Bangladesh-China partnership

Scaling a new height in OBOR era

Md Shahadat Hossain | Published: October 07, 2017 00:29:28 | Updated: October 25, 2017 05:26:25


Chinese President Xi Jingping speaks at a meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during the former’s Dhaka visit.

October 1, 1949 was the Memorial Day for the founding of the People's Republic of China and as such Chinese National Day is celebrated on this date every year to commemorate the founding of People's Republic of China. Actually the Chinese Independence Day was September 21, 1949. However, the grand ceremony was held at the Tiananmen Square on October 1, 1949 to celebrate the forming of the Central People's Government of the country. Later on October 2, 1949, the new government passed the 'Resolution on the National Day of the People's Republic of China' and declared October 1 the Chinese National Day. Since then, every October 1 has been grandly celebrated by the Chinese people. China celebrates her National Day in many foreign countries too. Like past years, the Chinese Ambassador in Bangladesh hosted a reception at the Embassy of China in Bangladesh on September 25 last celebrating the 68th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

Bangladesh and China established diplomatic relations on October 4, 1975 and since then the relationship has been warming year by year. Initial cooperation started between Bangladesh Armed Forces and PLA and many Bangladeshi defence personnel were trained in the PLA. Besides, many types of equipment of Bangladesh Armed Forces also came from the PLA or China.  Over the years the relationship has reached almost all business and cultural sectors, even at the strategic level, especially due to and after the historic visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, China's most powerful and popular leader since Deng Xioping, the architect of China's miraculous economic growth. President Xi Jinping is also the initiator of present China's great initiative named 'One Belt One Road', OBOR in short. The Xi visit-described by Chinese media as a 'milestone'-was the first by any Chinese head of state to Bangladesh in the three decades since President Li Xiannian's visit in March 1986.

It was September 15, 1988 when this scribe first landed in Beijing being one of the foreign government scholarship students to learn Chinese language. It was between mid-1988 to mid-1990. Since then this scribe had been visiting China regularly and had seen the changes in the last 29 years, visited the country from Harbin in the north to Hainandao in the south and also many cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen etc in between and almost whole China accept three provinces. During all those visits, this scribe was always surprised to see the continuous developments and changes.

Major factors for such successful progress of the nation were the political stability, discipline, motivation and willingness of the people to develop the country and, of course, the special Chinese type of leadership to take the nation ahead. The pride of the Chinese people, "We are Chinese and it is China and of course one China", was the main motivation behind all success while Communist Party of China (CPC) and Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) provided the basic leadership, security and strength to the nation for achieving the present glory and status.

Here the speech delivered in 1993 by General Zhang Wannian, then Chief of General Staff (CGS) of PLA who is no more there with us at present, during his visit to Bangladesh can be recalled. He strongly viewed the relationship between PLA and Bangladesh Armed Forces, in particular, and Sino-Bangladesh relationship in general time-tested. Chinese President Jiang Zemin, President Hu Jintao, Premier Li Peng, Premier Zhu Rongji and other top ranking leaders were also heard evincing their trust and confidence on matters related to Sino-Bangla relations. The relationship is based on long history, which now has taken the shape of relationship of connectivity, relationship of mutual trust, confidence and inter-dependability and the relationship of future hope as well as continuous cooperation for mutual win-win benefits.

The historic two-day visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping on October 14-15 2016 ushered in a new era in Bangladesh-China relations. It was Chinese President Li Xiannian who once and first visited Bangladesh in March 1986 when Bangladesh-China relationship got the first direction. This time the stage was well set even before President Xi Jingping arrived. An essay signed by President Xi was published in the national dailies in Bangladesh highlighting the shared history of the two nations where President Xi expressed keenness to strengthen Bangladesh-China friendship so that it can bear the "golden fruit," the prosperous future awaiting both nations. It was very clear that China wants to elevate the bilateral relation with Bangladesh to the level of a long term strategic partnership. Speaking before the press after a meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her office, President Xi emphasised that the two countries are "good friends and partners".

"We agreed to elevate China-Bangladesh ties from a comprehensive partnership of cooperation to a strategic partnership of cooperation," President Xi also said. "We have agreed to increase high-level exchanges and strategic communication so that our bilateral relation would continue to move ahead at a higher level," The two countries also agreed and declared 2017 the year of exchange and friendship.

Taking the advantage of the current "golden era" and the ongoing special as well as famous initiative of "One Belt One Road", both the nations now should consider establishment of a "Bangladesh-China Complex" having multiple facilities. Such a complex would not only benefit the people of Bangladesh and the Chinese people staying in Bangladesh but also contribute to implementation of the great initiative "One Belt One Road".

The complex would need a larger area of land to accommodate its all requirements. There may be a well-planned and well-organised Training Centre to train Bangladeshi employees for Chinese companies and factories located inside Bangladesh and also in China. According to this scribe's personal study and research, days are not very far when China would need outside employees for their own need and Bangladesh may be their first choice to import manpower due to our long history of exporting manpower to Middle East, Malaysia, Italy etc. The training centre would also need the setup of a Chinese Language Institute.

The proposed Bangladesh-China Complex would also need a separate research and information centre, from where people would benefit themselves carrying the relationship from the present level to a greater height. Currently there is no common place for interactions between Bangladeshi and Chinese people located in Bangladesh. Besides, there is no special place available in Bangladesh for the entertainment of the Chinese people staying here in their own way. So, a special China-Bangladesh Club should also be there inside the complex with all types of club facilities like standard accommodations, restaurant, games, swimming, entertainment, fishing, gymnasium, library etc. The dreamed complex may also have a commercial block to help users on communication and commercial matters. It also can house a small-scale exhibition hall, conference or meeting rooms etc. The complex would also include a special cultural centre displaying the heritage of both nations for the visitors. Details may be worked out by expert persons of both the nations, if agreed conceptually where I may also try to contribute more if required.

Bangladesh may find and offer a suitable piece of land near Dhaka while China may do the funding under the great initiative "One Belt One Road". Both Bangladesh Armed Forces and the PLA may be involved in implementation of such a big project as both have expertise in respective areas of national development. Initial management and operation of the complex may be left with Bangladesh Armed Forces while the subsequent management committee may take care of its subsequent functioning. Though the project may be funded by both governments, it may subsequently run with its own income generating club and other facilities or activities. A similar complex may also be established in China too. 

It is assumed that such a Bangladesh-China Complex would not only benefit the ground-level peace-loving people of Bangladesh and China but also would contribute significantly to the overall relationship of both nations in achieving the strategic level of partnership. Besides, the flags of cooperation and understanding between the PLA and Bangladesh Armed Forces would also always fly high. Long live the friendship between the Bangladesh Armed Forces and the PLA, long live Bangladesh-China relations.

Lt Col (Retd) Md Shahadat Hossain, psc, MBA, MDS, Diploma in Chinese Language from Beijing, China, is a freelance promoter of China-Bangladesh relations in general and Chinese language and culture in Bangladesh in particular. He may be reached at email:  zhongmeng.shahadat@gmail.com

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