China’s influence on Bangladesh elections

The elections in Bangladesh highlight a complex geopolitical landscape, with China’s potential influence on the ruling Awami League.

As the world gears up for crucial elections in 2024, the political landscape in Bangladesh takes centre stage with its elections scheduled for January 7. The contest involves 29 political parties, including the ruling Awami League (AL) and a faction of the opposition Jatiya Party. Considering, that major opposition parties like the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jamaat-e-Islami have abstained, the Awami League’s return to power for a fourth term is determined.

Bangladesh’s general elections have always drawn international attention, and this time, geopolitical factors have heightened the stakes. As the United States, India, and the European Union advocated for free and fair elections while the opposition was in the race, China and Russia cautioned against meddling in Bangladesh’s internal affairs.

The U.S. took a firm stance against the Bangladeshi government, imposing sanctions on security officials and entities allegedly involved in human rights abuses. The geopolitical polarization underscores the strategic interests at play in South Asia, with major powers keen on influencing who governs Bangladesh.

While the Awami League sought support from India, the geopolitical landscape shifted as China and India displayed more restrained reactions compared to the West. China, in particular, expressed support for the Bangladeshi government, aligning with its strategic interests.

China’s strategic calculations involve maintaining influence in Bangladesh, turning it into a state heavily dependent on Beijing. This strategic move aims to facilitate Chinese access to Indian Ocean sea lanes through initiatives like the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor. With the Awami League in power, China anticipates a favourable environment to safeguard and expand its infrastructure investments in Bangladesh.

China’s influence on the Awami League has raised concerns. Critics highlight the influence of figures like Salman Rahman, a top adviser with ties to China, shaping government decisions. The outcome of the elections marks a tipping point where Bangladesh aligns more closely with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, overshadowing U.S.-backed efforts in the Indo-Pacific.

As Bangladesh braces for potential shifts in geopolitical dynamics post-elections, the world watches closely. The aftermath holds significance not only for Bangladesh but also for the broader region and the global powers vying for influence in this strategically important South Asian nation.