China is the largest source of imports and also largest trading partner of Bangladesh.
Trade between Bangladesh and China stands at 18.7 billion US dollars at present with vast potential for further expansion in various fields of bilateral cooperation. Speakers at a recent two-day conference in the city expressed such optimism while discussing growing ties between the two countries.
Organised by the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Secuirty Studies (BIPSS) on 18 and 19 December, the 6th Joint Forum for China-Bangladesh Cooperation took place at a local hotel in the capital city and was attended by the delegation of Yunnan Development Center (YRDC) from China as well as academics and businesspersons from Bangladesh.
“It is important to implement the Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor on a fast track basis to connect Bangladesh with Kunming of Yunnan, China,” said ANM Muniruzzaman, president of BIPSS, on the first day of the conference .
He said the corridor would be a great gateway for Bangladesh to China and the rest of Southeast Asia.
Highlighting the importance of deepening trade and investment cooperation between China’s Yunnan province and Bangladesh, vice president of the Academy of Commerce of Yunnan Province, Liu Jie, said that this would benefit mutual trade and economic interests. He stressed the need to further cooperation in the sectors of tourism, bilateral trade and development, infrastructure and also hydropower development in which Yunnan had expertise.
Assistant professor of East West University Parvez Karim Abbasi, responding to the call to promote tourism between the two countries, said that medical tourism was a vital component of the sector. “Every year Bangladesh spends 2.5 billion US dollars on medical tourism and 70 of the country’s patients travelling abroad for treatment go to India,” he pointed out, adding, “Yet compared to Chennai, Kunming’s distance from Bangladesh makes sense from our patients to go there.”
Yang Haoyu, business manager of One Belt and One Road Research Institute, China, spoke of the importance to promote cultural tourism. He pointed out that while many heritage sites in Europe and several western countries were popular tourist sites, many even more impressive sites in China, Bangladesh and other Asian countries were relatively unknown. He said such areas of potential tourism needed to be exposed in order to expand cooperation in this field.
“Communication between China and Bangladesh existed 2,500 years ago,” said Zhang Liang, deputy manager of Yunnan Communication Investment Group, saying that the One Road and One Belt plan would renew this communication in a big way between the two countries.
Moderating the session of the conference’s second day, SK Tawfique M Haque, chairman of the political science department, North South University (NSU), spoke of the need for a better understanding of China. He highlighted the role of the Confucius Institute at NSU in this regard.
“We need to strengthen policy and promote more cooperation in various fields of Yunnan and Bangladesh,” said Zhang Junmin, a research fellow of the Development Research Centre of the Yunnan Province, stressing the fields of cultural cooperation, tourism, economy and trade.
“Bangladesh and China relations at present are at an all time high in four and a half decades,” said Obaidul Haque, associate professor of international relations, Dhaka University. He said that the visit of China’s President Xi Jingping to Bangladesh in 2016 was a turning point.
Calling for youth exchange programmes between Bangladesh and Yunnan, associate research fellow of the Development Research Centre of Yunnan Province, Fu Jing, said that the youth were a bridge between the two countries. She stressed the need for institutions like the Confucius Institute to forge better understanding between the two countries.
“Language is a key to understanding and cooperation,” said Ayesha Kabir of the daily Prothom Alo, adding that foreign languages should be taught at school level and Mandarin Chinese would be a good option in preparing youth for the future.
The Joint Forum for China-Bangladesh Cooperation is held every year between China’s Yunnan Development Research Centre and BIPSS, alternating between Kunming and Dhaka.