China and Other Asian Nations

China and Other Asian Nations

China firmly supported Pakistan during Bangladesh's war of independence, and for several years thereafter it remained, along with Pakistan, hostile to the new state. In the years immediately following independence, Bangladesh was close to India and the Soviet Union--two foes of China--and as a result it was grouped with them by Beijing as an enemy state. In 1972, for example, a Chinese veto blocked Bangladesh's entry into the UN, but by the mid-1970s China and Bangladesh had developed proper relations. When Pakistan formally recognized Bangladesh in 1974, the Chinese were able to move closer to Bangladesh without antagonizing their ally. After Mujib's death in 1975, when Bangladesh distanced itself from India and the Soviets, it left the camp of China's adversaries. A preliminary agreement to establish relations in late 1975 led to an exchange of diplomatic missions in 1976. The trend in China toward a more open foreign policy during the 1970s also paralleled the Bangladeshi move toward neutralism under Zia, who visited Beijing in 1977.

By the 1980s, the domestic and foreign policies of China and Bangladesh had become somewhat similar. The governing parties of both countries opposed ultra-left and ultra-right political systems, while at the same time opposing "bourgeois" economics. Each country called for an international dialogue on debt problems between the developed and developing nations, and each expressed concern over Soviet policies in Afghanistan and Cambodia. By the mid-1980s, China had become the staunchest international friend of Bangladesh, cementing the relationship with numerous trade and cultural agreements, construction projects, and military transfers. In addition, Ershad was warmly received during his visit to Beijing in July 1987.

Friendly political relations with Japan and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) accompanied steadily increasing economic ties with both nations. Bilateral trade and joint economic projects with South Korea increased during the late 1980s. Japan was a prominent source of economic aid as early as 1973, when Mujib traveled to Tokyo to conclude arrangements for a substantial loan and to discuss trade issues. By 1980 Japan had become the largest aid donor to Bangladesh. After the devastating floods of 1988, Japan was a major relief contributor, providing an emergency contribution for food assistance of US$13 million.

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