Due to its geo-political context and favourable location, Bangladesh, the most rapidly emerging economy in South Asia, may become the key battleground in the competition between the superpowers in the coming years, predicts a recent study report.
The study made the prediction after reviewing India’s recent rise, Sino-US tensions in the South China Sea and recent geopolitical trends.
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This study, titled “The Belt and Road Reboot”, was conducted by Aiddata, a research lab of William and Mary, a US-based premier public research university widely recognised for its outstanding academic reputation. The study report was released last Monday (November 6).
“China’s rapidly growing influence in South and Southeast Asia is going to bring forth a favourable situation for the development of Bangladesh. As a result of the growing competition between the US and China in the Indo-Pacific region, a new horizon of economic development will be opened for Dhaka in the coming days,” says the study reports.
Bangladesh, Zambia and Argentina have been used as case studies in the study that mainly evaluated China’s global flagship programme Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Sheikh Hasina to win next election: Aiddata Study
The Aiddata study also predicted that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is going to win the next national election due in the first week of January 2024.
Observing that the country’s main opposition parties are now totally disorganised and voices in civil society are in favour of the ruling government, the study report says, “Considering the overall situation, it is predicted that Sheikh Hasina will win the next election.”
“Prior to any election, highly visible physical infrastructures demonstrate how much development the politicians have achieved after coming to power,” says the study, needless to say referring to the recent completion of a number of mega projects in Bangladesh including Padma Bridge, Dhaka Metro Rail and Third terminal of Dhaka airport.
Beijing now Dhaka’s largest development partner
“Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Beijing’s annual international development finance commitments have not plummeted to nearly zero,” the Aiddata study said, adding, “It remains the world’s single largest official source of international development finance. China’s aid and credit commitments to low and middle-income countries are now hovering around $80 billion a year. The United States, on the other hand, spends about $60 billion a year in development funding.”
According to the report, from March 1971 to 2008, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom were at the top of the list of countries providing foreign aid and loans to Bangladesh. But since then, Beijing pledged $17.5 billion in grants and loans, making it Dhaka’s single largest development partner after the BRI was launched in 2013. The projects were largely focused on power plants, transmission lines, highways, and bridges.
What to do for future economic growth
According to the study, increasing competition between the US and China in the Indo-Pacific region is providing opportunities for Dhaka’s economic growth. However, the industrial sector of Bangladesh needs to be diversified through new competitive industries along with textiles. This will require further investment, exchange of skills and assurance over the global supply of goods.
The strong trade ties with Bangladesh and strong alliance with India will pave the way for the US in the region’s power competition, the report says.
On the other hand, Bangladesh can increase its economic prosperity by deepening trade relations with China, establishing a planned rail link through Myanmar and creating employment, it adds.
As per the recent study conducted by Aiddata, Bangladesh stands at the forefront of a new economic battleground, fueled by its strategic location and the intensifying competition between superpowers. While the study predicts Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s victory in the upcoming 2024 election, it also underscores the need for Bangladesh to diversify its industrial sector, seize economic opportunities arising from the US-China rivalry, and strategically navigate its trade relations to ensure sustained growth in the challenging geopolitical landscape. The study sheds light on the pivotal role Bangladesh might play in the evolving dynamics of global power competition.