China is the major development partner of Bangladesh. It is frequently touted by the leaders of both countries that Bangladesh and China need to maintain a strategic partnership.
Although China recognised Bangladesh four years after its independence, it is also a well-known fact that Chinese-supported pro-Beijing communist party elements in Bangladesh, opposed the Awami League-led, India-backed, and Moscow-endorsed Liberation War in 1971. China tried hard to fish in the region’s troubled water before and during 1971 independence, but failed miserably.
In an article titled “Maoism in Bangladesh and The Case of the East Bengal Sarbohara Party” which was published by University of California Press in 1986, Md Nurul Amin documented a fact that the pro-Beijing party was divided into more than a dozen factions before and during the 1971 Liberation War.
Later in 1972, China also gave its first veto in UN Security Council to bar Bangladesh from membership in the United Nations. China considered the birth of Bangladesh as the most insidious role of “the Soviet socialist imperialism” in South Asia.
The then Chinese chief representative at the United Nations, Huang Hua said: “The sole purpose of Soviet socialist imperialism is to further control India and Bangladesh, to expand the spheres of her influence and to bully Pakistan at will.” He also claimed that the Soviet Union had been acting with “honey in mouth and dagger in heart.”
Therefore, ignoring the plight of Bangladesh is not new to the Chinese. The Rohingya crisis is a burning example.
As expected, Chinese policy towards Bangladesh started to take a new turn when Pakistan -- an all-weather friend to China -- formally recognised Bangladesh in 1974. The regime change by the horrific killing of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made Bangladesh distant from Soviet-India influences and consequently, China and Bangladesh established the normal non-adversarial diplomatic relationship at the beginning of 1976.
In 1977, President Ziaur Rahman’s visit to China opened the new window of bilateral relationship.
At present, when China is a global economic superpower, the relationship between China and Bangladesh is trade oriented. China enjoys a huge trade surplus with Bangladesh.
Last year Bangladesh imported $14 billion goods from China and exported as little as $800mn. However, China considers Bangladesh as an important strategic partner for its Belt and Road Initiative grand project involving BCIM corridor and the maritime silk route through the Bay of Bengal.
On the other hand, Bangladesh considers China a development partner, since the current government of Bangladesh is prioritising infrastructural development to make Bangladesh business-friendly and to attract international trade and investments.
It has also become apparent that nearly half of our hard-earned foreign currencies from the Western world are being channeled into China for enormously cheap purchases.
And the irony is, despite the fact that she had persuaded hostile policies against the birth of Bangladesh, China is now gathering huge benefits in terms of business and geo+politics by deluding the Bangladeshi intelligentsia with cheap Asian quality goods and Sun Tzu tactics.
Last year, Chinese President Xi visited Bangladesh and signed nearly $24bn in bilateral business deals but after one year, it has been evaluated that there has been no significant progress upon the soft loan of $21.5bn promised by China for 27 projects in Bangladesh.
Many have been applauding the appearance of the Chinese dragon at the world’s centre stage. But China doesn’t deserve it yet
Yet, Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh Shahidul Haque is advocating in favour of the Chinese Belt and Road initiative. He said: “We can’t forget what the people want, and before joining BRI we had several discussions with civil society, and it was clear, what we need is connectivity. For us as a country, what we need is a quick upgrade of our infrastructure and our generation wants much more interaction and connectivity.”
However, it is not clear yet why Bangladesh needs to be in BRI only if the country wants “quick upgrade of infrastructure and connectivity,” when Bangladesh can explore the Bay of Bengal region with diversified investments for her needs.
China is exhibiting impeccable hypocrisy regarding the Rohingya genocide.
On the one hand, China has been endorsing the Myanmar army holocaust by saying that it is safe-guarding peace and stability in this region. On the other hand, it is sending humanitarian aid to the affected Rohingya who are also the victims of Chinese support for the ruthless establishment of Myanmar.
China is also the biggest weapons exporter to Myanmar. Apparently, China has taken sides with Myanmar by dodging Bangladesh in this region’s geo-political chessboard when Bangladesh is in dire need of Chinese support to dismantle Myanmar’s “mass migration” plot.
There is an argument within the Bangladeshi intelligentsia regarding this Chinese policy to stand with Myanmar -- that Bangladesh made a mistake by refusing to give the deep sea ports to the Chinese in the Bay of Bengal region. If it was offered, China would have sided with Bangladesh now.
This argument is completely unpatriotic and pro-Chinese, because it is Bangladesh who takes decision regarding its assets and resources.
China has no right to drive a Machiavellian hostile policy to get the sea ports from Bangladesh.
Don’t trust thy neighbour
We must seek mutual respect when dealing with the Chinese, and at the same time, we must remember that China is driving an imperial ambition.
Though she still denies it, China is in a huge panic-prone debt bubble. China is run by a military dictatorship with a $200bn military budget per year. Fundamental human rights (including freedoms of expression, assembly, association, and religion) remain dire in China -- Chinese people hold strong nationalist, xenophobic, and racist views targetting other groups (Tibetans, Uighurs, Japanese, South Koreans, Philippinos, Vietnamese, Rohingya, and more).
Finally, China’s socialism in the new era and Hitler’s national socialism both are similar in nature and based on Marxism. Many argue that Chinese socialism is in fact Chinese Nazism, and Chinese hypocrisy doesn’t make things better.
Currently, the Chinese communist party is meeting at the congress, and many Western analysts suspect that this congress is going to be an event of supreme power consolidation of Xi Jinping as the Chinese leader. He will be treated as the Mao of the 21st century.
The timing is important, because the US-led world order is suffering structural fatigue. Many have been applauding the appearance of the Chinese dragon at the world’s centre stage.
But China doesn’t deserve it yet. Simply because the world shouldn’t replace a double-dealer with a charlatan as its leader.
Therefore, Bangladesh must have, in addition to China, diverse partners for her infrastructural developments.
Rajeev Ahmed is a geo-political analyst and strategic thinker.