China and Bangladesh are good neighbors and good partners. Especially since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, the friendship between the two countries has been fully reflected. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Bangladesh in 1975, the bilateral trade volume has grown rapidly in the context of bilateral friendship. In the year when diplomatic relations were established, the bilateral trade volume between China and Bangladesh was only US$ 3.06 million. While in 2019, the volume has reached US$18.33 billion, a dramatic rise compared with that of the initial time.
At the same time, China has become the largest trading partner of Bangladesh, and Bangladesh the second largest trading partner of China in South Asia. The trade volume between the two countries has maintained a relatively high level of growth in the past five years, with a growing rate of 24.6%, highlighting the rapid development of economic cooperation between China and Bangladesh.
China-Bangladesh economic cooperation has been further consolidated under the Belt and Road Initiative, where the two countries provide each other with goods and services of excellent quality and reasonable price, and truly bring a sense of gain to the two peoples. To fulfill the promise made by President Xi to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, China is granting 97% zero tariff treatment of Bangladesh products to Chinese market from July 1, 2020, which is becoming a landmark starting point and new opportunity to promote the bilateral trade development.
With the sweeping effect of COVID-19 pandemic throughout the world, the world trade has been suffering a heavy blow, and the trade between China and Bangladesh has also been effected. According to statistics from China, the trade volume from January to April of 2020 between China and Bangladesh was USD 5.02 billion, 16% down comparing with the same period last year. It’s high time that the 97% zero tariff treatment come out, which will definitely help the trade between our two countries to recover from the COVID-19 trauma, and enhance export from Bangladesh to China so as to alleviate the trade imbalances.
China encourages Bangladesh trade companies to make full use of the 97% zero tariff treatment to expand market share in China and be of positive effect to the improvement of the economic and social development of Bangladesh as well as the well beings of the Bangladesh people.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic around the world has caused difficulties to the economic development of Bangladesh, it has not changed the fact that the working-age population is abundant, the demographic dividend is yet to be fully realized and the industrial growth potentiality is huge.
With annual GDP growth of more than 6% for many years, Bangladesh will remain one of the most dynamic economies in South Asia and the world. Garment export industry is the biggest advantageous industry of Bangladesh, accounting for the majority of the country's exports. In 2019, China imported textile, clothing and accessories from Bangladesh amounting to USD 590 million, accounting for about 57% of the total import.
The export potential of Bangladesh lies in the need to develop manufacturing industry, break through the limitations of its own industrial structure, continuously improve the quality of export products and shift to higher value-added exports.
Over the past 40 years, Bangladesh garment manufacturing industry has made great progress, and its export volume has increased significantly. However, it still has great potential in terms of the types of export commodities, the improvement of production efficiency, the diversification of export commodities, the improvement of technical content of products and the transfer of products with higher added value. In addition, Bangladesh is rich in agricultural products, livestock products, tropical fruits and seafood. Through industrial upgrading, expanding production scale and improving product quality, Bangladesh has the full potential to continuously expand its exports to China.
China has a large market with a population of more than 1.4 billion. China sincerely opens its market to other countries. In 2019, China's total trade value of goods is about US$ 4.5 trillion, of which imports account for about US$ 2.2 trillion. It is estimated that in the next 15 years, China’s imports will exceed US$30 trillion. China's import will continue to maintain great potential, providing a strong guarantee for China's economic development and a huge market for high-quality products of Bangladesh.
It will be a win-win cooperation for China and Bangladesh to fully explore China's import capability, catch up with the demand of the Chinese market, and strengthen bilateral trade. The continuous development of bilateral trade will also provide a solid foundation for the realization of Bangladesh’s development visions such as “Sonar Bangla” and “Digital Bangladesh”.
Deepening cooperation in bilateral trade between China and Bangladesh is an inevitable choice to benefit the national economies and livelihoods, enhance the friendship between the two countries and effectively respond to the outbreak of the pandemic.
The difficulties caused by the pandemic are just temporary, while the friendship and trade development between China and Bangladesh would be long-lasting. With the implementation of 97% zero tariff treatment, China-Bangladesh economic and trade cooperation will definitely enter a significant new stage.
H. E. Mr Li Jiming is the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Bangladesh
In his written message to the High-level Video Conference on Belt and Road International Cooperation, held in Beijing on 18 June, Chinese President Xi Jinping rightly pointed out that “COVID-19 has made many things clear to us. For one thing, all nations have their destinies closely connected, and humanity is in fact a community with a shared future.” This conference is a coordinated international attempt to tame the virus through global efforts, but more importantly, to chart out a way towards economic recovery and social development under the BRI framework in the post COVID-19 era.
