Chinese President Xi Jinping in Bangladesh on ‘historic’ state visit

Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived in Bangladesh on a two-day visit which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina says will usher in a “new era” of bilateral ties.

Sajidul Haqueand Nurul Islam
Published : 14 Oct 2016, 06:07 AM
Updated : 14 Oct 2016, 04:12 PM

An Air China flight carried him to Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 11:36am on Friday.

Two Bangladesh air force jets escorted the special flight carrying the Chinese leader and his entourage into Bangladesh airspace.

Several Chinese officials were seen coming out before the 63-year-old president finally emerged out of the aircraft, waving his hand. 

President Md Abdul Hamid, accompanied by top government ministers, welcomed him at the VVIP terminal to a 21-gun salute.

Xi Jinping was then escorted over the red carpet to a dais as a contingent of army, navy and air force gave him the guard of honour to the sound of Bangladesh’s national anthem.

He then took the salute and inspected the guard accompanied by President Abdul Hamid.

This is the first visit of a Chinese President to Bangladesh since 1986 when Li Xiannian visited Dhaka in March.

Xi Jinping then left for Hotel Le Meridien, where he will stay during the visit, on a ceremonial motorcade.

Dhaka has been decorated with banners, festoons, posters, placards and lights welcoming his visit. Traffic on Airport Road will be restricted for 24 hours, from 10am to 10pm, as part of tight security measures.

Xi Jinping will hold official talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in her office at 3:10pm. Then, the two leaders will witness the signing of several agreements and MoUs.

Hasina had said the visit comes at a time when Bangladesh is about to break free from the clutches of low-level equilibrium trap and move into a new frontier of investment, industrialisation, ecological restoration and all-round prosperity.

Annual trade between Bangladesh and China has risen from $900 million in 2000 to more than $10 billion in 2015.

But a huge disparity remains as Chinese imports to Bangladesh in 2015-16 was worth $9 billion, while Bangladesh exports to China stood at a meager $800 million.

Beijing has described the visit as a “milestone” and said President Xi would push forward cooperation within the framework of the ‘One Belt, One Road’. That is a Chinese geo-economic initiative pushed by Xi Jinping since 2013.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in an interview with China’s official news agency Xinhua, expressed confidence that the visit would usher in “a new era of intensive cooperation” in trade, investment and other sectors between the two nations.

"We are very happy and feel honoured that President Xi is coming to Bangladesh. I believe that President Xi's visit will also be more important for South Asia," she said.

The relations between the two nations are underpinned by "the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, Spirit of Good Neighbourliness, Mutual Trust, Confidence and Non-Interference into each other's internal affairs,” the prime minister said.

She also pointed out that Bangladesh strongly adheres to ‘One China policy’ and supports China on issues related to its 'core national interests' and efforts to safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Dhaka is expecting to sign more than 25 MoUs and investment deals worth tens of billions of dollars during the visit.

Beijing appears keen to invest in large infrastructure projects in foreign countries since the beginning of the belt and road initiative.

China is focusing on building a trade and infrastructure network for connecting Asian countries with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes under the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative which comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

The aim is to boost development of other countries and their trade with China.

Beijing is also working on a Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar or BCIM economic corridor, to connect South Asia with Southeast Asia. The corridor will connect Dhaka with Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province.

Yunnan social scientist Suiyan Guo told that the visit would take Bangladesh-China relations to “a new phase” and provide a “breakthrough” for BCIM cooperation.

Guo is the deputy director of the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute for Bangladesh Studies, which was established last year as the first research institute in China that focuses on Bangladesh.

“Being one of China’s close neighbour and one with a big population, Bangladesh shares complementarities with China in various economic sectors, that paves the way for partnership for development,” she said.

After the official talks and signing of agreements and MoUs, the Chinese president will return to his hotel where Speaker of the Parliament Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury will call on him.

Later, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia will also call on Xi Jinping. 

He would meet Bangladesh President Hamid at Bangabhaban at 6:30pm and then join a banquet followed by cultural show to be hosted in his honour.

Xi Jinping will leave Dhaka for Goa to attend the BRICS summit on Saturday morning after placing wreaths at the National Memorial in Savar to pay homage to the martyrs of Bangladesh’s War of Independence.

Sheikh Hasina will see him off at the airport.

Member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPC and Head of General Office of the Central Committee of the CPC Li Zhanshu, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Finance Minister Lou Jiwei, Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng, and Governor of the People’s Bank of China Zhou Xiaochuan are accompanying their president, among others.