Speaking as chief guest at the discussion, state minister for foreign affairs M Shahriar Alam said that the relations between the two countries heightened after prime minister Sheikh Hasina had visited China in 2014. Since then the two countries have maintained continued contact. And in 2016, China’s president Xi Jinping paid a historical visit to Bangladesh.

He said, when the coronavirus situation improves, such visits will increase.

Shahriar Alam said that there are many reasons that China’s investors are interested in Bangladesh. These include vast economic possibilities, geopolitical location and a high GFP rate. With the increased interest of Chinese investors, Bangladesh is placing importance on higher trade and investment cooperation with the country.

While speaking as the special guest at the discussion, Chinese ambassador Li Jiming highlighted the importance of the exchange visits of the political leadership in stepping up relations at a strategic level. He said, the two countries would have to work together to establish political trust in order to deepen ties. The China visit of prime minister Sheikh Hasina and the Bangladesh visit of president Xi Jinping played an important role in increasing mutual trust between the two countries.

The Chinese ambassador said that special attention was being attached to the countries that had joined the Belt and Road Initiative. Chinese investors have interest in Bangladesh’s economic advancement. He advised that, in order to attract Chinese investors, particular attention be paid to the problems of bureaucratic complications, institutional weaknesses and skilled workers. He said that economic cooperation should be seen in a broader perspective rather than in a limited context.

Presiding over the discussion, CPD chairman Rehman Sobhan said that the changes taking place in Asia and our region call for cautious attention. Bangladesh must view the entire matter from its own perspective. He felt that the USD 500 crore loan in Chinese currency will play a positive role in bringing variety to the central bank’s reserves.

President of the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS), Maj Gen (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman said China has interest in Bangladesh due to its geopolitical and geo-economic position. Bangladesh’s location in the Bay of Bengal creates all sorts of opportunities for maritime trade.

He referred to the Galwan Valley clash, saying that it may cast a shadow on the economy and politics of all countries in South Asia, including Bangladesh. Again, the heightened tensions between the US and China also indicated a new Cold War in the offing. He said under such circumstances, we may be forced to choose sides. That is why Bangladesh needs to remain very cautious over the rapid change of the strategic landscape.

Muniruzzaman went on to say that strategic independence must be maintained, keeping economic aspirations in mind, so that cooperation can be maintained with all sides. Referring to the recent defence pact between the US and India, he advised against joining any such defence initiative.

President of Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI), M Humayun Kabir, said that China’s investors are very interested in Bangladesh. This gives scope for political economic success. Certain recent incidents indicate that bilateral issues are no longer restricted to two countries. Other quarters display interest too. He referred to India’s reaction concerning China’s investment in the Dhaka Stock Exchange, China’s investment proposal for Teesta barrage, and China getting the contract for the expansion of Sylhet’s Osmani airport. This indicated the political and geopolitical aspects of bilateral ties.

CPD’s executive director Fahmida Khatun moderated the meeting. Also participating were Bangladesh’s ambassador to China Mahbub uz Zaman, professor of the Institute of Bangladesh Studies at Kunming Academy of Social Science, Cheng Min, East West University’s professor of economics AK Enamul Huq and others.

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