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A tale of critical discourse analysis between Bangladesh & China

Muhammad Anisur Rahman Akanda : Sino-Bangladesh relation has a tall tale of critical discourse analysis, which is necessary for the peoples of both countries to restore the spirits of the modern diplomatic relations. As we celebrate the 42th anniversary of the modern diplomatic ties between Bangladesh and China in October 2017, Critical discourse analysis on the historical review will fill us with confidence and great expectations to the future of our two nations, who will join hands and move forward in near future. If relations will more develop, many and more issues will include with this relations. Although their diplomatic relations have been neglected in the country for a long time, their relation is a great tale that started after liberation war.

Very few scholarly books have been written by Bangladeshi and Indian scholars in English, who have adopted the realist approach to study the Sino-Bangladesh relations stressing strategic and economic factors (Begum, 2015:358). It is politically related with the term, International Relations (IR) dated from the time of the Greek historian Thucydides (c. 460–395BC) (Norris, 1929: 179). China, a rising global power, is only 100 miles away from Bangladesh, separated by the Himalayas Mountain (Uddin & Bhuiyan, 2011:1; Sarker, 2014: 73). Bangladesh and China have been maintaining good relations since ancient times (Uddin, 2013: 230). The historical relation was greatly enriched by the contributions of the greatest scholars namely Fa Xian, Xuan Zang, Atish Dipankar and Zheng He (Xianyi, 2010: IV-V; BD-China Embassy, 2017). China established the modern diplomatic ties with Bangladesh in October 1975, and they have promoted their political, economic, diplomatic and military relations, and their relations are mostly mutual trusted & interested (Aneja, 2006: 3). Their diplomatic ties provide them with a number of strategic advantages in addition to economic gains (Ahmed 2013:242). The last four decades was a critical period for Chinese people to seek scientific and sustainable development at national and international levels, with whom, Bangladesh is going ahead with the spirit of the diplomatic ties termed as ‘old tested friendship’.

When Bangladesh got independence in 1971, China (PRC) opposed against independence due to close relations with India, USSR and China-Pakistan-US axis (BIISS, 2013:275). During the War of Independence, there was a political left and political right in Bangladesh. Since the national election 1970, mass media have discussing the dividing line in terms of East Pakistan & West Pakistan. In 1972 China used its veto power against Bangladesh’s UN membership. China stopped opposing UN membership after a treaty between Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India on 28 April 1974. China officially recognized Bangladesh in the United Nations on 31 August 1975. The emergence of establishing diplomatic ties between Bangladesh & China in the October 1975 is widely seen as a reflection against the limited and limiting options of the left-right duality in both countries (Aneja, 2006: 3; Ahmed, 2013:275). Since then, the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and China have been growing very rapidly.

During Ziaur Rahman’s power in 1977, relations between them started to flourish (Bhattachajee, 2014:1). When democracy returned to Bangladesh in 1991, the relations between two remained strong as over (2014: 2). According to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (Ahmed, 2013: 274), China has always maintained friendly relations towards Bangladesh as well as two major political parties (AL, BNP). The constructions of the friendship bridges as well as Bangladesh-China friendship Convention Centre in Dhaka are the most visible results of their modern friendly collaboration (Hossain & Selim, 2006: 339). Since Bangladesh needs to have physical infrastructures to connect areas within the country for faster communication, it can certainly utilize Chinese investment in this area (Begum, 2015:375). The author noted that Chinese investment in 2010 drastically increased to $ 200 million. It is also noted that Bangladesh’s export in China has increased in 2015 (Begum, 2015: 376). Although China overlooks India as the largest trading partner of Bangladesh (Sarkar, 2014: 82), Bangladesh and China have enjoyed a time-tested, all weather friendship (China brief, 2009:10; China Daily, 26 March 2009; Xinhua, 26 June 2009). Furthermore, some social scholars (Diana, 2013; Pandey & Uddin, 2013; Ahmed & Islam, 2013; Parlene, 2013) discuss about South Asian countries’ economic relations with China, India, Pakistan, US, USSR and the Muslim World.