Since President Xi Jinping proposed the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, thanks to the active participation and strong support of global partners like Bangladesh, the initiative has been expanding in both depth and substance, evolving into the largest platform for international cooperation. In the spirit of multilateralism, openness and people centered development, the BRI created a platform for all participants to act as equal partners on the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits.
Over the past year and more, despite headwinds like COVID-19 and a sluggish global economy, Belt and Road cooperation has pressed ahead against all odds, making new, encouraging progress on the way to building a community with a shared future for mankind. In the 21st century, when multilateralism and interdependence have become a reality, no country could cut loose from the rest of the world. So the best practice would be to embrace international cooperation in a way that promises win-win cooperation and benefits for all. For this, I believe the BRI provides the best model.
It is a model of cooperation for meeting challenges through unity. In the face of COVID-19, BRI partners have extended a helping hand to each other. Bangladesh and many partner countries lent valuable support to China. China, on its part, provided assistance to 122 BRI partners to support their response to the virus, and sent medical teams to at least 25 countries to share its experience without reservation. On the economic and social fronts, China is working with other international players on financial and economic arrangements to help relevant countries to tide over the potential economic fallout, and the BRI countries are sure to be the first to benefit from them. In Bangladesh, we are proud to be the only country that operated regular international flights for nearly 3 months after the initial hit of the pandemic locally, which strengthened the security of supply chains and enabled necessary flow of personnel and logistics at a challenging time.
Equally importantly, it is a model of health for protecting people's safety and well-being. The BRI partners have been sharing experience in COVID-19 response, and making concerted efforts for the assistance and provision of medical supplies. China will continue to support WHO in playing a leading role in coordinating the global response to COVID-19, explore the establishment of regional response liaison mechanisms for public health emergencies, and protect the safety of those working for the Belt and Road and other cooperation projects. In the development and application of vaccines, China will give positive consideration to the needs of Belt and Road partners, and support technical exchanges and cooperation through such platforms as the Alliance of International Science Organizations in the Belt and Road Region.
The BRI is also a model of recovery for restoring economic and social activity. Under the initiative, China and the partner countries are accelerating the building of a global partnership on connectivity, keeping industrial and supply chains stable, stepping up policy coordination, and getting key Belt and Road infrastructure projects restarted. It is a phenomenal achievement that between China and Bangladesh, despite the pandemic, all our key cooperation projects including the Padma Bridge, the Padma Bridge Rail Link, the Payra Thermal Power Plant and the Karnaphuli Tunnel are still under orderly implementation, as a result of the good coordination between our two sides. Besides, we are also actively exploring the possibility to establish fast-track lanes for cross-border flows of people and goods between China and Bangladesh, so as to minimize the future impact of COVID-19 on our bilateral communication.
By and large, the BRI is a model of growth for unlocking development potential. With new industries and business models sprouting in the course of COVID-19 response, China continues to work with all partners to discover innovative approaches to strengthen policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and closer people-to-people ties, in order to better unlock each country’s development potential and build a road of green development, of health cooperation, of innovation and of peace.
In the case of Bangladesh, China just offered zero tariff treatment to 97% of Bangladesh’s export by adding 5161 more items to the existing list of 3095 duty-free products, effective from July 1st. It will certainly render Bangladeshi products more competitive in a market of 1.4 billion population, benefit both Bangladeshi exporters and Chinese consumers alike, and enhance our trade connectivity. It is a result of good policy coordination, and an initiative well supported by our infrastructure connectivity.
The financial connectivity between China and Bangladesh is steadily improving with our partnerships in organizations such as the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Dhaka Stock Exchange.
Finally, for people-to-people connectivity, China and Bangladesh have always shared a brotherly connection inherited from our friendly traditions, which gets even deeper through our joint fight against the common enemy of the coronavirus. Our mutual cross-border visits never came to a total stop even at the toughest moment of the fight. As the situation improves and travel restriction eases, we are bound to witness a rebound and further growth in people-to-people exchanges at all social levels.
As the 2nd largest economy in South Asia and with a vibrant young population, Bangladesh has unparalleled development potential in the region. And as a good friend, a strategic cooperation partner and an equal member of the region, China will always remain highly committed to working side by side with Bangladesh in BRI projects and all other areas for the betterment of our people. Being a peace-loving nation since ancient times, China has always envisioned a world where everyone “seeks harmony without uniformity”, for “peace is of paramount importance”. Together through the Belt and Road, we will build a community with a shared future where all could thrive in peace.
