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February 28, 2017

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Home » Opinion » Foreign Views

Bangladesh joins China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative: meeting challenges, building the future

BANGLADESH celebrated forty years of relations with China in 2015 and formally declared its joining in China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) initiative during the visit of China’s President Xi Jinping in 2016. All major political parties welcomed the visit of President Xi, the first by a Chinese President in three decades.

President Xi’s visit to Bangladesh was marked by local media as the start of a “new era of friendship.” As China is one of the biggest development partners of Bangladesh, it was expected that the bilateral partnership would grow in all areas of cooperation.

China’s economic growth has made it a strong economic force in driving global trade. As its trading partner, Bangladesh expects from China, principally, increasing amounts of Chinese direct investment, better access for Bangladeshi products in China’s market and China’s continuing support in developing the infrastructure of the country.

Currently, China has been providing project loans and development assistance and wishes to increase investment in the information and communication technology industry, river management, industrial zones, land reclamation and maritime cooperation. As part of the Bangkok Agreement, China provides Bangladesh duty free access to a list of Bangladeshi products. It is expected that bilateral trade between China and Bangladesh may exceed US$30 billion by 2021.

China wishes to build mega infrastructure projects within the Belt and Road areas to increase trade and service, offering substantial prospects for Bangladesh. This initiative meets Bangladesh’s need for wider connectivity within the region. While Asia is currently experiencing increasing economic development centering on China, if the OBOR is fully implemented, Asia will become the center of gravity for the world economy.

Bangladesh has already expressed interest in actively participating in the OBOR and, as a part of the initiative, the BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar) corridor is now in its final stage. As both Bangladesh and China believe in regional cooperation and have common interest in the corridor, this offers additional impetus. China has been increasingly developing its cooperation with South Asian nations. In this context, Bangladesh should pay more attention to its Look East policy to activate the connectivity further and thus increase bilateral trade. While Chinese investors have interests in Bangladesh’s garment industry due to the availability of cheap labor, the Chittagong and Mongla ports are also of great interests for China to develop connectivity for its Southern gateway.

The global economy is increasingly shifting its gravity from West to East and the role of the two Asian economies — i.e. China and India — are therefore gaining wider scope to work for regional integration.

India is in the BCIM initiative which is in line with the Chinese OBOR initiative. Since India needs to engage in its efforts in developing regional integration, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Myanmar along with China can therefore play wider and more sincere roles to access opportunities in the region by resolving the issues of mutual mistrust.

Given the reality, it is now urgent for Bangladesh to build a secure relationship with India and China on the basis of mutual respect, trust and friendship. Since China’s OBOR initiative fits into Bangladesh’s goals of connectivity and increased trade, Bangladesh now needs to make all efforts to ensure good governance and political stability so that it can achieve the aims and expectations of OBOR, which could have a great impact on the long term future of the economy of Bangladesh.


Nusrat Zahan is a visiting scholar at FDDI (Fudan Development Institute) and an associate professor in international relations, Jahangimagar University. Shanghai Daily condensed the article.


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