At the kind invitation of President Abdul Hamid, I will pay a state visit to the beautiful country of Bangladesh in this golden harvest season of autumn. It has been six years since my last trip to this country and I look forward to meeting friends both old and new and discussing with them how China and Bangladesh can work together for common development.
Bangladesh is a fascinating and promising land. It is where the Padma, Jamuna and Meghna rivers flow into the sea. Its vast expanse of fertile fields which normally have the color of emerald green become a sea of golden yellow at the time of harvest. Endowed with rich natural resources, this land is home to a hard-working and talented nation and a time-honored and splendid culture. In fact, famous poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote many of his most notable works in Bengali.
Bangladesh is a land filled with hope. Since its independence, Bangladesh has come a long way. With strenuous efforts, it has started from scratch and successfully met the livelihood needs of its 160 million population, contributing significantly to global poverty reduction. In recent years, by seizing the opportunities of economic globalization and focusing on reform and development, Bangladesh has kept its economy growing at above 6% and made steady progress in industrialization and urbanization. Bangladesh is well on track to achieve Vision 2021 and become a middle-income country.
The people of China and Bangladesh have been good neighbors and friends since ancient times. Stories of our friendship and exchange witnessed by the Southern Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road throughout the millennia are still being told today. Eminent Chinese monks Faxian and Xuanzang travelled west for Buddhist scriptures. Atiśa Dipankara Shrijnana, a Bengali religious master, spread Buddhism in China. They were the pioneers of our cultural exchange. Famous navigator Zheng He of the Ming Dynasty visited Bengal twice. According to his description, “This is a richly endowed and teeming land with lovely people and fertile fields.” Believed by the Chinese then to be a qilin (an auspicious mythical animal), the giraffe that the Bengali king gave to the Ming emperor brought much excitement to the court and general public in China.
More recently, having endured repeated wars and incessant poverty, our peoples fought tenaciously for national independence and liberation, strove for development and progress and forged unshakable trust and friendship in the process. In the 1950s and 1960s, Premier Zhou Enlai visited Dhaka twice and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited China twice. The seed of friendship was thus planted by the veteran leaders of our two countries long before diplomatic ties were established. It has now grown into a giant tree with deep roots and rich fruits.
As a Chinese proverb goes, “Only friendships built on sincerity can last long.” Since the establishment of diplomatic ties 41 years ago, China has always regarded Bangladesh as its true friend and partner for development. China highly values its relations with Bangladesh. We firmly support each other on issues concerning each other's core interests. Successive Chinese and Bangladeshi leaders have maintained sound interactions at bilateral and multilateral events and provided positive guidance to the growth of bilateral relations. In September 2015, I had a good meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in New York on the margins of the UN summits marking its 70th anniversary. We agreed to expand cooperation across the board, jointly advance the Belt and Road initiative and the BCIM Economic Corridor and take bilateral relations to a new height.
With the unremitting efforts of our two peoples, China-Bangladesh practical cooperation has produced fruitful results. China is now the largest trading partner of Bangladesh and Bangladesh China's third largest trading partner and third largest project contract market in South Asia. Bilateral trade soared from US$900 million in 2000 to US$14.7 billion in 2015, registering an annual increase of around 20%. Jute products from Bangladesh are increasingly popular in the Chinese market. Chinese companies have built the Shahjalal Fertilizer Factory, the most advanced modern fertilizer plant in Bangladesh, the Bangabandhu International Conference Center, the largest one in Bangladesh, and are now building the Padma Bridge, the dream bridge of the Bangladeshi people. As a matter of fact, one can find Chinese and Bangladeshi people together making tireless and pioneering efforts in many sectors of Bangladesh such as transportation, electricity, energy and telecommunications. One of the first batch of projects financed by loans from the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is the Power Grid Network Strengthening Project in Bangladesh, which will benefit tens of millions of rural residents. We have also made significant progress in our cooperation in defense, security, education, culture and other fields.
Both China and Bangladesh are developing countries with a huge population. Our national conditions have a lot in common and our development goals are well-aligned. The “Sonar Bangla” dream of national strength and prosperity is in perfect harmony with the Chinese dream of great national renewal. The Belt and Road initiative put forward by China heralds new opportunities for win-win cooperation between our two countries. Bangladesh, with its favorable geographic location and huge population, market potential and cooperation space, is an indispensable partner for China to advance the Belt and Road initiative and production capacity cooperation in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.
During this visit, I look forward to working with Bangladeshi leaders to further grow our bilateral relations, identify key areas of cooperation, advance exchanges and cooperation in various fields and bring China-Bangladesh relations to a new level.
— We need to step up political communication for greater mutual trust. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman put forward the vision of “friendship to all, malice to none”. China will always be Bangladesh's trustworthy friend and partner. Our two sides should, from a strategic perspective, strengthen high-level exchanges and top-level planning, cement traditional friendship and political ties, set more ambitious goals and build a better framework for our bilateral relations and lay a solid foundation for lasting friendship and all-round cooperation.
— We need to align our development strategies for win-win outcomes. There is huge potential and complementarity in our cooperation. China is ready to synergize its 13th Five-Year Plan with Bangladesh's Seventh Five-Year Plan with a view to leveraging our respective comparative advantages, increasing economic exchanges and trade, building key projects in areas such as infrastructure, production capacity, energy, electricity, transportation, information, telecommunications and agriculture, strengthening practical cooperation under the BCIM Economic Corridor and delivering to our people tangible benefits of our cooperation.
— We need to enhance South-South cooperation for common development. China stands ready to offer more assistance and support to Bangladesh to the best of its capability, enhance mutual assistance and cooperation with Bangladesh in areas such as disaster prevention and mitigation, vocational training, medical and health-care services, climate change and women and children, work together with Bangladesh to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and make China-Bangladesh cooperation a fine example of South-South cooperation.
— We need to build a bridge of friendship for greater affinity and mutual understanding. Friendship between our two countries dates back a long time. In fact, both the Chinese and Bangladeshi people drink water from the same river,known as Yarlung Zangbo River in China and Jamuna River in Bangladesh. China will work to increase exchanges and mutual learning between the Chinese and Bangladeshi culture so as to bring our people closer to each other. It is important that we facilitate exchanges and cooperation in areas such as education, media, think tanks, tourism and youth and at the sub-national level so that more of our people will be mobilized to support closer ties between China and Bangladesh.
I believe with the joint efforts of our two peoples, China-Bangladesh cooperation will bear even more golden fruits.