Even as Bangladesh on Saturday hailed the newly inaugurated Padma Bridge, the longest in the country, as a “symbol of national pride”, Chinese media said the “transportation hub along the Belt and Road” route boosts the image of “made in China construction”.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday inaugurated the landmark 6.15km bridge, built over the 130km-long meandering Padma River, marking the end of the nearly $3.7 billion project, which started in 2015. Located some 40km from Dhaka, the bridge connects the southwestern region of the country with the capital via road and rail.
China’s official media has closely tracked the development of the bridge, given that the China Railway Major Bridge Engineering Group (MBEC) has been behind its construction. The company has constructed at least three other bridges in Bangladesh before Padma Bridge.
Chinese media called the bridge a “key part of an anticipated Trans-Asian railway network”.
People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, in an article earlier this month – in the run-up to the bridge’s inauguration – praised China’s efforts in building infrastructure in foreign countries, with the main focus on the Padma Bridge project. The article was published under the headline, “Chinese companies’ overseas projects boost image of ‘Made in China construction’”.
The article talked about the project’s linked to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an ambitious global infrastructure project which is part of Beijing’s strategic goals, including sourcing resources and expanding influence.
“The bridge is also an important transportation hub along the Belt and Road route and a vital channel connecting the Trans-Asian Railway,” it said.
Interestingly, the Bangladesh foreign ministry said last week that the Padma Multipurpose Bridge has been entirely funded by Dhaka and “no foreign funds from any bilateral or multilateral funding agency have financially contributed to its construction”, a statement which could be interpreted to imply that the project is not part of BRI.
In the People’s Daily article, MBEC board chairperson Wen Wusong claimed that the company has generated over 50,000 job opportunities for locals since the start of the bridge’s construction.
“Over the course of eight years, facilities such as plants and gas stations have been rolled out on the north side of the river, contributing to a better life for local residents,” the report also claimed.
“In addition to promoting local economic and social development, Chinese companies’ overseas projects have facilitated the export of advanced Chinese technologies, equipment and management mechanisms,” it added.
“The huge infrastructure project, with the main bridge spanning 6.15 km in length, is undertaken by MBEC. It is the largest and most challenging infrastructure project in Bangladesh’s history,” official news agency Xinhua claimed in several reports on the bridge’s construction.
The state owned MBEC was founded in 1953 and, according to a short profile by Bloomberg, the “company’s line of business includes providing general contracting services such as constructing bridges and tunnels”. It is a subsidiary of the China Railway Group Limited.
The People’s Daily article also talked about the 1,320 MW China-built Payra ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant, claiming it was the largest of its kind in Bangladesh and was put into service on March 21.
“It is the first power plant invested in and constructed by the China National Machinery Import & Export Corporation, a subsidiary of China General Technology (Group) Holding Co., Ltd., under a public–private partnership in Bangladesh,” it said.
Chinese-funded projects in Bangladesh include the $1.32 billion power grid development, and a $1 billion digitalisation project, according to state-run China Daily newspaper.
Source- Hindustan Times.