Liu Zongyi: Hasina's reelection reflects Bangladesh’s determination to seek own development path, rid US interference


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Liu Zongyi: Hasina's reelection reflects Bangladesh’s determination to seek own development path, rid US interference


Source: GT Published: 2024-01-09

On January 7, the 12th National Parliament elections in Bangladesh came to a peaceful end. As expected, the Awami League, led by the incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, achieved an overwhelming victory. This will give Prime Minister Hasina a fourth straight term. The victory was achieved despite continuous pressure and criticism from the West. This victory not only reflects Prime Minister Hasina's determination as an experienced politician who is not afraid of external forces, but also her insistence on her chosen political direction and development path. It also reflects the strong desire of many countries in the Global South, represented by Bangladesh, to seek political stability, economic growth and social development in their own countries while avoiding involvement in the geopolitical competition provoked by the West.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, Bangladesh's economy has continued to develop and become one of the fastest-growing countries in the world. The significant achievements in Bangladesh's economic and social development can be attributed to three main factors. First, political stability: Despite intense party struggles, all political parties have reached a consensus on economic development. Second, leveraging its comparative advantage in labor, Bangladesh has become the world's second-largest apparel exporter after China. Third, in terms of diplomacy, the Hasina government pursues a policy of balancing major powers.

After China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Prime Minister Hasina expressed Bangladesh's willingness to strengthen cooperation with China in the process of building a 'Golden Bangladesh,' actively participate in the construction of the BRI, and promote the development of Bangladesh. As of October 2023, China was implementing 21 bridges and 27 power projects in Bangladesh. The close economic cooperation between China and Bangladesh, as well as the appreciation of the Bangladeshi government and society for China's development experience, has aroused vigilance and resentment from some countries.

Due to its relatively singular economic structure and weak resilience, in the past few years, Bangladesh's economic development has been impacted by various factors including the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Reserve's interest rate hikes and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The deteriorating economic situation and the widening wealth gap resulting from unequal distribution are important factors affecting social stability and the election situation in Bangladesh. However, the opposition party's lack of governing experience, weak leadership, and years of being in opposition make it difficult for them to pose a substantial threat to the Awami League led by Prime Minister Hasina.

In this recent election, the main pressure faced by Hasina and her Awami League has come from external sources, primarily the US and its European allies. The US has sent high-level delegations to Bangladesh on multiple occasions, and the US State Department has issued several statements regarding the Bangladesh elections, urging the country to conduct 'free, fair and peaceful' elections. The goal behind the US interference in, and repeatedly putting pressure on, the Bangladesh elections is to compel the Hasina government to align itself with the US Indo-Pacific Strategy. Additionally, the US hopes that the Hasina government will allow Bangladesh to be used as a springboard for intervening in Myanmar's internal affairs.

The Bangladesh elections proceeded smoothly as scheduled, indicating that the Hasina government ultimately resisted pressure from the US and the West. This is a result of the proactive diplomatic efforts of the Hasina government, as well as the final choice made by the people of Bangladesh. Hasina's reelection signifies that Bangladesh is on a path of development with its own characteristics, representing the choice of the majority of the Global South. They seek the development of their own economies and societies, regional peace and stability, and are not willing to get involved in geopolitical conflicts among major powers, nor do they want to follow the development path dictated by the West.

The reelection of Hasina also indicates the continuity of Bangladesh's foreign policy, maintaining a balance among major powers. However, whether the US will accept the failure of its policy toward Bangladesh remains to be seen. If the US continues to interfere in Bangladesh's internal affairs or even instigate a so-called 'color revolution,' its international credibility will inevitably suffer once again.

The author is a researcher and director of the Research Center for China-South Asia Cooperation at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.