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Speech by H.E. Zhang Zuo, Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh, at "China-Bangladesh relations: Prognosis for the Future"

(From Chinese Embassy in Bangladesh)

2018-12-12 18:21

(December 8th, 2018)

Dr. Chowdhury, the National University of Singapore and Former Foreign Minister of Bangladesh,
Enayatullah Khan, Chairman of Cosmos Group,
Distinguished Guests and Scholars,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Asalam Alaikum and good morning.

It's a great pleasure to be invited at the opening ceremony of today's seminar, under the theme "China-Bangladesh relations: Prognosis for the Future". As we are approaching the end of the year, I'd like to share a few thoughts with the experts and scholars here about China-Bangladesh relations in the new era.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Bangladesh is a good neighbor and a good friend to China. In recent years, the development of China Bangladesh relations has been promoted onto the fast track. During the successful state visit of president Xi Jingping to Bangladesh in October 2016, our bilateral relationship was elevated to Strategic Partnership of Cooperation, which started a new chapter in China-Bangladesh relations. According to Chinese statistics, in 2017, our bilateral trade value stood at 16 billion dollars, 5.8% higher than last year, with China remaining the no.1 trade partner to Bangladesh; the engineering contracts signed between Bangladesh and Chinese companies reached 10.4 billion dollars, second in the South Asian region. In the first 10 months of this year, our bilateral trade value stood at 15.52 billion dollars, with a growth rate of 21.3% year on year; the contracts signed are worth 4.74 billion dollars, no.1 in South Asia and no. 9 globally; Chinese FDI in non-financial sector reached 140 million dollars, 1.85 times higher than that of last year, and 500 million in terms of stock. Notably, our collaborations in finance and e-commerce are becoming increasingly active. Shenzhen-Shanghai stock exchange consortium and Dhaka Stock Exchange have completed the transferring of 25% of the shares acquired from DSE. Ant Finance has become the strategic partner to Bkash, the biggest online payment company of Bangladesh. And Mutual Trust Bank has joined hands with UnionPay International to jointly launch debit and credit cards with mobile payment services. All of these have demonstrated the huge cooperation space for our 2 countries in the new economy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Based on the current situation and looking into the future, the development of China-Bangladesh relations faces unprecedented opportunities for cooperation. I'd like to put forward some suggestions for implementing the important outcomes of President Xi Jinping's state visit and deepening the China-Bangladesh Strategic Partnership of Cooperation in the new era.

First, to deepen strategic mutual trust. The next decade will see faster changes in the international landscape and the international alignment of forces. As China and Bangladesh share similar national realities and dreams, in the face of opportunities and challenges, we should join hands to become good partners with equality and mutual trust.

We should work together to improve the level of global governance. In spite of the unstoppable rise of emerging markets and developing countries, the uncertainty and instability facing the world are still prominent. Unilateralism and protectionism are intensifying, multilateralism and the multilateral trading system are seriously affected. We should uphold the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, resolutely abandon the Cold War mentality and power politics, respect the social systems and development paths chosen independently by every nation, respect each other's core interests and major concerns, and take the new road of dialogue without confrontation, partnership instead of alliances. We need to make full use of bilateral and multilateral mechanisms to explore the possibility of China Bangladesh plus cooperation, enhance South-South cooperation, and strengthen collaborations within the multilateral framework of the UN Security Council. While abiding by international rules and market standards, for the emerging fields of marine, Internet, outer space, nuclear safety and climate change, all countries should be encouraged to jointly establish new mechanisms and set up new rules.

We should form stronger synergies between our development strategies. In March 2018, the UN confirmed that Bangladesh had met the LDC graduation criteria. The dream of Sonar Bangla and Vision 2030 are highly in line with the Chinese dream and the 2 centenary goals proposed by President Xi Jinping. Facing the future, China and Bangladesh should take advantage of the situation, and seize the rare development opportunity as the two countries are entering a new era, to increase high-level exchanges, and lead China-Bangladesh strategic cooperation to a higher level. We should enhance the political position of China-Bangladesh relations, and strengthen exchanges in governance, development concepts, and social culture to deepen bilateral cooperation. We can make full use of foreign office consultation, economic and trade ties, maritime cooperation dialogue, consular consultation and other mechanisms to strengthen macro policy coordination, to deepen exchanges and mutual learning in theoretical innovation, to build think tank alliances and cooperation network, so as to provide intellectual support for opening up new paths of cooperation and development between the two countries.

Coordination on policies and rules for connectivity is needed. We should place people at the center of cooperation, improve the level of public services, and timely release information on investment environment, industrial cooperation and country guides. We should timely sign or amend bilateral treaties and agreements for investment, consular protection, legal assistance, facilitation of personnel exchanges and others, in order to provide favorable conditions for investment, and strive to improve people's livelihood and enhance people's well-being. We also need to advance the planning for infrastructure construction, form better synergy on quality and technical systems, and promote the three-in-one connectivity on policy, planning and standards, so as to create a community of shared interests and responsibility.

