China has placed five specific suggestions for deepening the Bangladesh-China strategic partnership of cooperation in the new era with an emphasis on deepening “strategic mutual trust”, saying the next decade will see “faster changes” in the international alignment of forces.
“First, we need to deepen strategic mutual trust and then we need to deepen economic integration,” said Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Zhang Zuo while sharing his thoughts at Cosmos Dialogue on Saturday looking into the future of the relations that brings “unprecedented opportunities” for cooperation.
Three other suggestions, put forward by the Chinese Ambassador, are to deepen innovation and interaction; have stronger cooperation on experience sharing on security; and deepen cultural and people’s connectivity.
“We should join hands to become good partners with equality and mutual trust. We should work together to improve the level of global governance,” he said.
Ambassador Zuo was addressing as the chief guest at the dialogue titled ‘Bangladesh-China Relations: Prognosis for the Future’ at Six Seasons Hotel in the city. Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Bangladeshi conglomerate Cosmos Group, hosted the symposium.
Experts both from Bangladesh and China attended the symposium and assessed the Bangladesh-China relationship in the present context and identified the challenges and opportunities.
Chairman of Cosmos Foundation Enayetullah Khan delivered the welcome speech while Principal Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore and a former Adviser to Bangladesh’s previous caretaker government Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury chaired the session.
Enayetullah Khan termed the relationship between Bangladesh and China as “all-weather and time-tested friendship.”
“I see a happy future in the relationship between Bangladesh and China; and my prognosis is that our mutual trust, especially political trust; and friendship will help us march together towards the fruition of our common goals and aspirations,” he said adding that they are witnessing a most remarkable feature of current international politics which is the rise of China.
The symposium was part of the Cosmos Foundation’s ‘Dialogue’ series, in which a high-level expert panel was tasked with tackling a particularly pressing issue of the day, followed by the participation of an informed and engaging audience.
The panel comprised of Prof Li Tao, Executive Director of the Institute of South Asian Studies at Sichuan University in China; Yuan Jirong, Chief Journalist at the India Bureau of the People’s Daily; historian and media personality Afsan Chowdhury; and Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, a professor at the Department of International Relations of Dhaka University.
UNB Chairman Amanullah Khan and Director Masud Khan were, among others, present.
Chinese Ambassador Zuo hoped that the next national election in Bangladesh, scheduled for December 30, will go very "well and smooth" saying that China will deepen its ties with Bangladesh on all fronts.
"We hope, you'll have a very smooth election. Bangladeshis and political parties can have that (well and smooth polls)," he told reporters after attending Cosmos Dialogue on Bangladesh-China relations in the city.
The Chinese Ambassador said the two countries will further deepen political, economic and people-to-people relationship.
Ambassador Zuo said China will continue to play a constructive role in properly solving the problem of Rakhine State in accordance with the three-phase solution to stopping violence, repatriation and development.
He said China will continue to support Bangladesh and Myanmar to find a proper way for the repatriation of the displaced people, as well as a proper solution to the issue of Rakhine State through dialogue and consultation.
The Chinese Ambassador encouraged all to respect the social systems and development paths chosen independently by every nation, respect each other's core interests and major concerns, and take the new road of dialogue without confrontation, partnership instead of alliances.
“We need to make the full use of bilateral and multilateral mechanisms to explore the possibility of China-Bangladesh plus cooperation, enhance South-South cooperation, and strengthen collaborations within the multilateral framework of the UN Security Council,” he said.
Ambassador Zuo laid emphasis on enhancing the political position of China-Bangladesh relations, and strengthening exchanges in governance, development concepts, and social culture to deepen bilateral cooperation.
On deepening economic integration, the envoy said the next 10 years will be a decade of the transition from the old to new growth drivers in world economy, as well as of profound adjustments and reforms.
“Both China and Bangladesh have highly prosperous markets that attract businessmen from all over the world. Faced with opportunities and challenges, we should join hands to become good partners of mutual benefits,” he said adding, “Let’s work together to promote free trade.”
Ambassador Zuo said the two countries should accelerate the feasibility study for China-Bangladesh FTA (free trade agreement), and then start the negotiation as soon as possible for fruitful outcomes.
He said they will complete the exchange of letters for zero-tariff treatment to 97 percent of tariff items exported from Bangladesh to China within a short time, to further boost the export of Bangladeshi goods to Chinese market.
The Chinese Ambassador said Bangladesh is an important converging point for the land and maritime Silk Roads, so it becomes a natural partner for the joint construction of the “Belt and Road” initiative. “We need to promote infrastructure connectivity.”
He said they are making efforts to accelerate the construction of major projects such as the Padma Bridge, as well as the construction of the BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) Economic Corridor, and are focusing on promoting the four-in-one connectivity of land, sea, sky and the Internet.
In April next, the Ambassador said, China will host the second ‘Belt and Road’ Forum for International Cooperation. “We welcome Bangladeshi government and various social groups to identify our common interests, to actively participate in and share opportunities of the forum, and to promote the transformation of BRI towards high-quality development.”
Ambassador Zuo said China is willing to support the construction of 100 economic zones, blue economy, digital Bangladesh and other projects through development assistance, economic and trade investment, and infrastructure cooperation.
“By paying special attention to Payra power station, the Chittagong China Industrial Park, and the Kunming Steel Industrial Park, we will comprehensively improve the international competitiveness of industries,” he said.
Innovation and Interaction
Ambassador Zuo said the next decade will see a new round of technological revolution and a transformation where new things will replace the old ones.
“In the face of opportunities and challenges, we should work together as good partners for innovation,” he said putting importance on seizing the opportunity to promote innovation-driven development.
The Ambassador said the rapid development of a new generation of information technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, quantum information, and biotechnology have brought about earth-shaking changes in global development and human production and life. “We can promote innovation together to lead development.”
He said they need to promote the intelligent development of machinery, aviation, shipbuilding, automobile, light industry, textile, food, electronics and other industries, and expand the applications of smart technologies and equipment.
Sharing on Security
Ambassador Zuo said the next decade will see a profound reshaping of the global governance system and the international security situation. “China and Bangladesh are neighbours who look out for each other during either safe or disturbing times.”
In the face of opportunities and challenges, the Ambassador said, “We should work together to be good partners for peace and cooperation. We need to build a solid foundation for peace, security and mutual trust.”
The Ambassador mentioned that they should actively participate in mediation to solve geopolitical hotspot issues.
The Chinese Ambassador said the next 10 years will be a decade of deepening cultural diversity and social informatisation.
He said the two countries should strengthen the emotional ties between the Chinese and Bangladeshi people.
Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) Chairman Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Secretary-Bilateral (Asia & Pacific) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mahbub Uz Zaman, foreign affairs experts and business leaders also spoke at the symposium.