Chinese Embassy hosts dialogue on Future of China-Bangladesh relations

Visiting Minister of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, Liu Jianchao, has underscored the significance of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's upcoming visit to China in July which he thinks will help uplift the relationship, engaging in new areas of cooperation for mutual benefit.

"I'm sure that during this visit, the relationship will be uplifted again. We are really grateful for her (PM Hasina) tremendous contributions to China-Bangladesh relations," he said while speaking as the chief guest at a dialogue in Dhaka today.

Minister Jianchao said that today China and Bangladesh are breaking new ground for further and stronger partnership and friendship as both countries are developing fast and both governments are committed to delivering for the people and to the modernization drive.

He emphasised the historical depth and future potential of Bangladesh-China relations and noted that the relationship with Bangladesh is always one of China's priorities in its neighbourhood diplomacy, which is making steady progress under the guidance of the two leaders.

"Strong friendship and trust have been developed between the two peoples during their fight for national liberation and independence. The seed of this friendship was planted by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman," he added.

The Chinese Embassy in Dhaka hosted the dialogue titled "Looking Towards the Future of China-Bangladesh Relations: A Conversation with the CPC Delegation" at the Renaissance Hotel.

The event, moderated by the Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh, Yao Wen, also brought together leaders from Bangladesh Awami League and its associate bodies, BNP, Jatiya Party, Workers Party, as well as representatives from the business, academic, and media communities, who engaged in insightful discussions on various aspects of Bangladesh-China ties and highlighted issues needing enhanced attention.

Ambassador Yao Wen said this event is more than a celebration of friendship; it is a pivotal moment to foster deeper connections and explore avenues for mutual growth. "China and Bangladesh share a legacy of amity that has been nurtured over generations," he said.

"The flourishing state of our relations is a result of our joint endeavours and the collective aspirations of our peoples. This dialogue serves as a vital channel for the exchange of ideas and perspectives on advancing our partnership," said the Chinese envoy.

In his opening remarks, Liu Jianchao expressed his enthusiasm about the visit to Bangladesh, saying, "I was really excited about this trip even before I came. Not only because I've never been to Bangladesh, but also because in recent years, I've been hearing about the economic miracle of this great country. In the last two-three days, I've been moving around, meeting local people, visiting projects contracted or supported by China, such as the Padma Bridge, and Bangladeshi companies."

He also met with the leaders of Bangladesh, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud.

"I had a strong sense that the China-Bangladesh partnership and friendship have remained very strong. Next year, we're going to celebrate the 50th anniversary, half a century of excellent relationship between our two countries."

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Bangladesh, both countries have consistently respected, trusted, and supported each other, he observed.

"Our relationship has emerged even stronger and become a paradigm of equality, mutual benefit, mutual respect, and harmonious coexistence between neighbours. The Chinese Dream and the Sonar Bangla dovetail each other and can enable each other's success," the Chinese minister said.

He recalled the historic visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Bangladesh in October 2016, during which the relationship was elevated to a strategic cooperative partnership. He also highlighted the meeting between President Xi and Prime Minister Hasina in South Africa last August, where they reached important consensus on strengthening strategic communication, promoting high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, and enhancing people-to-people exchanges and multilateral cooperation.

Liu Jianchao detailed the tangible benefits arising from the cooperation between China and Bangladesh under the Belt and Road Initiative. "Fourteen major infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Framework have been put to use or made fast progress, including the Padma Bridge and the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman tunnel. These projects have delivered tangible benefits to our two peoples and served as a firm basis for our future cooperation," he stated.

He expressed China's readiness to work with Bangladesh on aligning the Belt and Road Initiative with Vision 2041 and the development of the southern region in Bangladesh, emphasising deeper cooperation in infrastructure, digital economy, clean energy, climate response, and industrial upgrading.

Addressing the importance of maintaining relationships with political parties, the minister outlined China's diplomatic principles. "We uphold three major principles when dealing with political parties of other countries. First, we never draw ideological lines, and that is why we have friends all over the world. Second, we develop relations with political parties of other countries, no matter whether they are in office or not. Third, we are committed to seeking common ground while resolving differences, respecting each other, and learning from each other," Liu Jianchao explained.

He noted that China has invited many political party leaders from Bangladesh to visit China, enhancing mutual understanding, trust, and friendship.

Shammi Ahmed MP, International Affairs Secretary of Awami League, expressed optimism about Prime Minister Hasina's upcoming visit to China. "China is a role model to every developing country and the second-largest economic power. Bangladesh Awami League signed an MoU with the CPC, and that is the only political party in the world that officially Awami League has signed a memorandum of understanding with," she said.

Enayetullah Khan, founder and Managing Director of Cosmos Group and Editor-in-Chief of United News of Bangladesh (UNB), highlighted the historical and contemporary dimensions of Bangladesh-China relations. "The ancient silk routes, maritime and over land, acted as the inspiration for today's Belt and Road Initiative - Beijing's grand vision for a trade route connecting three continents that has been described as a Marshall Plan for the 21st century. The trip to China of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of the nation, as a young politician in the mid-1950s, remains indelibly etched in our minds," he said.

Khan also emphasised the growth in defence cooperation and trade between the two nations. "Since 2016, we have seen the two sides step up cooperation in the important field of defence, most notably in the induction of the two Chinese submarines as part of Bangladesh Navy, followed by the inauguration of the country's first-ever submarine base, the BNS Sheikh Hasina, built with Chinese help. In 2004, trade between the two nations was just around USD 1 billion. It has risen exponentially over the years, despite being somewhat halted by the pandemic. Bangladesh exported goods to China worth only USD 677 million and imported goods worth around USD 23 billion in 2022-23. It is hoped that the successful signing of an FTA can spur greater growth of Bangladeshi goods exported to China," Khan elaborated.

He noted the positive examples of Mauritius and Cambodia, whose exports to China witnessed double-digit growth following the signing of their respective FTAs with Beijing, and expressed hope for a similar win-win agreement between Dhaka and Beijing.

The dialogue also featured insights from other prominent figures, including Prof. Imtiaz Ahmed, executive director of the Centre for Alternatives, and FBCCI Vice President Shomi Kaiser. Cosmos Group Vice President and UNB Executive Editor Nahar Khan and Cosmos Group Deputy Managing Director Masud Jamil Khan were in the audience.

The event underscored the multifaceted nature of Bangladesh-China relations and the shared aspirations of both nations for a prosperous future.

Additional reporting by UNB

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