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By 2017 China had built infrastructure in Sri Lanka worth US$ 15 billion, says envoy

Colombo, April 9 (newsin.asia): By the end of 2017, Chinese companies had completed more than US$15 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka in the field of transportation, water supply, electricity, ports and other fields, and had made great contributions to the economic and social development of the island nation, says the Chinese Ambassador, Cheng Xueyuan.

“The pragmatic Sino-Lankan cooperation has created more than 100,000 jobs for Sri Lankans and trained tens of thousands of technical and management personnel. The Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT)  employs more than 1,000 local technical staff, who account for 90% of its employees. Such kind of cooperation has laid a solid foundation for Sri Lanka to further its own development,” Cheng said in a statement on Sunday.

Joint Effort

In the past five years, China and Sri Lanka have made significant progress in jointly furthering the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Sri Lanka, the envoy said.

“The Norocholai Power Station provides about 40% of Sri Lanka’s electricity ending a history of frequent power cuts. The Katunayake Expressway (Colombo airport expressway) is a great convenience to international travellers and has contributed to the blooming of tourism.”

“The Colombo International Container Terminal, a Sino-Lankan joint venture, has become the fastest growing container terminal in the world. The newly completed Moragahakanda Project, which is the biggest reservoir in Sri Lanka, has brought great benefits to local agriculture.”

“In October this year, Section-I of Southern Railway, the first railway to be built in the past 100 years, will be officially opened. By the end of next year, the Expressway linking Colombo and Hambantota will also be connected.”

Sino-Lankan Complementarities

Envoy Cheng said that China and Sri Lanka have strong complementarities, and the potential for cooperation is still far from being fully realized.

In the past five years, China and Sri Lanka have made significant progress in jointly furthering the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Sri Lanka, the envoy said.

“Sri Lanka is located at the center point of the main international waterway of the Indian Ocean, which is the biggest advantage it has. Therefore, the construction and operation of sea ports, especially Colombo and Hambantota, have become key issues.”

“Colombo Port City together with Hambantota Port and the Industrial Zone near the latter are like two powerful engines for Sri Lankan economy to take-off,” the envoy said.

Cheng Xueyuan. Chinese Ambassador in Sri Lanka

Colombo Port City

Colombo Port City is jointly developed by a Chinese company and the Sri Lanka Port Authority, aiming to build a shipping, logistics, tourism and financial center in South Asia, with a direct investment of US$ 1.4 billion and a planned second-level Building Complex valued at US$ 13 billion, Cheng said.

“The Colombo Port City or Financial City is expected to create more than 80,000 jobs. At present, 80% of the land reclamation projects have been completed, and the investment promotion of Colombo International Financial City Complex Building Complex is also proceeding smoothly.

The Port City has already attracted the attention of a large number of investors from China, the US, and Europe,” he said.

China Filled a Vacuum

Envoy Cheng said that China filled a vacuum that existed in Sri Lanka after the end of the 30 year war against the Tamil militants in 2009.

“After finally bringing an end to the war in 2009, Sri Lanka was facing a rare opportunity to develop itself and urgently needed the international community to provide strong support to infrastructure construction and financial investment. But because of the international financial crisis and some ideological reasons, Sri Lanka did not receive the expected foreign support.”

“At that critical moment, it was China which participated in reconstruction. As a result, Sri Lanka become one of the first countries to openly support the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), since it was highly compatible with Sri Lanka’s national development strategy,” the envoy said.

Hambantota port. Photo: Xinhua

Support at Highest Levels

Cheng said that he is glad to learn that President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Wickramasinghe, and other political leaders of Sri Lanka have all expressed their willingness to actively participate in jointly building the Belt and Road and make full use of Sri Lanka’s superior geographical position to build itself as the Hub of Indian Ocean.

“More and more Sri Lankans have realized that the BRI is a golden opportunity for the development of their economy,” he added.