H.E. Li Jiming is the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Bangladesh
The thing about a global crisis like COVID-19 is that people often think of it as a “great equalizer”, it affects the whole world and somehow makes everyone suffer equally. When people living in peaceful countries were hit by COVID-19, they thought that they finally experienced the suffering they always thought was reserved for people who live in less fortunate countries who experience this regularly. They could not be more wrong.
While, of course, COVID-19 hit all countries, and its impact on people’s health and livelihoods has been devastating, not everyone was affected equally. I’m not talking about the health infrastructure and available services that greatly differ from one country to another, of course plays a big role. I’m talking about the additional devastation brought on by a health crisis to an already devastated population living in war. The unspoken dangers of a global crisis are that it detracts from that awareness. And within that unmitigated disaster, lies an even more dangerous threat: sexual violence. This threat is all the more insidious as its danger comes from the fact that it’s silent and its victims helpless, not only due to a lack of support and services, but due to a lack of attention to their suffering. Imagine you are a girl, or woman, living in a war-torn country that is experiencing the effects of COVID-19. Now imagine you’re also experiencing sexual violence.
This crisis has only recently attracted worldwide attention following the global #metoo movement and the awarding of 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to Yazidi activist and sexual violence survivor Nadia Murad, and Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege for his commitment in treating women who were raped by armed rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. An attention that deserves real action, given its magnitude and consequences.
I think of sexual violence in many ways similar to a global pandemic like COVID-19 in that it targets women, girls, men and boys regardless of their age, nationality, gender, or ethnicity.
In Bangladesh, like in many other countries, sexual violence has been a recurring theme since the Independence war of 1971, which saw countless victims of this heinous and indefensible crime. Just like in all conflicts and wars, the number of victims of this appalling crime will likely never be accurately measured, as sexual violence is most often associated with feelings of shame by the individual and blame and rejection by families and communities. This impedes victims from reporting or disclosing what happened, afraid of retaliation and stigmatization. People who are exposed to sexual violence carry the mental and physical scars of their experience throughout their lives.
This is why it is essential to actively support victims of sexual violence. Health services, mental health support, and economic support are among the priority assistance needed.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has been on the frontline of providing support to victims of sexual violence in the aftermath of many crises. Everywhere in the world, we operate in conflict areas under the assumption that sexual violence is happening, regardless of whether or not we have concrete information about its prevalence.
This allows us to prepare an appropriate and quality response to the needs of survivors. This approach, called the reverse burden of proof, is key. Because of the silent nature of this threat, we consider that its invisibility does not imply its inexistence.
During COVID-19, the needs of sexual violence victims should remain on the forefront of humanitarian response. For this reason, ICRC continues to provide life-saving health services at community level, supporting health posts in the camps and in the emergency department of Cox’s Bazar hospital.
Other organizations are involved in supporting victims of sexual violence, and we ensure coordination with them. Our operations are survivor-centered. We work with survivors to provide support that responds to the needs that they express.
Bangladesh has committed to combating sexual violence by adopting a National Action Plan for the implementation of the international Women, Peace and Security Agenda last November. Bangladesh is among the biggest contributors to UN peace keeping missions in war zones. It is therefore paramount for Bangladesh to have in place mechanisms to prevent and respond to these crimes, as well as prosecute alleged violations committed within and outside the country.
We stand by Bangladesh to combat sexual violence in all its forms and to serve victims of this crime. We offer our support to improve peacekeepers’ ability to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence. We also provide training to Law Enforcement Agencies which aims to promote the respect of International Law.
Most importantly, we stand with all victims of sexual violence and work incessantly to prevent these crimes from happening worldwide, in peace and war times and during COVID-19. But we need your help.
Today, on the International Day on the Elimination of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, and every day, we call upon you to speak out against this inhumane and preventable crime. Survivors of sexual violence must be heard and respected by all, as they are agents for change themselves and for their communities.
Adam Aboshahba is the Protection Coordinator of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Bangladesh
A desperate yearning for a long-departed mother. Reaching deep from the bowels of fragile humanity. Grasping for breath. Begging for mercy. The entire world heard the tragic cry. The family of nations saw his face pounded against the harsh tarmac. Unbearable pain in broad daylight. A neck buckling under the knee and weight of history. A gentle giant, desperately clinging to life. Yearning to breathe free. Till his last breath.
As senior African leaders in the United Nations, the last few weeks of protests at the killing of George Floyd in the hands of police, have left us all outraged at the injustice of racism that continues to be pervasive in our host country and across the world.
