PM Hasina to China: Strengthening Strategic Partnerships and Development Cooperation

100

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina arrived in China on July 8, 2024, for a four-day official visit at the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Qiang. This visit is expected to bolster the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and China, with the signing of 20 Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) across various sectors, including the economic and banking sector, trade and investment, digital economy, infrastructural development, and disaster management.

Bangladesh-China bilateral relations trace back to the historic visit of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to China in 1952, even before Bangladesh gained independence. During this visit, Bangabandhu met the then Chinese leader Mao Zedong, which inspired him to write the book Amar Dekha Nayachin’. China formally recognized Bangladesh in 1975, and since then, the two countries have developed a strong partnership based on mutual cooperation. The relationship was elevated to a “Strategic Cooperation Partnership” during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Dhaka in 2016.

After winning the 12th parliamentary elections held on January 7, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was formally invited by the Chinese side for an official visit. This visit is significant as it further cements the strong ties between the two nations. China is committed to serving as an important partner in Bangladesh’s infrastructural and economic development. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to China in June 2014 played a crucial role in solidifying the relationship between the two countries. Notably, defense cooperation is a key pillar, with China being the exclusive signatory to a defense agreement and the primary arms supplier to Bangladesh.

Key Objectives of the Current Visit

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to China is a pivotal moment in Bangladesh-China diplomatic relations, reflecting the deepening and diversification of their strategic partnership. This visit underscores the commitment of both nations to enhance cooperation across various sectors, including economic, infrastructural, and cultural domains. By signing 20 Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs), the visit aims to bolster trade, investment, and infrastructure development, while also addressing critical issues such as disaster management and the repatriation of Rohingya refugees. High-level meetings with Chinese leadership, including President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang, signify the importance of this visit in strengthening bilateral ties. This diplomatic engagement is expected to yield significant benefits, fostering mutual growth, and development, and positioning both countries for a prosperous future.

MoU Number Plausible Issues of MoUs
1 Economic Cooperation
2 Financial and Banking Sector
3 Trade and Investment
4 Digital Economy
5 Infrastructure Development
6 Assistance in Disaster Management
7 Construction of 6th Bangladesh-China Friendship Bridge
8 Construction of 9th Bangladesh-China Friendship Bridge
9 Export of Agricultural Products from Bangladesh
10 People-to-People Connectivity
11 Cooperation in the Health Sector
12 Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges

Prospects for the Future: The Progress of Infrastructure Development

China has been instrumental in the growth of Bangladesh’s infrastructure. Chinese expertise and financial assistance have played a crucial role in the development of Bangladesh’s infrastructure, including the construction of bridges, roads, railway tracks, airports, and power plants. The $24 billion economic assistance provided by China during President Xi Jinping’s 2016 visit highlights the robust level of cooperation between the two nations. The upcoming visit will showcase the impressive achievements of Chinese investment in Bangladesh, with a focus on infrastructure as a smart and forward-looking endeavor. Both countries understand the significance of improving infrastructure, and this visit is anticipated to stimulate new projects and collaborations, bolstering Bangladesh’s efforts in infrastructure diplomacy and development.

Augmenting Economic Collaboration to Boost Trade and Investment 

The economic ties between Bangladesh and China have experienced significant expansion, as bilateral trade has surged to over $22.95 billion in 2023, marking a substantial increase from $3.3 billion in 2010. Chinese companies have made a substantial contribution to Bangladesh’s development projects, offering goods and services valued at more than $22 billion. In June 2020, the Tariff Commission of the State Council announced that several products from Bangladesh enjoy the advantage of zero tariffs in China. During the upcoming visit, there will be a significant emphasis on signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on economic cooperation. This agreement aims to enhance trade and investment opportunities and potentially open doors for future loans.

Infrastructure Development: Paving the Way for a Promising Future

The visit signifies a major step forward in the infrastructure development between China and Bangladesh, setting the stage for Bangladesh to realize its goal of becoming a developed nation by 2041. The ongoing collaboration and financial commitment will play a crucial role in building the required infrastructure to drive Bangladesh’s economic advancement. The recent agreements between Bangladesh and China have paved the way for significant developments in infrastructure. These include the signing of Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) on various projects, such as the construction of the 6th and 9th Bangladesh-China Friendship Bridges, and collaboration in other construction initiatives. These initiatives highlight the crucial role that infrastructure plays in promoting economic growth and development.

Expanding Economic Opportunities: Trade, Investment, and Beyond

The visit will also enhance the scope of Special Economic Zone (SEZ) opportunities in Bangladesh, providing a significant boost to the country’s industrial and economic landscape. This event will strengthen the ties between Chinese business leaders and Bangladeshi business groups, representing a major step forward in their business partnership. This exciting partnership is set to encourage increased collaboration, joint ventures, and a strengthened economic relationship, benefiting both nations. The anticipated agreements on trade and investment cooperation, digital economy, and export of agricultural products from Bangladesh are crucial in this context.

Bilateral Ties: A Comprehensive Partnership

The visit highlights the strengthening of the relationship between China and Bangladesh, covering a wide range of areas including economic cooperation, digital economy, infrastructure, and disaster management. This extensive partnership will also prioritize enhancing connections between individuals and promoting cultural exchanges, further solidifying the relationship between the two countries. The MoUs signed between Bangladesh and China emphasize the expanding and diverse ties in economic and banking sector cooperation, trade cooperation, digital economy cooperation, and cultural exchanges. These agreements aim to foster mutual growth and development.

Looking Forward

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s current visit seeks to strengthen Bangladesh-China ties. With the signing of 20 MoUs in diverse industries, both nations are poised to explore new channels of collaboration. Bangladesh requests Chinese investment and commercial aid, as well as financial support for the Rohingya repatriation. The visit is likely to produce major results that benefit both countries.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s four-day official visit to China marks a significant step in the bilateral relationship between Bangladesh and China. The visit highlights the two countries’ longstanding and diversified connections, which cover military, infrastructure, and economic collaboration. The visit, which will include the signing of 20 MoUs and high-level discussions, is anticipated to bring significant advantages for both nations, strengthening their strategic cooperation. As Bangladesh and China continue to engage on different fronts, the future appears more consolidated for both countries, fueled by mutual collaboration and common development ambitions.

– S. M. Saifee Islam is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

[Read Full Briefs as a Pdf]