China, Bangladesh elevate ties, broaden cooperation
Co-op does not target any third party, benefits peace, development: analyst
Published: Jul 10, 2024 10:50 PM
Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the People's Republic of Bangladesh at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on July 10, 2024. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the People's Republic of Bangladesh at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on July 10, 2024. Photo: Xinhua

China and Bangladesh on Wednesday elevated their relations to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced this while meeting in Beijing.

Experts described Hasina's visit to China as a journey of cooperation and friendship. Although some Indian media outlets are seemingly concerned about the visit, experts said the development of China-Bangladesh ties does not target any third party, and will be conducive to overall peace and stability in South Asia.

During Wednesday's meeting, Xi told Hasina that China and Bangladesh are good neighbors who know each other well and have had friendly exchanges for thousands of years. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, the two countries have always respected and supported each other, treated each other as equals, and cooperated for win-win results, setting an example of friendly exchanges and mutually beneficial cooperation between countries, especially between the "Global South."

China cherishes the profound friendship established by the older generation of leaders of China and Bangladesh, and is willing to take the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations next year as an opportunity to deepen the high-quality joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and expand the depth and breadth of cooperation in various fields, the Chinese President said.

Xi stressed that China supports Bangladesh in adhering to an independent foreign policy, following a development path that suits its national conditions, safeguarding national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and opposing any external interference.

Hasina said that Bangladesh firmly adheres to the one-China principle, supports China's stance on the Taiwan question, resolutely opposes external forces' interference in China's internal affairs, and firmly supports China in safeguarding its core interests.

Earlier on Wednesday, Chinese Premier Li Qiang also met with Hasina. According to the Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS), the country's national news agency, the two countries have signed 21 instruments including two renewed MoUs and announced seven more projects.

Talks between Li and Hasina mainly concerned trade and investment, as well as bilateral relations alongside various regional and international matters, according to BSS. The instruments on cooperation in the economic and banking sector, trade and investment, digital economy, infrastructure development, assistance in disaster management, construction of 6th and 9th Bangladesh-China friendship bridges, export of agricultural products from Bangladesh and people to people connectivity were signed.

Closer economic, trade ties

While in Beijing, Hasina attended the "Bangladesh-China Business, Trade and Investment Summit" on Tuesday and delivered a keynote speech. 

Hasina said she "encouraged the Chinese business community to consider key sectors in Bangladesh, such as energy, renewable energy and logistic centers," adding that Bangladesh is also "keen to export more products to China, such as textiles, garments, leather and leather goods and other products," according to CGTN. 

At the event, industry giants Huawei and China National Chemical Engineering Group Corporation signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with delegates from Bangladesh.

Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, said the visit by Hasina is a link between the past and the future for bilateral relations, especially in promoting high-level cooperation in the field of economy and trade.

The development strategies of the two countries will be further synergized, and more economic and trade cooperation projects are expected to be implemented in the future, injecting more substantive connotations into the duo's strategic cooperative relations, Qian said.

In the latest trade data released by China's General Administration of Customs, from January to May, China-Bangladesh bilateral trade amounted to 74.91 billion yuan ($10.30 billion), gaining a positive growth of 0.2 percent year-on-year. China remains Bangladesh's largest trading partner.

Moreover, China has also been one of the largest sources of investment in the South Asian country. As of the end of 2023, China's investment stock in Bangladesh had increased to nearly $1.4 billion, and there were nearly 700 Chinese-funded companies in Bangladesh, creating more than 550,000 jobs, according to the Chinese Embassy in Bangladesh.

Hasina's visit to China will further promote the traditional friendship between the two countries, said Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow with the Institute of International Relations at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Through cooperation over the past years, Bangladesh has clearly seen how China's development ideas and experience have played a huge role in promoting the economic and social development of Bangladesh, Hu said.

"Specifically, the economic and technical assistance of Chinese enterprises in Bangladesh's infrastructure construction, China's assistance in training local medical and health professionals in Bangladesh, and the increase in the scale of people-to-people exchanges between the two countries," Hu added.

The pragmatic cooperation between the two countries is an illustration for more South Asian countries to understand China's concept of good-neighborly friendship, the idea of sharing the fruits of development, and the image of China as a responsible major power, Qian said. 

Balance and opportunity

Hasina also talked with China's top political advisor Wang Huning on Tuesday. Wang, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said that under the strategic guidance of the two countries' leaders, China and Bangladesh respect and treat each other with equality, setting a good example of friendly coexistence and mutually beneficial cooperation between countries.

But some Indian media outlets viewed Hasina's China visit as "a balancing act to keep the two key players happy," as "she needs India to be in power, and China for economic support." Some Indian media also talked down the cooperation between Beijing and Dhaka. 

Hasina's visit to Beijing took place shortly after her visit to New Delhi, which tends to view some other South Asian countries including Bangladesh as its sphere of influence. Hasina made a two-day visit to India from June 21 to 22, during which the two sides signed agreements to expand cooperation in maritime security, the ocean economy, space and telecommunication sectors.

Before Hasina's visit to China, Bangladesh's ruling Awami League general secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said on July 6 that "India is a political friend of Bangladesh and China is a development partner," explaining the country's relationship with two major powers. 

Some analysts said that with the intensifying geopolitical game, some South Asian countries such as Bangladesh are facing a tough situation: If they want to achieve rapid economic and social development, they need to cooperate with China. However, close economic cooperation with China will inevitably draw political and security pressure from countries such as India and the US.

India always uses various excuses to obstruct and create hype whenever a South Asian leader visits China, but New Delhi should not be overly concerned that other countries' engagement with China will damage their relations with India, Hu said. 

The development of bilateral relations between China and Bangladesh promoted by Hasina's visit will be conducive to the overall peace and stability in South Asia, Hu said.

The development of China-Bangladesh relations does not target any third party, said Qian, noting that China always opposes zero-sum game and stands for mutually beneficial cooperation.

Against the backdrop of complex geopolitics, China respects Bangladesh's strategic choice and has no objection to Bangladesh developing friendly and cooperative relations with other countries, Qian said. 

For Bangladesh, in the face of pressure from India, the development of China-Bangladesh relations also provides a valuable choice for Dhaka to better safeguard its diplomatic independence and development opportunities, Qian said.