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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Exclusive Interview

'China-Bangladesh relations have become the model of friendship between countries with different social systems and different cultures'
China's new ambassador to Bangladesh, Li Jun, arrived in Dhaka on February 18 and presented his credentials to the President on March 6. In an exclusive interview with The Daily Star's Diplomatic Correspondent Rezaul Karim recently, he talked on a wide range of bilateral issues. He said he would try his best and cooperate with the government and people of Bangladesh to improve further the ties between the two countries. He also said China and Bangladesh are good neighbours. Since 1975, the bilateral relationship has always been developing in a smooth manner and bilateral cooperation in various areas has been deepened. Following are excerpts from the interview.
The Daily Star (TDS): As the new Chinese Ambassador in Bangladesh, what are the priorities you plan to emphasise during your assignment in this country?
Li Jun (L J): In March and June 2010, H.E. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and H.E. Xi Jinping, Vice President of China, had a successful exchange of visits. The two sides issued a Joint Statement and decided to establish and develop a "Closer Comprehensive Partnership of Cooperation" between China and Bangladesh from the strategic perspective and on the basis of the principles of longstanding friendship, equality and mutual benefit. I believe this set the direction of and provided the guidelines for the development of our bilateral relationship.
During my tenure,
* I will do my utmost to consolidate and develop the bilateral relationship with the aim of promoting the development of our two countries and the welfare of our two peoples;
* I will continue to push for more exchanges of high-level visits and contacts and friendly exchanges between government agencies, parliaments, political parties, and non-governmental organisations of our two countries;
* I will continue to push for intensified cooperation in trade, investment, agriculture, transportation and infrastructure development on the basis of equality and mutual benefit;
* I will continue to push for a further widening of people-to-people and cultural exchanges and cooperation with a view to promoting mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples;
* I will continue to push for strengthened exchanges and cooperation between the militaries and law enforcement departments to safeguard respective national security and stability and promote peace and stability in the region;
* I will continue to push for closer coordination and cooperation to uphold the common interests of the two countries as well as that of the developing countries in international and regional affairs, such as climate change, energy and food security.
I am confident that with the joint efforts of our two countries, the closer comprehensive partnership of cooperation between China and Bangladesh will be brought to a new high and bring tangible benefits for our two peoples.
TDS: Bangladesh and China enjoy excellent bilateral relations. How do you foresee these relations developing further in the days ahead?
L J: The traditional friendship between our two peoples date back to over two thousand years ago. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1975, China-Bangladesh ties have been developing in a smooth manner and the pragmatic cooperation in various fields has been further strengthened. It was the efforts that successive governments and the peoples of our two countries have made that contributed to the enhancement of China-Bangladesh friendship. To them I pay my tributes.
Currently, the development of relations between China and Bangladesh enjoys the right time, right place, and right people. China is implementing the 12th Five Year Plan with scientific development as guidance and transforming economic growth pattern as the main objective. At the same time, Bangladesh is pushing forward the "Digital Bangladesh" and "Vision 2012." Our development strategies have provided us great scope for cooperation. China and Bangladesh are close neighbours, the region where we are situated has been experiencing rapid growth, which created more opportunities for regional and international cooperation. Apart from that, our bilateral relationship has neither problems left from history, nor conflicts of interest at present. Compassion, understanding, support, and mutual-assistance have always been the main theme of our relationship.
I am convinced that the traditional friendship between China Bangladesh and mutually beneficial cooperation will better contribute to the development of the two countries and benefit the two peoples.
TDS: What are the major follow-up events after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to China in March 2010?
L J: In March and June 2010, H.E. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh and H.E. Xi Jinping, Vice President of China had an exchange of visits to each other's countries. The two sides decided to establish a "Closer Comprehensive Partnership of Cooperation" from the strategic perspective and on the basis of the principles of longstanding friendship, equality, and mutual benefit. A Joint Statement was also issued which reflected the consensus reached by leaders of both countries to further consolidate and develop China-Bangladesh relationship.
Since then, there have been positive developments in bilateral relationship. There have been constant exchanges of high-level visits between the two countries. The Speaker of Bangladesh Parliament Abdul Hamid and Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, as well as many ministers, have visited China. Liu Qi, Member of Political Bureau of the Central Committee of Communist Party of China (CPC) and Secretary of CPC Beijing Municipal Committee, Qin Guangrong, Governor of Yunnan Province of China as well as other high level officials visited Bangladesh.
There has been much progress in bilateral economic and trade cooperation. Bilateral trade volume in 2011 reached $8.26 billion, with an increase of 17% compared with 2010. Bangladeshi export to China reached $449 million, an increase of 67.5%. According to local news reports, Chinese investment in Bangladesh in 2011 amounted to over $200 million. The agreements on introduction of 3G technology and expansion of 2.5G network, and on Shajhalal fertilizer factory project were signed. The construction work will start very soon. China also exempted debts of Bangladesh worth more than 600 million RMB.
There also have been positive developments in bilateral cultural exchanges. In November 2011, Beijing Night Art Performance and Charming Beijing Photo Exhibition were successfully held in Dhaka. Fantastic performances of the Chinese artists and beautiful pictures of Beijing deepened Bangladeshi people's understanding towards China. "Happy Chinese New Year" cultural events have become a famous Chinese cultural brand in Bangladesh. Every year, Dhaka citizens flock to the theater to enjoy the exciting moments of traditional Chinese New Year.
In addition, there has been big progress also in other areas such as agriculture, education, military, etc. I will continue to push forward the all-dimensional cooperation in various fields between our two countries.
TDS: During the PM's visit to Beijing, Bangladesh and China agreed to strengthen cooperation in the military and law enforcement areas at various levels. Is there any progress in those fiends?
