Dhaka-Beijing partnership upgraded to comprehensive strategic cooperation

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Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh, China, Li Qiang

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s three-day visit to China, which began on July 8, marks a significant milestone in the relationship between Bangladesh and China. At the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Qiang, this visit has elevated the bilateral ties from a “strategic partnership” to a “comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership”. This transformation promises to bring new opportunities and strengthen cooperation across various sectors.

Upon her arrival in Beijing, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina received a red-carpet reception at the Great Hall of the People, where she was warmly welcomed by Premier Li Qiang. The bilateral talks that ensued covered a broad range of topics crucial to both nations, including the Rohingya crisis, business, trade, investments, and regional and international matters. These discussions underscored the mutual commitment to enhancing collaboration and addressing shared challenges.

The highlight of the visit was the signing of 21 instruments, including two renewed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs), and the announcement of seven additional projects. These agreements were formalized in the presence of both leaders, signifying the deepening partnership between Bangladesh and China.

Economic and Banking Sector Cooperation: Agreements like the MoU on Strengthening Investment Cooperation in the Digital Economy and the MoU on Banking and Insurance Regulatory Cooperation between China National Financial Regulatory Administration (NFRA) and Bangladesh Bank aim to boost economic ties and financial stability. These will pave the way for increased investments and economic growth in Bangladesh.

Trade and Investment: The Protocol of Phytosanitary Requirements for the Export of Fresh Mangoes from Bangladesh to China opens new markets for Bangladeshi agricultural products, while the MoU on Trade and Investment Cooperation focuses on enhancing trade flows and investment opportunities.

Infrastructure Development: Several agreements, including the Exchange of Letters on China-aid projects like the renovation of the 6th Bangladesh-China Friendship Bridge and the construction of the 9th Bangladesh-China Friendship Bridge, highlight China’s commitment to supporting Bangladesh’s infrastructure development.

Digital Economy and Disaster Management: The MoU on Strengthening Digital Economy Cooperation and the Signing of Minutes of Discussions on the Feasibility Study of the China-aid National Emergency Operation Center in Bangladesh Project reflect the collaboration in advancing digital connectivity and disaster management capabilities.

Media and Cultural Exchange: A significant aspect of the visit was the focus on media cooperation and cultural exchange. Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) Managing Director and Chief Editor Abul Kalam Azad signed an MoU with the China Media Group (CMG) and an agreement with the Xinhua News Agency. These agreements aim to enhance information exchange and cultural understanding, fostering closer ties between the peoples of both nations.

In addition to the signed instruments, seven projects were announced to further enhance bilateral cooperation:

  1. Joint Feasibility Study on China-Bangladesh Free Trade Agreement: This study’s conclusion sets the stage for future negotiations aimed at establishing a free trade agreement, which would significantly boost economic ties.
  2. Optimization of Bilateral Investment Treaty: The commencement of negotiations to optimize the existing China-Bangladesh Bilateral Investment Treaty aims to create a more favorable environment for investors, promoting economic growth and development.
  3. Telecommunication Network Modernization: The completion of the Modernization of Telecommunication Network for Digital Connectivity project supports Bangladesh’s vision for a digital economy, enhancing connectivity and technological advancements.
  4. Single Point Mooring Project: The completion of the trial run of the Single Point Mooring with Double Pipe Line project aims to improve Bangladesh’s energy infrastructure, ensuring efficient and secure fuel supply.
  5. Rajshahi WASA Surface Water Treatment Plant: The commencement of this project focuses on improving water treatment and supply in Rajshahi, contributing to better public health and sanitation.
  6. Academic Collaboration: An MoU between Shandong Agricultural University and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University aims to foster academic and research collaboration in the agricultural sector.
  7. Luban Workshop in Bangladesh: The announcement of the construction of a Luban Workshop in Bangladesh focuses on vocational training, enhancing skills development and employment opportunities.

The elevation of Bangladesh-China relations to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership marks a significant milestone in their bilateral relationship. This upgrade reflects the growing importance of their partnership in regional and global contexts. The agreements and announced projects underscore both nations’ commitment to deepening cooperation in various fields, including economic development, trade, infrastructure, and cultural exchange.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to China highlights the mutual benefits of this partnership. For Bangladesh, it offers opportunities for economic growth, technological advancement, and enhanced infrastructure. For China, it strengthens its strategic presence in South Asia and reinforces its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

According to the tour schedule, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was initially expected to return to Bangladesh on July 11. However, in a press conference held at the St. Regis Hotel in Beijing, Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud announced that the Prime Minister would cut her trip short and return to Dhaka on the night of July 10, instead of the morning of July 11. Despite the change in schedule, all the programs of the Prime Minister’s visit remained unchanged.

The successful conclusion of this visit sets the stage for a new era of cooperation between Bangladesh and China. As they move forward, the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership will serve as a foundation for continued growth and collaboration, bringing significant benefits to both nations. Dhaka views this development as a pivotal moment in its foreign policy, strengthening its position in the region and beyond.

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