On 14 October, 2016, the President of China H.E Xi Jinping came to Dhaka, Bangladesh on a two-day official visit, the first ever by any Chinese President for almost three decades.
Naturally, the expectation was that the visit would further elevate the current warm ties existing between the two countries and their respective governments. Following on from the momentum of cooperation created by the visit to China by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2014, this much-awaited visit did indeed do wonders for the bilateral relations between the two nations. On arriving in Dhaka, the Chinese President was received by Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid and accorded a guard of honour and red-carpet reception. Earlier, before landing, his plane was escorted into Bangladeshi airspace by a squadron of Bangladeshi fighter jets.
In his immediate statement to the Chinese state media upon arrival in Dhaka, H.E Xi stated that hat China considers Bangladesh as “an important partner” in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. He commented that his government is ready to work with the Bangladeshi government to further deepen political and mutual trust and elevate relations and practical cooperation to a higher level. The Chinese president pointed out that China and Bangladesh face similar challenges of development and that the “Chinese dream” to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is “in perfect harmony” with Bangladesh's dream of a “Sonar Bangla”.
This special report gives a brief summary of all major highlights of the trip.
The Chinese President held a bilateral meeting with HPM Sheikh Hasina at Ganobhaban. Upon conclusion of the fruitful meeting, the two leaders briefed the media about the outcomes. They notified that Bangladesh and China have elevated their “closer comprehensive partnership of cooperation” to a “strategic partnership for cooperation” and agreed on working together on regional and international issues. Both countries also agreed to jointly advance China’s ‘belt and road initiative’ and establish and carry out “institutional cooperation” in areas of maritime cooperation and counterterrorism. Xi termed Bangladesh and China as “good neighbours, good friends and good partners.” Among others, he said:
“China, Bangladesh relationship is now at a new historical starting point and heading toward a promising future…China is ready to work with Bangladesh to move forward as friends and partners who trust and support each other and to add more substance to China-Bangladesh strategic partnership of cooperation…This way China-Bangladesh cooperation will deliver more fruits to our people and contribute to peace, stability and development of the region”
During the meeting, the two leaders agreed to designate the year of 2017 as year of exchange and friendship between China and Bangladesh during which colorful events will be held to carry forward the traditional friendship. They also agreed to jointly advance the BCIM economic corridor and increase communication and coordination of international and regional issues of shared interest. Commenting on the meeting, HPM Sheikh Hasina said: ““I had a fruitful discussion with his Excellency Xi on bilateral, regional and international issues that are of common interest to both our countries…Through signing the agreements, we reached a consensus to work together in trade and investment and other key areas such as infrastructure, agriculture, energy and power, ICT and transportation”. The Premier also expressed hope that the strategic partnership with China will be aimed towards socioeconomic achievement for the people of Bangladesh and China.
President Xi Jinping also met with Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid at Bangabhaban in the evening. During this meeting, President Abdul Hamid sought duty-free and quota-free entry of all Bangladeshi products into the Chinese market to address the current trade imbalance. Later, Xi Jinping joined a banquet hosted by President Hamid. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, former president Hussain Muhammad Ershad, Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Choudhury, Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, cabinet members and envoys of different countries attended the banquet, which was followed by a colourful cultural show.
Speaker of Bangladesh Parliament Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury also called on the President of China, leading an 11-member delegation. During this meeting, the two countries discussed how they can make parliament more effective through exchange of views among the lawmakers of the two countries. The visiting Chinese leader that arranging frequent exchange visits of lawmakers can help strengthen the ties between the two national parliaments.
Major Agreements Signed
In the presence of President Xi Jinping, Bangladesh and China signed 27 agreements, of which 15 are agreements and Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) and 12 relate to loan and mutual agreements. These agreements concern, among others, cooperation agreement on increasing investment and production capacity building, economic and technical cooperation, grants, financing for the Karnaphuli tunnel construction and the Dashekandi Sewerage Treatment Plant project, shipping and maritime cooperation, joint feasibility study on a free-trade area, new ICT framework, counter-terrorism collaboration, capacity building and sharing of information, tackling climate change risks, regional and international cooperation, and cooperation on power and energy sectors.
Bangladesh and China also struck deals for 13 projects worth US$ 13.6 billion that would mainly cover infrastructure, communication, power and energy and sports. The agreements were signed at Bangladesh-China Business Forum jointly organized by Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) and China Council for Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) at Dhaka on the occasion of Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Bangladesh. Of the total agreements, private organizations inked 11 agreements while the remaining deals were struck by the government of Bangladesh. On the Chinese side, two-thirds agreements were signed by the state-owned companies while the rest by private firms, said Sun Xiao, deputy director general of China Chamber of International Commerce, Department of Cooperation and Development. From China, Vice chairman of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) Chen Zhou was present during the signing with Bangladeshi Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed in attendance.
One Belt, One Road
During the visit, Bangladesh also formally joined China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative for regional cooperation. According to the joint statement released by both countries, angladesh is appreciative of China’s initiative of the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” (the Belt and Road Initiative), believing it will bring important opportunities for Bangladesh’s goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2021 and a Developed Country by 2041. The two sides agreed to enhance the alignment of the development strategies of the two countries, fully tap the potentials of cooperation in various areas, work on “the Belt and Road Initiative”, so as to realize sustainable development and common prosperity of the two countries.
Laying Foundations & Unveiling Plaques
HPM Sheikh Hasina and President Xi Jinping jointly laid the foundations of Special Economic Zone (SEZ) exclusively for Chinese investors and the Karnaphuli Multi-Lane Tunnel project in Chittagong. They also unveiled the plaques of the following development projects the two countries are implementing in Bangladesh: the Confucius Institute at Dhaka University and the Tier-4 National Data Centre in Gazipur’s Kaliakoir, Shahjalal Fertiliser Company Limited in Fenchuganj, a 1320 megawatt thermal power plant in Patuakhali’s Payra and a 1320 MW coal-fired power plant in Chittagong’s Banshkhali.
Paying Homage to Liberation Martyrs
Before flying off, the Chinese President visited the National Memorial in Savar to pay homage to the martyrs and fallen heroes of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. He places a wreath of flowers as a mark of respect, signed the visitors’ book and planted a sapling to mark his visit. Senior members of the Cabinet were present to Savar to receive and join him. At the airport, the Chinese President was seen off by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other members of her government. The Chinese President was seen off with as much fanfare, honour and respect with which he was received the day before.