A rising China can be a great patron for BD’s industrialization (Yasinbin, 2012). CPC leader vows to deepen ties with Bangladesh, which is historically a mix of Hindu-Muslim harmony and discord (Xinhua, 21 October 2012). If one looks at the way East Bengal was peopled, which historian Richard Eaton has discussed (Chandra, 2015: 60). China’s rise needs to be studied by all South Asian countries for two reasons: One is led by India, and the other by almost all other countries, including Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan & Bangladesh. It was during the 1970s that early projects were taken to explore the possibility of regional cooperation in South Asia by the European funding agencies (UNDP, ADB) for undertaking research (Chandra, 2015: 182). The Rise of China has become a great factor into the broader regional discourse (Chandra, 2015: 220). This confidence can be seen in engagements between India and China (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar [BCIM] forum), which was initiated by China to expand its Yunnan region to South Asia. Bangladesh and China are now having good relations on a number of sectors relevant to adaptation (CASSLD, 2013:3). Climate change is one of the biggest threats to both countries; therefore, both need to share their adaptation lessons and experiences as well as useful tools, methods and technologies. Both countries have already had a number of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) addressing shared challenges illustrates that this is recognized by both (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2017:3). During the periods (1983-2015), the 70 agreements have been concluded between two countries in different fields. Due to the cultural interactions, many high level state visitors, delegations and groups have exchanged visits during the last 42 years. The Sino-Bangladesh relations have many years and centuries; their bilateral ties have increased over time allowing them to benefit from each other, but many problems both have facing in the 21th century (BIISS, 2013:286; Sarker, 2014:83). The most important problem is the language barriers of two countries, causing the difficulties to transfer knowledge and technology from China to Bangladesh.

Various agreements were signed during the last 42 years. For faster communication, China and Bangladesh have agreed to start a direct air transport route between Dhaka and Beijing via Kunming-Chittagong road link through Myanmar. Up to now the joint committee has had 12 meetings (respectively in 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 2002, 2014 & 2016). In 2002, China and Bangladesh signed an agreement for military training. In 2006, China submitted a report to the United Nations for its exports and imports of major arms for Dhaka, which is emerging as a major buyer of weapons made in China. In 2008, Bangladesh set up an anti-ship missile launch pad near the Chittagong Port with assistance from China. The maiden missile test was performed with a strike range of 120 km from the frigate BNS Osman near Kutubdia Island in the Bay of Bengal on 12 May 2008. BNS Osman commissioned in 1989 is a 1500-ton Chinese built Jianghu class Frigate, and the C-802A missile is a modified version of Chinese Ying Ji-802 with weight reduced from 815 kg to 715 kg in order to increase the strike range from 42 km to 120 km. In November 1979, China and Bangladesh signed the agreement of cooperation on culture. With the bilateral exchanges, many delegations and groups have exchanged visits between two countries. In 1997 there are 18 visits including 97 persons between two countries. In 1998, two countries exchanged totally 7 visits including 47 persons. In 1999, a cultural delegation visited China and signed the 1998-2000 implementation programs for cultural exchanges. China provided as gifts to Bangladesh Chinese historical relics worthy of hundreds of thousands dollars. There were totally 10 visits including 63 persons in the field of culture. Bangladesh and China started to exchange students since 1976. In the academic year (2016-17), there were 48 seats available to Bangladeshi students to study in China under the Chinese Government Scholarship (BD China Embassy, Press Release, 2017). In 1986 Bangladesh provided funds to build the premises for the First Experimental Primary School in Beijing by the name of Sino-Bangladesh Friendship School. Both countries signed the agreement of cooperation on science and technology in March 1978 and renewed in 1990. From 1979 to 1991 two countries held 5 meetings on science and technology. Achievements have been made in bilateral cooperation on flood control and regulation of rivers. In this regard, experts from the water departments of both countries exchanged visits and signed an MOU of technological cooperation for the Brahmaputra River.

China, India, Myanmar and Bangladesh were the active participants in a meeting on February 6-7, 2002. China wants to make a common economic grid circling Myanmar, Thailand, and the Eastern states of India using its Yunnan province. Since Bangladesh is the third largest trade partner of China in South Asia, China has bolstered its economic aid to Bangladesh to reduce trade imbalance. Under the Asia-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (AFTA, 1975), China removed tariff barriers to 84 types of commodities from Bangladesh. China agrees to make joint ventures in trade and commerce under the APTA (2005). With the change of relations, China gave zero-tariff treatment to 4,762 products from Bangladesh, which took effect on July1, 2010 (BIISS, 2013:286).