Second, to deepen economic integration. The next 10 years will be a decade of the transition from the old to new growth drivers in world economy, as well as of profound adjustments and reforms. Both China and Bangladesh have highly prosperous markets that attract businessmen from all over the world. Faced with opportunities and challenges, we should join hands to become good partners of mutual benefits.

Let's work together to promote free trade. With many risks in the overall development environment of the global economy, the multilateral trading system has endured severe impact, and the world economy may face the challenge of isolation. The contest between open cooperation and isolated confrontation will influence the future of mankind, and the international community is once again at a crossroad. China and Bangladesh should maintain communication and consultation, adhere to the basic principles of free trade, make necessary reforms to the World Trade Organization while fully taking into consideration the interests of all parties, and safeguard the developing interests and policy space of developing countries. We should accelerate the feasibility study for China-Bangladesh FTA, and then start the negotiation as soon as possible for fruitful outcomes. We will complete the exchange of letters for zero-tariff treatment to 97% of tariff items exported from Bangladesh to China within a short time, to further boost the export of Bangladeshi goods to Chinese market.

We need to promote infrastructure connectivity. Bangladesh is an important converging point for the land and maritime Silk Roads, so it becomes a natural partner for the joint construction of the "Belt and Road" initiative. The Chinese side supports enterprises to participate in the cooperation of infrastructure construction such as railways, highways, airports, sea ports, bridges and telecommunications. We are making efforts to accelerate the construction of major projects such as the Padma Bridge, as well as the construction of the BCIM Economic Corridor, and are focusing on promoting the four-in-one connectivity of land, sea, sky and the Internet. Next April, China will host the second "Belt and Road" Forum for International Cooperation. We welcome Bangladeshi government and various social groups to identify our common interests, to actively participate in and share opportunities of the forum, and to promote the transformation of BRI towards high-quality development. .

We should promote and expand two-way investment in production capacity. China is willing to support the construction of 100 economic zones, blue economy, digital Bangladesh and other projects through development assistance, economic and trade investment, and infrastructure cooperation. By paying special attention to Payra power station, the Chittagong China Industrial Park, and the Kunming Steel Industrial Park, we will comprehensively improve the international competitiveness of industries. Based on our respective industrial advantages and specific development needs, we should encourage our companies to further tap into the potential of production capacity cooperation, with a focus on agriculture, building materials, power, textile, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, steel, automotive, communications, rail transit, engineering machinery, ships, offshore engineering equipment, etc., so as to push our capacity cooperation to a new level.

Third, to deepen innovation and interaction. The next decade will see a new round of technological revolution and a transformation where new things will replace the old ones. China and Bangladesh have complementary advantages and shared interests. In the face of opportunities and challenges, we should work together as good partners for innovation.

Let's seize the opportunity to promote innovation-driven development. The rapid development of a new generation of information technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, quantum information, and biotechnology have brought about earth-shaking changes in global development and human production and life. Man's ability and means for achieving progress have been greater than ever before, and so have been our concerns and doubts about the future. We should expedite the development of emerging industries such as the Internet plus, promote the establishment of joint laboratories in key areas of interest to both countries, actively expand cooperation in the fields of digital economy, maritime economy, shared economy, and internet finance, and strengthen collaborations in frontier areas like artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and quantum computers, and strive for more collaborative results in the areas of Internet infrastructure, big data, cloud computing, smart cities, and e-commerce.

We can promote innovation together to lead development. We should work coordinately to strengthen innovation cooperation, establish closer links between scientific research institutions, and continuously tap the potential for innovation. We should focus on the development of key industries such as mobile communications, drones, robots, graphene, and the Internet of Things, in areas including big data, artificial intelligence, comprehensive health services and new materials, and make them our main directions. We need to promote the intelligent development of machinery, aviation, shipbuilding, automobile, light industry, textile, food, electronics and other industries, and expand the applications of smart technologies and equipments including intelligent human computer interaction, industrial robots, smart factories and smart logistics, so as to improve the agile manufacturing capabilities of China and Bangladesh through collaborations. We can jointly advocate for a green, low-carbon, recycling and sustainable way of production and living, strengthen cooperation in climate change, environmental protection, energy conservation and emission reduction, and implement the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

We need to work together to optimize the innovation environment. We should innovate and expand new channels of financial cooperation, have in-depth discussions on cooperation in RMB financing and bond issuance, make full use of platforms like Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Silk Road Funds, and deepen cooperation between financial institutions and financial markets. We should also promote further collaborations between our capital and bond markets, support the cross-border equity cooperation between the Shenzhen-Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Dhaka Stock Exchange to grow faster and stronger, and support the strategic cooperation between Ant Finance and Bangladesh's largest mobile payment company Bkash to expand as soon as possible. We need to pay attention to the risks and challenges brought by the application of new technologies, strengthen the building of institutions and legal systems, and properly handle the impact brought by Informatization, automation, and intelligent transformation on traditional industries. We can cooperate to carry out more trainings on human resources, create new employment opportunities in the process of cultivating new industries, attach importance to creating entrepreneurial space and workshops for young people, and help realize the dreams of the next generation.