Hambantota Port

About the controversial Hambantota port in South Sri Lanka, the envoy said that with its excellent location, the port will play an important role in the development of the southern region of Sri Lanka.

“The government tried to turn to some foreign countries for operating the port but failed, and port operations were greatly affected. To solve this problem, at the end of 2017, Chinese companies were again invited by  Sri Lanka to join hands with the Sri Lanka Port Authority to run the port. A Chinese company obtained the right to operate the port together with the SLPA, with the stakes being divided 70:30.”

Denying charges of underhand dealings, Cheng said: “The whole procedure was in accordance with international rules, laws and market practices, and was done in a fully open, equal and transparent way.”

“Three months since then, the port is now developing fast. The Ro-Ro shipping business has increased significantly, and the shipping supply business is rapidly recovering,” the envoy said.

Industrial Park

In addition, both sides have also agreed to establish an Industrial Park in Hambantota to fully explore the huge advantages of the port. At present, negotiations on large-scale projects such as LNG power stations, petroleum refinery, cement, iron and steel manufacture are accelerating, which are expected to bring drastic changes to the local economy and people’s livelihood and would surely become another new engine for Sri Lanka’s development,” he said.

BRI is China’s Answer to the World’s Problems

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s flagship project, is China’s answer to the economic problems facing the world today, Cheng said.

“China’s development cannot be isolated from the world, and the development of the world also needs China,” the envoy said.

“ Today’s world is lacking in motivation for economic growth. It is full of turbulence in certain areas. There are imbalances in regional development. Some global and regional powers often shift their own problems to other smaller countries, in order to maintain their own interests, triggering alarm bells about the onset of unilateralism and anti-globalization,” he pointed out.

The BRI, the envoy said, has come at the right time to give the troubled world an alternative and show a new path out of the mess the world is in.

“The BRI conforms to the trend of the 21st century in peace, development, cooperation, and win-win cooperation and provides an all-inclusive development platform for almost all countries around the world,” he added.

“President Xi Jinping has reaffirmed that China will persevere in the path of peaceful development, forging a new form of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice, and win-win cooperation, building a community with a shared future for mankind, for which the Belt and Road Initiative has been raised as an important practice path,” the envoy added.

Colombo Port City seen from Lotus tower. Photo: Lu Tang

Transparent Initiative

Asserting that the BRI is a transparent and consultative project, Cheng said: “ From the very beginning, it has followed the golden rule of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, abided by international rules and followed market principles. As Foreign Minister Wang Yi mentioned, the planning and implementation of BRI projects have been discussed by the participants in the open. No country is dominating the process; all parties have an equal say. There is no back-room deal; everything is transparent. There is no ‘winner takes all’; every project delivers win-win results.”

Need to Abandon Cold War Mentality

Envoy Cheng called for the abandonment of the Cold War mentality.

“The abandoning of Cold War thinking and zero-sum game concept is a must for the promotion of BRI.  The real reason why the BRI is widely supported lies in its clear equality, openness, and inclusiveness,” he  said.

“We’re fully confident that as the Belt and Road cooperation continues to develop along the right track, those blinding and irrational criticism of BRI will eventually disappear like the floating clouds,” Cheng said.

China’s Economic Strength and Potential

Giving an idea of the humongous economic power of China, Ambassador Cheng said: “2018 marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up. Over the past 40 years, China’s GDP has grown from $200 billion to $12.7 trillion, with an average annual growth of nearly 10%, and an increase of GDP per capita from less than $200 to $8800.”

“With the biggest population and the second largest economy in the world, being the second largest importer and consumer in the world, China will import more than US$10 trillion in goods and services, invest more than US$750 billion abroad in next five years, and the number of outbound tourists will exceed 700 million.’

“A population of 1.3 billion has generally achieved a well-off society level, which contributes to global poverty reduction by 70%, and more than 30% to global economic growth,” he said.

(The featured image at the top shows Colombo, the venue of a new Port City under construction)