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Xi’s milestone visit to Bangladesh boosts China’s influence in the region

China is expected to sign off on more than US$23 billion in loans to Bangladesh to fund a series of large-scale infrastructure projects, as President Xi Jinping starts his visit to Dhaka on Friday.

Xi’s visit, the first by a Chinese head of state to Bangladesh in 30 years, is part of the Asian economic giant’s ambition to advance its “One Belt, One Road” initiative – a grand plan devoted to reviving the ancient Silk Road trading route from Asia to Europe by boosting economic ties and investing in transport hubs. He last visited Bangladesh in 2010 as vice-president.

What Bangladesh hopes to gain from milestone visit by China’s Xi Jinping

“Bangladesh, with its favourable geographic location and huge population, market potential and cooperation space, is an indispensable partner for China to advance the Belt and Road initiative,” Xi wrote in the Daily Star, a leading Bangladesh newspaper.

China and Bangladesh would sign 25 deals, mostly covering railways, roads, electricity and economic zones, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali said in Dhaka on Thursday.

Bangladesh initially sought US$40 billion in funds from China to be spent over five years, according to a letter from Li Guangjun, economic and commercial counsellor at the Chinese Embassy in Dhaka, to the Bangladesh finance ministry. The full extent of China’s loans to Bangladesh is not yet clear as it has been reluctant to make the final number public. Calls to the counsellor’s office for comment went unanswered.

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Xi arrives in Bangladesh from Cambodia, where he was on an official visit, before going to India to attend the BRICS Summit in Goa on October 15 and 16.

The visit signalled a “historic new journey” and opened up a new horizon of deeper relations between the two countries, Ali said.