Colombo, October 9: Yang Jiechi, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo and a former Foreign Minister, told Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa here on Friday, that Chinese President Xi Jinping gives “key priority” to relations with Sri Lanka and that China will support Sri Lanka in world bodies including the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Yang was on a two-day visit during which he met Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, other Ministers and top officials.
Yang said that China’s assistance will not be just lip service but will be concrete to achieve the development goals contained in the “Saubhagyaye Dekma” policy statement of President Gotabaya.
“China has identified several areas conducive for the development of bilateral relations with Sri Lanka. In addition to completing large-scale projects already underway, the area of assistance includes agriculture, education, tourism, water supply, healthcare, medical supplies, modern technology, digital economy, the blue economy and labour training. Plans are afoot to recommence discussions on the China – Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement and to complete the Hambantota Industrial Scheme expeditiously,” Yang said.
The present status of bilateral relations between China and Sri Lanka is “highly satisfactory” Yang said. Further: “Maintaining and promoting this friendship is a key priority of President Xi Jingping,” the head of the seven-member delegation said.
“China will firmly stand with Sri Lanka to protect its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity at international fora including United Nations Human Rights Council,” he added.
Yang Jiechi is in the Central Committee of the CPC and is Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee. Yang had served in the US from 2001-2005 was Foreign Minister of China from 2007-2013. His current position in the Chinese administrations is equivalent to that of a Vice Premier.
Yang said that Sri Lanka is the first country in his current four-nation tour of Asia.
Gotabaya Wants Trade Deficit Reduced
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa expressed satisfaction over the current state of Sino-Sri Lanka relations and said China has been long-standing friend who supported Sri Lanka irrespective of the government in power.
“China extensively supported us to defeat terrorism. Bilateral relations reached a higher level following the end of the armed conflict,” the Lankan President said and recalled the contribution of China to the development of Sri Lanka’s infrastructure facilities.
“China had contributed to a number of large-scale infrastructure projects. The Hambantota Port, the Port City project, and Southern Expressway are some of them. Constructing a port in Hambantota is an idea of Sri Lanka and not China’s. We were convinced that it would be a project with a vast potential for generating income and employment opportunities. China offered to fund it. Many geo-political analysts interpret this project as a ‘debt trap’ set up by China to gain control over Sri Lankan affairs. I want to prove that it is not the case and that this large-scale project will help improve the living standards of the people,” the President said and sought China’s help achieve these goals.
Sri Lanka’s Needs Outlined
The Lankan President said that he had toured China 13 times prior to the assumption of the Presidency and said he had seen first-hand the progress that China had achieved.
“I have seen massive development especially in the rural areas. My target is to bring about a similar development especially in the rural areas of Sri Lanka and to raise the living conditions of the people in this country, especially that of the poor. I look forward to seeing a visible progress in the Port City project over the next four years”, the President said.
President Rajapaksa pointed out that Sri Lanka’s trade deficit with China is high and called on the leader of the Chinese delegation to increase the volume of goods purchased from Sri Lanka to bring the deficit down.
“Sri Lanka has a strong private sector. They manufacture various products. Open the Chinese market for these items. Encourage Chinese investors to invest in Sri Lanka. Encourage the Chinese people to visit Sri Lanka. If China can participate in Sri Lanka’s tea auction, it will be a major boost to economic stability”, the President said.
Explaining the limited tertiary educational opportunities available to Sri Lankan youth who pass GCE Advanced Level, the President said establishing a University of Technology for them will be an area where China can invest in Sri Lanka.
Yan Jiechi invited President Gotabaya to pay an official visit to China, once the COVID – 19 pandemic is successfully contained globally.
Among those present at the talks were the Chairman of the China International Development Cooperation Agency Wang Xiaotao, Assistant Foreign Minister of China, Deng Lee, Hu Wei, Chargé d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka, Chen Song, Deputy Director General in the Department of Asian Affairs at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardene, Secretary to the President P. B. Jayasundera, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Foreign Secretary Adm. Jayanath Colombage and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador-Designate to China Dr. Palitha Kohona.