A new horizon in Sino-BD relations
The recent visit of Chinese Premier, Xi Jinping, to Bangladesh has been a momentous occasion in the context of China-Bangladesh relationship. Many of us are trying to appraise the significance of this visit in the context of Bangladesh. To be more specific, many of us are trying to evaluate what we have gained as an outcome this visit. Being an ordinary citizen of this country, I have tried to assess the visit of Xi Jinping from different perspectives.
First of all, this is the first visit by any Chinese Premier to Bangladesh in the last thirty years. From this perspective, this is one of the biggest diplomatic successes of the present AL government as it has made thing possible that did not happen in the last thirty years. A pertinent question is: why this visit is so important in the context of Bangladesh? My first argument is that it is widely accepted by the world communities, including the US, that China is the World's strongest growing economy. Thus, keeping in the good book of this country could be a dream of any country. To this end, this visit is the recognition of the growing importance of Bangladesh in the South Asian region.
From an economic perspective, Bangladesh has signed a good number of MoU with China in the presence of Xi Jinping. Previously, China was interested to invest more in infrastructure, but, they have agreed to invest in other sectors including energy and power, ICT, agriculture, field production capacity and maritime issues. This is one of the significant achievements on the part of Bangladesh. Moreover, there is significant implication in terms of the trade and industry of Bangladesh. The International Trade Centre's report suggests that the two-way trade between the two countries reached up to US$ 12.5 billion in 2014 that could be exceeded US$ 30 billion by 2021. This visit of President Xi Jinping has built a strong footing to attain more than what has been estimated by the International Trade Centre.
Apart from investment, Bangladesh will be able to get access to the regional connectivity with the framework of the 'One best, One Road' (OBOR) which is one of the notable Geo-economic initiatives of Xi Jinping since 2013. One important part of OBOR is to create the BCIM Economic Corridor, involving Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar. Due to the strategic rivalry between India and China, the progress on establishment of the corridor has been very insignificant. However, through his visit, President Xi Jinping has made it clear that time has come to accelerate the process of establishment of this corridor. This is one of the most significant achievements on the part of Bangladesh. Road connectivity will not only create Bangladesh's access to markets in China, but also in other neighboring countries. This will facilitate the trade and business to a greater extent. Another possibility is the relocation of different Chinese industries in Bangladesh as there has been an increase in the labour cost in China. This will not only create working opportunities for millions of Bangladeshi people, but also bring foreign investment. Moreover, the willingness of the Chinese President to revive the Maritime Silk Route (MSR) has created a great opportunity for Bangladesh to build a blue economy in the world's largest Bay.
Beyond economic, the visit has a geo-political implication. As we all know that the United States plays as the top global power. However, the rise of China and India in Asia has become a threat to the US in dominating Asia. Since the US has a strategic relationship with India, that dominates South Asian regional politics, it would not be very unhappy to tolerate Indian supremacy in this region. Geo-politically, India and China have a long-term rivalry on the issue of weakening the role of the US in the region as US considers China as a big threat in Asia. Thus, a small country like Bangladesh requires to get adjusted with the changing power relationship. In order to attain this goal, Bangladesh's relationship with China and India must be improved. From this perspective, this visit is indicative of the Chinese government's intention to improve relationship with Bangladesh. Both the countries have agreed to turn their bilateral relationship into a strategic relationship.
The present government deserves a special thanks and appreciation for strengthening its ties with one of the super power of today's world. What has been attained due to the visit of Chinese President has a great implication as it has both economic and political significance. Beyond economic achievements, this visit will provide a strong message to the global and regional leaders about Bangladesh's growing importance in this region. To conclude, the government has proved its credibility by organizing Xi Jinping's visit. Now, it is our expectation that the government would handle all these opportunities with maturity in order to materialize the interests of the country.r
Pranab Kumar Panday, PhD, is Professor, Department of Public Administration, Rajshahi University