While China was, the first in the world, caught by coronavirus unaware and going through a tougher time in its history, Bangladesh, as a time-tested and passionate friend, extended support to the people of China in its limited capacity. In return, China has demonstrated its profound love for the people of Bangladesh by standing beside them all along the way in their fight against the deadly coronavirus.
At the onset, China donated rapid detection reagents, medical protective gowns, surgical masks, N95 masks, and goggles to Bangladesh. Apart from the Chinese government, the Jack Ma Foundation, the Alibaba Foundation, and the Bangladesh-China Business and Industry Association assisted the country to curb the pandemic.
Chinese companies and enterprises working in Bangladesh China Machinery Import & Export Co. (CMC), China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC), Padma Bridge, the Padma Bridge Railway Link Project, the Multi-lane Road Tunnel Project under River Karnaphuli, China-Bangladesh Friendship Exhibition Center Project, the Chinese Enterprises Association in Bangladesh (CEAB), Bangladesh-China Friendship Center (BCFC), China Railway Group Limited, Overseas Chinese Association in Bangladesh, Huawei Technologies Bangladesh Limited also undertook their social responsibilities to help Bangladesh fight the pandemic.
A 10-member team of Chinese medical experts also visited Bangladesh. In their two-week stay in Bangladesh, the experts visited designated hospitals, quarantine centers, and testing centers. They shared their experiences with Bangladeshi counterparts and made calibrated propositions for containment and treatment of the pandemic during the visit.
Professor Zhang Wenhong, head of the center of infectious diseases, Huashan Hospital of Fudan University, China held an online conference with health officials and medical professionals of Bangladesh on fighting COVID-19. The Central Committee's External Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) also organized a video exchange meeting on the experience of anti-epidemic governance of the ruling parties in China and Bangladesh.
Later, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had a telephone conversation. President Xi reaffirmed China’s firm support to Bangladesh in fighting COVID-19 during the conversation. Earlier, the prime minister of Bangladesh wrote a letter of appreciation to the President of China. Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi also talked with his Bangladeshi counterpart Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen over the phone.
During the talks, the Chinese leadership assured Bangladesh of getting priority if China could successfully develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. Delivering on the assurance, China timely started sending its vaccines to Bangladesh.
When global demands for vaccines reached a fever pitch and so did the surge of infections of the virus, the Foreign Ministers of China, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka held a Video Conference on COVID-19 on April 27, 2021, just one year before.
At the conference, the foreign minister of China expressed his country’s keenness to promote vaccine cooperation with other countries through flexible methods such as free aid, commercial procurement, and filling and production of vaccines, under the framework of the six-nation cooperation mechanism, so that people in South Asia can obtain more diversified and stable vaccine supplies. Wang's proposals were supported by the other foreign ministers.
In the aftermath of the conference, China has gifted Bangladesh some 8.9 million doses of vaccines, while Bangladesh bought 7.7 crore doses from Sinopharm and Sinovac under bilateral agreements. Bangladesh has so far administered a total of 22.97 crore doses of vaccines and 60.5 percent of them are Chinese vaccines.
Thus Bangladesh and China have worked closely on the anti-pandemic fight in the past year. By far, both countries have contained the virus pretty well. Bangladesh is also back on the track of steady growth. This is an outstanding example of bilateral cooperation between Dhaka and Beijing.
Analysts are of the view that the anti-pandemic cooperation represents a perspective to evaluate China-Bangladesh bilateral relations. The fruitful partnership in fighting coronavirus has paved the way for further deepening bilateral cooperation between the two strategic partners on all fronts in the coming years.
In particular, China can help Bangladesh achieve its goal to be a developed country by 2041. Economists think that to reach its goal, Bangladesh has to raise and maintain its GDP growth to more than 8 percent in the coming years which is possible only by achieving remarkable progress in its infrastructure, exports, remittance, and some other major sectors. China can help Bangladesh in infrastructure development, diversifying export goods and markets, and producing skilled human resources to explore new remittance markets.
Under the arrangements of win-win cooperation, the gas, oil, and energy sectors of Bangladesh can incur more investments from China. Chinese entrepreneurs can also invest in sectors like tourism and hospitality, river dredging, automobiles, agriculture and irrigation, and building airports, highways, and railways.
They can also benefit from investments in some growing sectors such as IT, ship-building, agro-based industries, leather and leather products, pharmaceuticals, ceramics, frozen fish, plastic, furniture, home textile, and jute and jute products.
The successes of the partnership between Bangladesh and China in the fight against the pandemic have created broader avenues for the two strategic partners to navigate through under their win-win cooperation policy.
- Haralal Roy is a journalist