L J: Military cooperation is an important part of the all-dimensional cooperation between China and Bangladesh. In the Joint Statement issued during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to China in March 2010, the two sides agreed to strengthen exchanges and cooperation between the militaries and law enforcement departments to safeguard respective national security and stability and promote peace and stability in the region. Military cooperation between China and Bangladesh strictly adheres to relevant international law and norms on international relations, and is not against any third party. In 2011, there was successful cooperation between the two countries in this regard. Air Chief Marshal Ma Xiaotian, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of People's Liberation Army and Vice Admiral Ding Yiping, Deputy Commander of Navy of People's Liberation Army visited Bangladesh with big success. General Mubin, Chief of Army Staff of Bangladesh paid a visit to China, which was fruitful. I believe this tendency of friendly cooperation will be maintained and further developed.
TDS: How do you evaluate China-Bangladesh relations under the present Awami League-led grand alliance government in comparison to ties under previous governments?
L J: The friendship between China and Bangladesh is a genuine and time-tested one. No matter which party is in power, this bilateral relationship maintains the tendency of moving forward. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1975, successive governments of Bangladesh have been making important contributions to the development of the bilateral relationship. China-Bangladesh relations have become the model of friendship between countries with different social systems and different cultures.
During the tenure of current government under the leadership of H.E. Sheikh Hasina, China-Bangladesh relations have witnessed considerable development, and the all-dimensional cooperation between the two countries has been continuously strengthened. Presently, China-Bangladesh relations are standing at a new starting point, facing unprecedented historic opportunities. The Chinese side stands ready to closely work with the Bangladesh side to further enrich the closer Comprehensive Partnership of Cooperation, strengthen the existing bilateral cooperation in different fields, and enhance the friendship between the two peoples.
TDS: Strategically, how does China see Bangladesh in the geo-political equation in the region?
L J: China adheres to the foreign policy of "building friendship and partnership with the neighboring countries," and would like to establish and maintain good-neighbourly relations with all its neighbouring countries. China attaches importance to the important role of Bangladesh in maintaining peace, stability and development of South Asia. China is willing to join hands with Bangladesh and further promote the closer Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership between the two countries.
TDS: The cabinet recently approved the draft of Sonadia Deep Seaport Authority Act. Is there any development from the Chinese side about construction of the deep seaport at Sonadia in Chittagong?
L J: The deep seaport in Sonadia Island is of strategic importance to Bangladesh and will be helpful in enabling Bangladesh to become the regional transportation and logistics centre. Chinese enterprises have advanced technologies, equipments and ample funds. Over the years, China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd has accumulated rich experience in this regard. Presently, this company has established an office in Dhaka and stands ready to participate in this project in a commercial manner. Chinese enterprises are also ready to cooperate with enterprises from other countries to jointly take part in this project. So long as the Bangladeshi side shows enough will and determination, this project can make positive progress very soon.
TDS: How can China cooperate with Bangladesh in tackling the impact of climate change in Bangladesh?
L J: As a country most vulnerable to climate change, Bangladesh has been experiencing sufferings caused by climate change. China fully understands and respects the concerns of Bangladesh over it. During international negotiations on climate change, China has always been supporting the legitimate and reasonable requests of Bangladesh and the Least Developed Countries as a whole. As developing countries, China and Bangladesh should stick to the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" and work together to safeguard the common interests of developing countries.
China and Bangladesh are both victims of climate change. On this issue, the two countries face the same challenges and our basic interests are the same. Over the years, China has already carried out cooperation with Bangladesh in the area of adaptation. For example, China helped Bangladesh in projects of river dredging. The Chinese Government provided relevant training for Bangladeshi officials and technicians. China will continue to strengthen the cooperation with Bangladesh in this regard on the basis of "equal consultation, mutual benefit and common development". China will continue to support the capacity building to help Bangladesh better resist the adverse effects of climate change. Relevant government institutions of the two countries can have detailed discussions.
TDS: Is there any progress in the construction of the 8th Friendship Bridge (2nd Meghna Bridge) and Bangladesh-China Friendship Exhibition Centre?
L J: Consultations are going on between our two countries concerning the 8th Friendship Bridge. I believe there will be a positive result soon. As for the China-Bangladesh Friendship Exhibition Centre, we noticed some news reports saying that the Bangladeshi government has decided to build this Centre at Purbachal. We would be very happy to get the confirmation from and work with the Bangladeshi side so that concrete progress can be made concerning this project.
TDS: Would you be willing to provide assistance to Bangladesh in launching a communication and remote sensing satellite into orbit in the near future?
L J: China is willing to provide assistance to Bangladesh in launching a satellite. This has been reflected in the Joint Statement issued by the two countries during the visit of Her Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to China in March 2010. The two sides can have further consultations in this regard.
TDS: Will you provide assistance for the dredging of riverbeds and for capacity building through training of personnel?

L J: Bangladesh is a country with a large number of rivers. River dredging is essential to the livelihood of Bangladesh people and the development of this country. Against the backdrop of global climate change, river dredging becomes even more important. China understands the need of Bangladesh and always tries to extend its help. Each year, the Chinese government provides relevant training courses for Bangladeshi government official and technicians. Besides, the Chinese government strongly supports qualified Chinese enterprises to take part in dredging projects. In September 2011, China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd was selected to implement a project for Jamuna River dredging (14 kilometers). China will continue to provide its support at the request of Bangladeshi government.

Source: The Daily Star, 19 July 2012