Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming has emphasized that China never takes India as a “strategic rival” rather they consider India a good neighbour of China.
“I would say, we never take India as a strategic rival. We still hope that the China-India relationship can be improved. So, never imagine that China would like to have any hostile or rival attitude to India. That’s not the case,” said the envoy.
He made the remarks while responding to a question at an online symposium titled “Bangladesh-China Relations: Prognosis for the Future” hosted by the Cosmos Foundation and premiered on its Facebook page on Thursday evening.
Cosmos Foundation Chairman Enayetullah Khan delivered the opening remarks at the event while Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, renowned scholar-diplomat and adviser on foreign affairs to the last caretaker government, chaired the session.
Ambassador (retd) Tariq A. Karim, CPD Distinguished Fellow Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya, former Foreign Secretary Shamsher M. Chowdhury, Assistant Researcher of the Institute for International Studies at Yunnan University Dr Zou Yingmeng, Assistant Research Fellow at China Institute of International Studies Dr Ning Shengnan, former Ambassador Serajul Islam and Dhaka University Professor Dr Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir comprised the panel of discussants.
The Chinese Ambassador mentioned a number of platforms where the two countries are working together. “We’re still working very, very well together, very closely.”
Ambassador Li, as the Chinese Ambassador to India’s neighboring country - Bangladesh, hoped that this China-India relationship would be improved more in the future.
Historically, they envoy said, they have more than 2000 to 3000 years of good relationship with India, and any Chinese intellectual like himself has a special feeling for Indian culture.
“Any Chinese intellectual, who is well-educated, would have a special feeling. A good feeling, towards India - that is something untold publicly probably,” he said.
Enayetullah Khan fondly recalled interviewing the present Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing back in 2004 (when he was the Vice-Foreign Minister) when Minister Yi talked about new foreign policy which is good neighborly relations with their neighbors.
“I asked, where does Bangladesh stand? His immediate answer was – Bangladesh could be the bridge between India and China,” Khan said, going down his memory lane.
As one of the discussants raised the Quad issue - the 4-country alliance between the USA, Australia, Japan and India, that is seen as anti-Beijing. The Ambassador took the opportunity to explain what he said on the issue of Bangladesh possibly being invited to join, at a particular programme.
“As an Ambassador to Bangladesh, the first foreign policy lesson I learned is that Bangladesh adheres to the idea of "friendship to all and malice to none." So, I have full confidence that Bangladesh will not be part of that small clique,” he said.
“But when I was asked if you would like to see or do you think this is a good idea for Bangladesh to do so, of course, I would say no. What else can you expect from me? Should I say yes? That would have been ridiculous. So that is the story about Quad,” Ambassador Li added.
He said he has full confidence and China has full confidence in Bangladesh that it would never take part in any small clique, especially involving military or security purposes. “This is the history that already taught us that Bangladesh would never do that.”
The example of Sri Lanka came up in the context of a country that fell into a “debt trap” as a result of public investment projects financed by China.
Ambassador Li, who delivered the keynote address at the symposium, however said there is no proven evidence that China created any 'debt trap' in any country, including in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
“I think you have an excellent system and you’ve excellent officials and Ministers to take care of that. So, never worry about that,” said the Ambassador.
Referring to an article he read regarding Sri Lanka's debt situation, the Chinese envoy said the total Chinese debt accounts for only less than 8 percent of the whole debt of that country and of this 8 percent Chinese debts, much less is related to the Belt and Road projects.
The Ambassador also said there is governmental to governmental debt, which is normally a soft, concessional loan with a very low interest and for a very long period of time.
Dr. Debapriya of CPD said China has emerged as a big financial investor in Bangladesh involving major projects and those projects have major infrastructural implications.