he mentioned.

"I hope we can have more communication between our female members," said the Ambassador.

He also talked about initiatives to promote greater collaboration and communication in the areas of culture, arts and tourism.

League of their own

The Chinese Ambassador laid emphasis on building an effective platform of discussion and sharing to further enhance the practical economic cooperation between Bangladesh and China. It is instructive to assess just how important a partner China is to Bangladesh

In 2017, the bilateral trade value reached US$ 16 billion, 5.8 percent higher than the last year, with China remaining the number one trade partner to Bangladesh (and on course to even top that this year). The engineering contracts signed between Bangladesh and Chinese companies reached US$ 10.4 billion, second in the South Asian region.

During the first half of this year, the bilateral trade value stood at US$ 9.35 billion, with a growth rate of 17.6 percent year-on-year; the contracts signed are worth US$ 3.57 billion, a growth rate of 8.6 percent year-on-year.

Ambassador Zuo noted that Bangladesh is a very prosperous country that generated some world-famous artists and writers, and recalled the rich works of great poet Rabindranath Tagore.

"He (Tagore) is a very famous figure in China, too. Before I came here I had also gone through his great poem - the 'Golden Bengal'. That piece of work gave me a deeper understanding about Bangladesh," he said.

It's worth mentioning that the joint building of the "Belt and Road" initiative is highly fruitful. In 2017, the bilateral trade value reached 16 billion dollars, 5.8% higher than last year, with China remaining the no.1 trade partner to Bangladesh; the contracts of international projects signed between Bangladesh and Chinese companies reached 10.4 billion dollars, second in the South Asian region.

In the first half of this year, the bilateral trade value stands at 9.35 billion dollars, with a growth rate of 17.6% year on year; the contracts signed are worth 3.57 billion dollars, a growth rate of 8.6% year-on-year and no.1 in South Asia; Chinese investments stand at 85.94 million dollars, and 380 million in terms of stock.

Under the wise leadership of the government of Bangladesh, the diligent Bangladeshi people have made great achievements in national construction and social development.

China and Bangladesh share close people-to-people bond, similar national realities, and complementary development goals. China wants to preserve its friendship with the people of Bangladesh for generations to come, and is ready to give Bangladesh a higher priority in China's diplomacy, in order to become great partners of win-win cooperation, great friends with openness and inclusiveness, close brothers for opening up and innovations, and good neighbors who learn from each other.

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