In the early 21th century, Xi Jinping, 63, the President of China and General Secretary of the Communist Party, wants to revive the myth and build a new Silk Road (One Belt One Road) in large parts along the old trade route (Xinhua & BSS, 14 October 2016). It marks the return of a legend, having linguistic and historical references to “yi dai yi lu,” (a belt, a road). It is a gigantic project covering about 60 countries and half of population in the world. That’s why, China wants to expand trade route and develop infrastructures globally. China heads west and Beijing’s new Silk Road to Europe (the independent, 1 September 2016). Beijing has already allocated $40 billion for the project for building new roads, railroads, pipelines and ports from Lithuanian to the Horn of Africa, Sri Lanka to Israel, and Pakistan to Iran. Two railroad lines lead to Germany, one from Zhengzhou to Hamburg and the other from Chongqing to Duisburg. In order to finance ‘the one belt one road’ project, China has established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). In June 2015, at least 57 countries, including France, Great Britain and Germany, signed the charter of the AIIB, avoiding the wills of Washington, World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In September 2013, President Xi Jinping declared the concept of “one belt one road” in Kazakhstan (the independent, 1 September 2016). The belt includes countries situated on the original Silk Road through Central Asia, West Indies, Middle East and Europe, while the maritime Silk Road is a complementary initiative to enhance diplomatic ties with Southeast Asia, Oceania and North Africa. The western media (AFP, 15 May 2017) reports that China hosts Silk Road summit in shadow of North Korea missile in 2017, asking the question: What is Beijing trying to achieve with its Silk Road plan? Beijing has already deployed officials to materialize the major projects. China is now investing enormous amounts of money in its transit routes toward Central Asia. The economy is growing at 9 percent in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region (Uighurs), where there is a better choice of goods to buy and respect for Islam. China’s investments in developing ports in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar are the main coverage of the belt road project (Aneja, 2006: 7; Chandra, 2015: 181).

With those proposals, China wants to connect with Asian markets and resources. The project will show a strategic Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean and the Asian region, creating strategic space that naturally exists for other countries including the US and Russia. Therefore, the belt road is an ancient concept of the Chinese ideology to enhance regional connectivity with the Silk Road spirit of the countries along the Belt and Road (Islam & Askari, 2015: 18). The word, ‘Belt’ is an overland network bringing together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe, connecting China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea, and also China with South Asia and the Indian Ocean (Islam & Askari, 2015: 23). Similarly, the ‘Road’ is a maritime network designed to link China’s coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and China’s coast to the South Pacific through the South China Sea in another. In an ideal scenario, the new Silk Road can become the biggest economic trade route since the Marshall Plan, with which the United States helped Germany get back on its feet after the Second World War (the independent, 12 June 2015). Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that Beijing aims to solidify its dominant political position with the Silk Road plan. Iran and Turkey strongly support the Silk Road project. The first direct train from China arrived in Tehran in February 2016.

China and Bangladesh have the prospect to build the 900 km Kunming Highway linking Chittagong with Kunming through Myanmar to facilitate greater trade (BIISS, 2013: 279). China appreciated Bangladesh for regional peace, stability and progress in South Asia, including within the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Both recognized that the ‘Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM EC)’ would constitute an important vehicle to increase regional connectivity. Both agreed to a number of aspects on global discourse, including climate change, Post-2015 Development Agenda, energy resources, natural disasters and food security as well as other issues related to the developing countries. In the age of globalization, economic diplomacy may be the key tool for almost every country’s foreign policy. Another reason for this study is to reduce dependency on India. As a neighbor, Bangladesh has bad experiences with India’s hegemony on various issues like border problems and water sharing problems. China may be a good option for Bangladesh to reduce dependency on India. At present, Bangladesh is adopting a Look East policy as an important characteristic of its foreign policy. In October 2016, Chinese President Xi Jingping visited Bangladesh and promised to continue Chinese support for development. On the other hands, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attended the opening ceremony of the Second China-South Asia Expo at Kunming in Yunnan Province on 4 June 2014.

The BSS news coverage of the last 42 years in my PhD dissertation represents a full picture of Sino-Bangladesh relations as well as a media discourse of their relations, a social change towards the regional relations among the Bangladeshi and the Chinese, who are the audiences for the critical discourse analysis of the Media representations of Sino-Bangladesh relations. Despite the economic misery, the people always seem tremendously interested in public affairs and eager to know what appears in the print and electronic media, which can reflect such a love among the citizens of Bangladesh by publishing special articles and features on Bengali culture. In the past, Bangladeshi media covered the present Bangladesh, the Indian states of West Bengal and parts of Orissa and Assam under the East India Company (until 1858) and thereafter under the direct British rule (1947). At present, it covers the whole world, although there are still reasonable restrictions in mass media (Special Power Act, 1974; ICT, 2006). The country’s media sector is growing, but journalism remains a risk business.

Bangladeshi media is ranked 144th out of 180 countries in the world press freedom index 2016 (RSF & CPJ, 2016). The country has 40 daily newspapers including English language papers, 43 television channels and a state owned news agency (BSS) (Ministry of Information, 2017:1). Television, including BBC world, Indian and other foreign channels is the biggest medium for news. News agency gathers and distributes news, usually for newspapers, periodicals and broadcasters (Index of Ministry of Information, 2008: 470; Bangladesh Media and Telecoms Landscape Guide, 2012: 88).