Fourth, to deepen experience sharing on security. The next decade will see a profound reshaping of the global governance system and the international security situation. China and Bangladesh are neighbors who look out for each other during either safe or disturbing times. In the face of opportunities and challenges, we should work together to be good partners for peace and cooperation.

We need to build a solid foundation for peace, security and mutual trust. At present, the world's multi-polarization and economic globalization are advancing in twists and turns. The Cold War mentality and zero-sum game are becoming ever more outdated. The geopolitical hotspot issues are rising one after another, with the shadow of terrorism and armed conflict lingering, while epidemics, climate change and other non-traditional security threats continuing to spread. As humanity faces many security challenges, blind arrogance or self-isolation will lead nowhere. We should work together to address the challenges, persist in resolving disputes through dialogue and disagreements through consultations, find solutions for security problems through win-win cooperation, and firmly safeguard global peace, so as to push for universal security and common security.

We should consolidate the common foundation for peace and security. We can coordinately deal with traditional and non-traditional security threats, deepen practical cooperation in combating terrorism, cybercrime, telecom fraud, drug crimes and transnational crimes, and oppose all forms of terrorism. We should actively participate in mediation to solve geopolitical hotspot issues. China will continue to play a constructive role in properly solving the problem of Rakhine State in accordance with the three-phase solution of stopping violence, repatriation and development, and support Bangladesh and Myanmar to find a proper way for the repatriation of the displaced people, as well as a proper solution for the issue of the Rakhine State through dialogue and consultation.

We will jointly consolidate the risk warning and prevention system, strengthen our cooperation in defense, law enforcement and information security, and promote the friendly exchanges between defense think tanks, military medical personnel, and young military officers, in order to comprehensively improve the security mechanism and risk response capabilities. China encourages the construction of the "Belt and Road" initiative to comply with national laws, and to regulate business behavior in investment and management, so as to always ensure legal and compliant operations. We should strengthen communications, improve cooperation mechanisms, promote the security of projects under the "Belt and Road" initiative, improve law enforcement capabilities and safe construction cooperation, take effective measures to ensure the protection of life and property of employees of the projects, institutions and enterprises in the other country, and continue to deepen practical cooperation in all areas of law enforcement and security.

Fifth, to deepen people and cultural connectivity. The next 10 years will be a decade of deepening cultural diversity and social informatization. China and Bangladesh have been having communications for over a thousand years. Facing opportunities and challenges, we should join hands to become good partners of inclusiveness and mutual learning.

We should strengthen the emotional ties between the Chinese and Bangladeshi people. As the world is increasingly interdependent, the people of all countries are deeply involved in exchanges and integration. But we also face challenges such as extremism, neo-populism, neo-nationalism, neo-racism, neo-conservatism and new isolationism. The international community is full of doubts and concerns over the future of humanity. We must promote mutual exchanges and learning between civilizations, create a good atmosphere for positive faiths and decent behaviors, and promote mutual respect and harmony among different cultures. Both China and Bangladesh are multi-ethnic and multi-religious countries. It's important for us to enhance the exchanges and dialogues between our religious circles, dig into the content that promotes harmony and healthy attitudes in different religions, and give proper interpretations to religious doctrines in combination of the contemporary need for progress. We need to cooperate to build a healthy Internet environment, and jointly fight against the extremist and hate speeches on the Internet.

We can build a multi-level platform for cultural and people-to-people exchanges. The ancient Chinese navigator Zheng He led his fleet to sail to the Indian Ocean 7 times, and at least twice did he reach this area, demonstrating the Chinese spirit of peace, friendship and harmony. We must cherish the traditional friendship, promote friendly ties for future generations, open up more channels of cooperation, deepen exchanges at all levels, promote the active engagement of governments, enterprises, social organizations, and civil groups, strengthen exchanges between parliaments, political parties, and non-governmental organizations, and promote the establishment of group exchange mechanisms between women, youth, and entrepreneurs, so as to promote inclusive development in a better way.

We will tighten the bonds of cultural communications, jointly promote exchanges in the fields of education, science and technology, culture, education, and health, and carry out fruitful assistance programs for people's livelihood centered around the construction of the "Belt and Road". With the aim to establish people-to-people connectivity, we should continue to deepen cooperation in the fields of poverty reduction, local development, cities, and rural governance, and strengthen collaborations in tourism, archaeology, heritage protection, and cultural and creative industries. We should actively expand cooperation in new media, news, film and television, tell more exciting and touching stories, and build up public support for the "Belt and Road" initiative.

Ladies and gentlemen,

All of you are experts in related fields. You are welcome to contribute to the development of the future China-Bangladesh relations during this forum. I look forward to your wonderful speeches.

Thank you all. Dhonnobud.

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