(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –China is willing to help support Sri Lanka’s economic development because of shared historical ties and suffering under foreign imperialism with the island an important partner in the Belt and Road Initiative which combines the aspirations of both countries, Chinese Ambassador Cheng Xueyuan said on Wednesday (23).
China supported Sri Lanka’s post-war reconstruction when others ignored her needs and Chinese companies have completed more than US$15 billion infrastructure projects in the island, he told a symposium hosted by the Chinese Embassy.
“As one of the first countries to openly support the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Sri Lanka is an important partner with China in the Belt and Road Initiative joint construction,” he said.
Sri Lanka has a superior geographical location and a broad development prospect, he said at the seminar which was on the theme “From Millennium to the New Era: Jointly Build the Belt and Road and Embrace the Sri Lankan Dream”.
The Sri Lankan dream of national progress, economic development, ethnic amity and religious harmony is consistent with the aims of BRI, Ambassador Cheng said.
“In the past few years, whenever the island was hit by natural disasters, China would always provide emergency humanitarian aid such as rice, relief cash and housing for the affected,” he said.
Besides, infrastructure such as roads, railways and ports have also been much improved with Chinese assistance in the last decade.
“Why is China willing to help Sri Lanka?” Ambassador Cheng asked, giving three main reasons.
Firstly, China and Sri Lanka have a history of friendly exchanges for over a thousand years and China gave steady support to help Sri Lanka end its terrorism threat and also stepped in during the post-war years when support from elsewhere was lacking, he said.
“When standing trembling on the war ruins, Sri Lanka called for urgent support from the international community to rebuild this beautiful country, but surprisingly found that most countries choose to remain silent and watch the situation with folded arms.
“At this critical moment, it was China once again that stood up with open arms for sri Lanka and participated comprehensively and deeply in the post-war reconstruction of the country.”
“By end-2017, Chinese companies had completed more than US$15 billion infrastructure projects in Si Lanka in transportation, water, electricity, ports and other fields and made great contributions to the economic and social development of the country,” Ambassador Cheng said.
These include the Norochcholai power station, which provides about 40% of the country’s electricity supply, the Katunayake Expressway, the Colombo International Container Terminal and the Moragahakanda reservoir, Sri Lanka’s biggest.
China is also helping build section 1 of the Southern Railway and the extension of the Southern Expressway which will give a strong impetus to the development of the south.
“The construction of the Colombo Port City and the Hambantota Port and Industrial Park are expected to become new, powerful engines for Sri Lanka’s economic take-off,” Ambassador Cheng said.
“Our pragmatic co-operation has created more than 100,000 jobs for Sri Lanka, trained tens of thousands of technical and management personnel,” he said.
Another reason for Chinese support for Sri Lanka was that both countries suffered under foreign imperialism and colonialism which enable both to empathise with each other’s fate and understand each other.
“Therefore, whenever Sri Lanka is facing a major opportunity for national development, China is willing to do its utmost to help Sri Lanka,” Ambassador Cheng said.
“The third reason was that the Belt and Road Initiative “combines the Chinese Dream and Sri Lankan dream together in the New Era, which makes us join hands and move forward with each other.”