Not enough can ever be said about the deep trauma and inter-generational suffering that has resulted from the racial injustice perpetrated through centuries, particularly against people of African descent. To merely condemn expressions and acts of racism is not enough.
We must go beyond and do more.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stated that “we need to raise our voices against all expressions of racism and instances of racist behaviour”. Following the killing of Mr. George Floyd, the cry ‘Black Lives Matter’ resounding across the United States and throughout the world is more than a slogan. In fact, they do not only matter, they are quintessential to the fulfillment of our common human dignity.
Now is the time to move from words to deeds.
We owe it to George Floyd and to all victims of racial discrimination and police brutality to dismantle racist institutions. As leaders in the multilateral system, we believe it is incumbent upon us to speak for those whose voices have been silenced, and advocate for effective responses that would contribute to fight systemic racism, a global scourge that has been perpetuated over centuries.
The shocking killing of George Floyd is rooted in a wider and intractable set of issues that will not disappear if we ignore them. It is time for the United Nations to step up and act decisively to help end systemic racism against people of African descent and other minority groups “in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion” as stipulated in Article 1 of the UN Charter. Indeed, the foundation of the United Nations is the conviction that all human beings are equal and entitled to live without fear of persecution.
It was at the height of the civil rights movement in the United States and during the emergence of post-colonial independent African nations joining the United Nations, that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) came into force in 1969.
This was a pivotal time in history. The collapse of apartheid in South Africa, driven in part by the United Nations, was one of the Organization’s proudest achievements.
The human rights and dignity of black people in Africa as well as across the African diaspora resonated as a powerful signal to future generations, that the United Nations would neither turn a blind eye on racial discrimination nor tolerate injustice and bigotry under the cover of unjust laws. In this new era, the United Nations must in the same vein use its influence to once again remind us of the unfinished business of eradicating racism and urge the community of nations to remove the stain of racism on humanity.
We welcome the initiatives by the Secretary-General to strengthen the global anti-racism discourse, which would address systemic racism at all levels, as well as its impact wherever it exists, including in the United Nations Organization itself.
If we are to lead, we must do so by example. To initiate and sustain real change, we also must have an honest assessment of how we uphold the UN Charter within our institution.
Our expression of solidarity is well in keeping with our responsibilities and obligations as international civil servants to stand up and speak out against oppression. As leaders we share the core beliefs and the values and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations that do not leave us the option to keep silent.
We commit to harnessing our expertise, leadership and mandates to address the root causes and structural changes that must be implemented if we are to bring an end to racism.
Almost 500 years after the revolting Transatlantic trade of Africans began, we have arrived at a critical point in the arc of the moral universe as we approach in 2024 the end of the International Decade for People of African Descent, a mere four years away. Let us use our collective voice to fulfill the aspirations of our communities that the United Nations will wield its moral power as an institution to effect global change. Let us use our voice to contribute towards the realization of Africa’s own transformative vision contained in Agenda 2063 which is consistent with the world’s Agenda 2030.
Africa is the cradle of humanity and the forerunner of human civilizations. Africa as a continent must play a definitive role if the world is to achieve sustainable development and peace. That was the dream of the founders of the Organization of African Unity, that was also the strong belief of prominent leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and eminent intellectuals such as Cheikh Anta Diop.
Let us never forget the words of President Nelson Mandela: "To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity."
Let us ever bear in mind the admonition of civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer: “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free”, who was echoed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
Their words were later embodied into the rainbow of the diverse nation of South Africa, as spelled by the peacemaker Archbishop Desmond Tutu when he stated that ``Black liberation is an absolutely indispensable prerequisite to white liberation - nobody will be free until we all are free.”
All signatories listed below are senior UN officials who hold the rank of Under Secretary General. They signed this Op Ed in their personal capacity:
Tedros ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS
Mahamat Saleh ANNADIF
Mohamed Ibn CHAMBAS
François Lounceny FALL
Bishar A. HUSSEIN
Jeremiah Nyamane MAMABOLO
Moussa D. OUMAROU
Catching the world by surprise, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit over 215 countries and regions, affected more than seven billion people and claimed over 400,000 precious lives. The spread of the COVID-19 around the world poses a grave challenge to human society. It seriously threatens the safety and health of the people, strikes a heavy blow to global production and demand, and severely undermines the global economy and social development. This public health crisis is a major test for all countries of the world. It is living proof that the world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century and that, in this world, we all belong to a community with a shared future.
