By Qi Zhenhong, Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka
On the evening of March 29, Chinese President Xi Jinping had an important phone conversation with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. This was the second phone conversation between the two state leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a strategic communication with a backdrop of international and regional situation undergoing deep changes, together with economic and social development of the two countries on a critical stage. In the past two weeks, friends from different walks of life in Sri Lanka gave positive comments from different perspectives, which were really enlightening for me. I would also like to share my views on this special conversation.
Firstly, it is essential to keep regular interactions at the top levels of the two countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Facing the severe challenges caused by the pandemic, the two Presidents had two times of extensive and in-depth phone conversations, reaching broad consensus, and strategically guiding the future development of our bilateral relations. Both sides reconfirmed a state visit to China by President Rajapaksa as soon as the pandemic situation allows. Later this month, the two Presidents plan to virtually attend the Annual Conference of Boao Forum for Asia together. In coming weeks, we are also expecting a series of high-level visits between the two countries, which I believe would greatly strengthen political mutual trust, broaden cooperation fields, and deepen the development of our bilateral relations.
Secondly, the China-Sri Lanka cooperation is based on the alignment of respective strategies. In their recent phone conversation, President Gotabaya expressed once again his strong willingness to learn from Communist Party of China on its governance experience, especially how align “Game Samaga Pilisandara” of Sri Lanka with “Targeted Poverty Alleviation” and “The Rural Vitalization Strategy” of China, and to align “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor” with the high-quality building of the Belt and Road Initiative. President Xi Jinping made positive response his Sri Lankan counterpart and agreed that China and Sri Lanka should learn from each other at the system and governance levels to overcome the challenges of the post-epidemic era.
Thirdly, China keeps its word, and does what it says. On the second day of the phone conversation between the two heads of state, Sri Lankan Airlines’ cargo plane set off for Beijing. On the third day, 600 thousand doses of Sinopharm vaccines donated by China arrived at Colombo. In addition, the major cooperation projects that leaders of the two countries pay close attention to, including another 500 million USD financial facility extended by China Development Bank, the National Nephrology Specialist Hospital, and the International Finance Centre in the Colombo Port City, have been commissioned or will soon achieve tangible outcomes, which are bringing more and more tangible to Sri Lankan people.
Fourthly, multilateral cooperation has become a new highlight in Sino-Sri Lankan relations. This year marks the 50th anniversary of China’s restoration of its lawful seat in the United Nations, and President Xi Jinping emphasized in the phone conversation that “China will never forget Sri Lanka’s valuable support”. At the just-concluded 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, China unreservedly supported Sri Lanka as always, while Sri Lanka stood firmly with China and dozens of other countries on issues related to Hong Kong and Xinjiang. In various international fora, China is willing to make continuous joint efforts with Sri Lanka to firmly support each other on issues concerning respective core interests, promote international justice and fairness, and safeguard the common interests of developing countries.
The traditional friendship between China and Sri Lanka has stood the test of time and is facing extensive opportunities for further development. On behalf of the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka, I am willing to work with friends from all walks of life in Sri Lanka to jointly implement the important consensus reached by President Xi Jinping and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, solidly promote our exchanges and cooperation in various fields, and elevate the China-Sri Lanka strategic cooperative partnership to a new level.