Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday inaugurated the landmark 6.15km bridge, built over the 130km-long Padma River, marking the end of the nearly $3.7 billion project, which began in 2015. Located about 40 km from Dhaka, the bridge connects the South-Western region. With the capital of the country via road and rail.
China’s official media have closely followed the development of the bridge, noting that the China Railway Major Bridge Engineering Group (MBEC) has been behind its construction. The company has built at least three other bridges in Bangladesh before the Padma Bridge.
Chinese media called the bridge “an important part of the anticipated Trans-Asian railway network”.
The People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, in an article earlier this month – in line with the bridge’s inauguration – praised China’s efforts in building infrastructure overseas, with the main focus on the Padma Bridge project. The article was published under the headline, “Foreign projects of Chinese companies promote the image of ‘Made in China manufacturing’”.
The article talks about a project associated with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an ambitious global infrastructure project that is part of Beijing’s strategic goals, including resource sourcing and expansion impact.
The bridge is also an important transport hub along the Belt and Road route and an important channel connecting the Trans-Asian Railway.
Interestingly, Bangladesh’s foreign ministry said last week that the Padma Multipurpose Bridge is fully funded by Dhaka and that “no foreign fund from any bilateral or multilateral funding agency has contributed financially to its construction.” has not contributed”, a statement which could be construed as the project not being a part of BRI.
In a People’s Daily article, MBEC Board Chairman Wen Wusong claimed that the company has created more than 50,000 jobs for local people since the start of construction of the bridge.
The report also claimed, “Over the course of eight years, facilities such as plants and gas stations have been commissioned on the north side of the river, contributing to a better life for local residents.”
“In addition to promoting local economic and social development, overseas projects of Chinese companies have facilitated the export of advanced Chinese technologies, equipment and management mechanisms,” it added.
“The huge infrastructure project, the length of the main bridge is 6.15 km, which has been undertaken by MBEC. This is the biggest and most challenging infrastructure project in the history of Bangladesh,” official Xinhua news agency claimed in several reports on the construction of the bridge.
State-owned MBEC was founded in 1953 and according to a brief Bloomberg profile, “the company’s line of business includes providing general contract services such as the construction of bridges and tunnels”. It is a subsidiary of China Railway Group Limited.
The People’s Daily article also talked about the China-built 1,320 MW Payra ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant, which it claimed was the largest of its kind in Bangladesh and brought into service on March 21 went.
“This is the first power plant in Bangladesh to be invested and built by China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation, a subsidiary of China General Technology (Group) Holding Co., Ltd., under a public-private partnership,” it said.
According to China’s state-run newspaper China Daily, Chinese-funded projects in Bangladesh include a $1.32 billion power grid development and a $1 billion digitalization project.