A friend in need is a friend indeed. At the early stage of this crisis, the people of every walk of life in Bangladesh extended their support in various forms at the critical moment of China's fight against the COVID-19, which demonstrated the profound friendship of the Bangladeshi people toward the Chinese people. In February, Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wrote a letter to President Xi Jinping in an expression of her generosity, sympathy and support to China, where she assured that the people and the government of Bangladesh are with the friendly people and the government of China to overcome the crisis. Such expressions of friendship will always be remembered and cherished by the Chinese side.
Facing this unknown, unexpected, and devastating disease, China launched a resolute battle to prevent and control its spread. The government of China released a White Paper titled Fighting Covid-19: China in Action that details the endeavors of the Chinese people in fighting this tough battle. Making people’s lives and health its first priority, China adopted extensive, stringent, and thorough containment measures, and has for now succeeded in cutting all channels for the transmission of the virus. 1.4 billion Chinese people have exhibited enormous tenacity and solidarity in erecting a defensive rampart that demonstrates their power in the face of such natural disasters.
However, as the pandemic continues ravaging the world, the situation in Bangladesh remains grave. As a true and grateful friend, China grieves for those who have sacrificed their lives in the fight, and rushes to offer its best help. On the evening of 20th May, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina spoke on the phone. The two leaders expressed appreciation for the mutual support between China and Bangladesh both before and during the COVID-19, reaffirmed our common commitment to a coordinated global response to the pandemic, and pledged to further our cooperation in addressing the situation and areas beyond. This conversation demonstrates the firm determination of the two countries to join hands to overcome the current difficulties. And it is of high significance as it laid down the guidelines to advance our joint response in fighting the COVID-19 as well as strengthening our strategic partnership of cooperation in a post-COVID-19 era.
During the conversation, President Xi reaffirmed China's firm support to Bangladesh in fighting COVID-19 and its readiness to help where it can in light of the actual needs of Bangladesh, including sending a medical expert team to Bangladesh. And this very team will arrive in Bangladesh today, with hands-on experience and critical medical supplies for curbing the COVID-19 transmission and treating the patients. It is believed to be the first official foreign medical team in Bangladesh to assist in the fight against the COVID-19. This is also a vivid example of the fine tradition of mutual assistance between Bangladesh and China.
Having forged the idea that the world is a global community of shared future, and believing that it must act as a responsible member, China has fought shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world. On May 18th, President Xi Jinping made a statement at the Virtual Event of the Opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly, where he mentioned that the history of human civilization is one of fighting diseases and tiding over disasters. The virus does not respect borders. Nor is race or nationality relevant in the face of the disease. Confronted by the ravages of the COVID-19, the international community has not flinched. The people of all countries have tackled the virus head-on. Around the world, people have looked out for each other and pulled together as one. With love and compassion, we have forged extraordinary synergy in the fight against the COVID-19.
And in this event, President Xi also announced that China would provide US$2 billion over two years to help with the COVID-19 response and with the economic and social development in affected countries, especially developing countries, and would contribute to ensuring the COVID-19 vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries as a global public good when vaccine development and deployment in China would be available. I believe all these practical measures will benefit Bangladeshi people in the near future. As a responsible major country, China will continue to cooperate with its best ability with the international community to prevail over the global fight against the COVID-19.
Solidarity and cooperation are the most powerful weapons for mankind to defeat the virus. The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis facing the mankind, and thus every country shares the same destiny. No country can guarantee its absolute security in public health alone until all countries are safe. The international community, therefore, needs solidarity and cooperation more than ever.
China is ready to continue to work with the international community to support WHO's leadership in the global response, promote solidarity and cooperation among the international community, safeguard the Earth, build a global community with a shared health for all, and win the battle against the virus at an early date.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Bangladesh. As a Chinese proverb goes, “Only friendships built on sincerity can last long.” Over the past 45 years, the two countries have shown mutual respect, understanding, and support in their relationship. Pragmatic cooperation in a wide range of fields has been greatly expanded. The economies of China and Bangladesh are closely linked and highly complementary to each other. There are huge spaces for cooperation in public health, trade, investment, and engineering contracts between the two countries. The cooperation between China and Bangladesh not only benefits the peoples of the two countries but also benefits regional development and stability. China will always be the most reliable partner of Bangladesh and a firm builder and implementer of major infrastructure projects for the Belt and Road connectivity.
Looking ahead, we will work hand in hand with the government of Bangladesh and wider sectors of Bangladesh society to contain the pandemic, to overcome the temporary difficulties, and to jointly write a new chapter of bilateral cooperation. The virus cannot defeat humanity. We will eventually prevail over the stealthy foe.
Li Jiming is the current Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Bangladesh.