Reuter (founded in 1851) is one of the oldest news agencies in the world, had its branches in different parts of British India including Bangladesh (UNESCO, 1953: 11). The Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) was the first news agency to operate in Pakistan in September 1949 (BSS, 2008: 471). Its head office was at Karachi and two branches in East Pakistan, one at Dhaka and the other at Chittagong. However, the APP was transformed into a state owned news agency called BSS in 1972, which disseminates news with the world agencies (AP & AFP, UPI & Reuters) and the 40 national news agencies (Xinhua, PTI, TASS) , which have representations in Bangladesh in the shape of stringers (BSS, 2008: 472).

The BSS plays a significance role in the research topic ‘Critical discourse analysis of Sino-Bangladesh Relations’ though it is a field of political science and global studies. As a news agency, the BSS is to promote economic, politic, and cultural relations among the countries of the world through the mass media, because it can cover big amount of people within a short period of time (2008: 469-71). It can easily influence the mind of people through photos, video and comments. The main job of the BSS is to collect news from three sources (local, national and world) covering local, national and international issues and events. Then the collected news and features, which are written and edited by a group of highly professional journalists, are regularly distributed in Bangla and English to the government offices, print and electronic media. Dhaka is its head office having the 242 employees connecting with the eight bureaus, 64 district correspondents and 20 special correspondents abroad.

The BSS functions almost round the clock to disseminate news to nearly 50 subscribers, including international wire services. It gets foreign news through satellite from the World and news agencies (2008: 473). Newspaper, radio, television, agencies, bank and organizations subscribe to the BSS service. It is attached to the Ministry of Information, headed by a managing director cum chief editor, while a board of directors with a chairman supervises the general direction and management of the agency. The following shows the summary of the 15 news headlines published by the BSS on the issues of Sino-Bangladesh relations in the October 2016.
N Timeline Participant Process Participant
1 10/10/2016 Exports to China {Actor} increasing {material} [from Bangladesh]: Tofail {Goal}
2 11/10/2016 28 projects {Goal} [are] finalized {material} [by China] {Actor}
3 12/10/2016 Chinese Minister {Sensor} seeks {mental} media campaign for enhanced connectivity {phenomenon}
4 14/10/2016 Bangladesh {Actor} rolls out {material} red carpet for Jinping {goal}
5 14/10/2016 Hasina, Xi {Actor} lay {material} foundation of tunnel, industrial zone {goal}
6 14/10/2016 JS speaker {Actor} calls on {material} Chinese president {goal}
7 14/10/2016 Xi’s visit {Actor} lifted {material} Dhaka-Beijing ties to “strategic relationship” {goal}
8 14/10/2016 President {Sensor} seeks {mental} duty & quota-free entry of all products into China {phenomenon}
9 15/10/2016 Dhaka {Sensor} eyes {mental} long-term ICT cooperation with Beijing {phenomenon}
10 15/10/2016 Jinping {Actor} places {material} wreath at National Memorial {goal}
11 15/10/2016 Chinese president {Goal} [is] given {material} hearty send off [by the Prime Minister] {Actor}
12 15/10/2016 Xi {Sensor} promises to continue {mental} Chinese support for development {phenomenon}
13 15/10/2016 Bangladesh, China {Actor} ink {material} $13.6bn deals {goal}
14 16/10/2016 Bangladesh-China ties {phenomenon} strengthen {mental} : Syed Ashraf {Sensor}
15 16/10/2016 Global economy {Carrier} [is] {relational} in precarious state, Xi tells BRICS summit {attribute}

The news headlines generated by the BSS on the Sino-Bangladesh relations has indeed proved to be a locus of ideological struggle that is rooted in socio-cultural friendship at the current and long-running. Critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 1995: 98) balances the emphasis on the text with the careful examination of the BSS’s discourse practices, although Bangladeshi journalists look for newswire stories that are ‘copy ready’. This article, however, is a great step towards the examination of media discourse which is not limited to the text and talk but accounts also for their conditions and functions in the political process (Van Dijk, 2005: 66). Since critical discourse analysis (CDA) is neither a method nor a theory, but it is a tool that simply can be applied to analyze the language use on the Sino-Bangladesh relations (Halliday, 1994: 108). CDA can check and balance between Bangladesh and China, who are two neighbors and nations with long-standing civilizations, which naturally led to our communication 2500 years ago (Xianyi, 2010: VIII). With the diplomatic ties, we shared our views, opinions and truly tested friendship, which is the central theme of making Sino-Bangladesh relations stronger, which lasts from the past to the present and deeply rooted in the hearts of the two peoples, two rivers like the Yarlung Zangbo River in China and the Brahmaputra River in Bangladesh. As we celebrate the 42th anniversary of the modern diplomatic ties between Bangladesh and China in October 2017, the historical review will fill us with confidence and great expectations to the future of our two nations, who will join hands and move forward in near future.

Muhammad Anisur Rahman Akanda
PhD researcher (Id-15860025)
Shanghai University, China
Email: marakanda123@gmail.com

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