THE POHOTTUWA GOVERNMENT OF SRI LANKA Part 2 C7a
Posted on November 25th, 2020

KAMALIKA PIERIS

China has   stepped up its diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka after Pohottu government came in.  A very experienced Chinese diplomat Qi Zhenhong   arrived in November 2020 as ambassador to Sri Lanka. Qi Zhenhong was head of China Institute of International Studies, a premier international relations think tank in China. He has an excellent understanding of the complex realities in the Indian Ocean, said analysts.     He comes here at a time when the actions of USA, India and several other countries are rapidly militarizing the Indian Ocean and is applying pressure on smaller nations to join them.  

There were three important meetings between Sri Lanka and China in the months of October and November, 2020, ChinesePresident Xi Jinping spoke with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa via Zoom in November 2020. The two leaders shared their experience on administrative matters. Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardane, Prof.G.L. Peiris, Namal Rajapaksa, Sagara Kariyawasam and several Provincial Councillers   also participated in the discussion that followed.

A highlevel Chinese delegation, led by Chinese leader Yang Jiechi, visited Sri Lanka in October 2020. They were on a tour which included UAE, Algeria and Serbia. Sri Lanka was their first destination. This was a very significant visit. The delegation met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Chinese delegation comprised seven members.  Its leader Yang Jiechi holds a position equivalent to Vice Premier. Yang Jiechi was Chinese Foreign Minister from 2007-2013 and China’s Ambassador to US from 2001 to 2005.  He is presently a member of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party and the director of its Central Committee’s Foreign Affairs Commission, a top policy-making body.

Also in the delegation were China International Development Cooperation Agency chairman Wang Xiaotao, Assistant Foreign Minister Deng Lee and the Foreign Ministry’s Asian Affairs Deputy Director General Chen Song.

The leader of the delegation said that the present status of bilateral relations between China and Sri Lanka was highly satisfactory. Maintaining and promoting this friendship is a key priority of President Xi Jingping. China wanted to maintain high-level exchanges and consolidate political mutual trust. President Xi Jinping considered further improvement of China-Sri Lanka relations a priority. 

The delegation   recalled past history. China–Sri Lanka relations have stood the test of time, they said. What continued from the ancient spiritual ties since the visits of Chinese Buddhist monks centuries ago, received a big boost when the Rubber-Rice deal was signed in 1952, even before the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two newly emerged independent countries. The Ceylon–China Trade Agreement of 1952 was undoubtedly the most useful trade agreement negotiated by Sri Lanka and one of the most successful and durable trade agreements in the world, having been in operation for 30 years, the delegation said.

The head of the delegation said that China will firmly stand with Sri Lanka to protect the country’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity at international fora including the United Nations Human Rights Council.

We will support not from words but by action,” said Jiechi. Sri Lanka would shortly sign an agreement with China to obtain a US $ 500 million concessionary loan from her. China also announced a US$ 90 million grant to Sri Lanka, for medical care, education and water supplies in Sri Lanka’s rural areas. Thirdly, the Chinese ambassador met Ajith Nivard Cabraal, State Minister of Money & Capital Markets and Professor W. D. Lakshman, Governor of the Central Bank to discuss financial instruments to be implemented after the Yang Jiechi visit.

Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) held an advanced seminar on governance via video in November 2020.  This was a follow up to the meeting between the two heads of State and the Yang Jiechi visit. The discussion centered on aligning the Belt and Road Initiative with Sri Lanka’s Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor.”

Minister Song Tao of the International Department of Central Committee of CPC, Party Secretary Liu Cigui of CPC Provincial Committee of Hainan Province, and Qi Zhenhong spoke for China. Prof. G.L.Peiris, Sagara Kariyawasam, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Namal Rajapaksa, Ramesh Pathirana and some State Ministers and Mayors from the Western Province spoke for Sri Lanka.

The China-Sri Lanka Belt and Road Political Parties Joint Consultation Mechanism” was established in June 2020 between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and main political parties of Sri Lanka .The first meeting of the Mechanism,  was  held via video link.   United National Party, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, and People’s United Front of Sri Lanka   participated.

Song Tao, Minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, addressed the event. He said China was ready to work with Sri Lankan political parties to strengthen the exchange of experience in state governance, promote bilateral cooperation in all areas and contribute to the high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. The meeting also approved a joint initiative of the political parties of China and Sri Lanka to support Belt and Road cooperation.

Analysts observed that CPC has established contacts and exchanges with more than 400 political parties and organizations in over 140 countries. CPC maintains friendly relations with a dozen political parties in Sri Lanka both in the government and the opposition.

In November 2020, the  China Reform Forum which is affiliated to the Communist party of China signed an MOU with China-Sri Lanka Cooperation studies Centre at Pathfinder Foundation.  CRF has dialogues with more than   30 countries.  CRF uses these dialogues  to briefs China on its foreign policy.

Sri Lanka had a successful presentation at the Third China International Import Expo (CIIE) held in Shanghai from November 5-10, 2020. The Sri Lanka Embassy in China and Consulate General in Shanghai in coordination with Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) and the Foreign Ministry teamed up with seven Sri Lanka companies to showcase tea, coconut products, and spices including Ceylon cinnamon, herbal products, rubber products and confectioneries at this event.

Twenty-Seven Sri Lanka companies took part in business matchmaking meetings online. An MoU to create an online Sri Lanka Pavilion in Womai.com online platform was signed between the EDB and the China Oil and Foodstuffs Company (COFCO).

China’s Prestige International Company Ltd would promote Sri Lankan products on its JD.Com platform. JD.com is the most popular online platform in China and one of the 500 fortune companies. It is China’s largest online retailer and also the biggest overall retailer. It is the country’s biggest internet company.

Three strategic cooperation agreements were signed between the Prestige International Ltd. and Silver Mills SL Ltd., Stuarts Tea Sri Lanka Ltd. and Saraketha Organic Ltd. These agreements are expected to generate 5.5 million of RMB trade between the parties in 2021.

In November 2020, the Sri Lanka-China Buddhist Friendship Association (SLCBFA), with financial assistance from the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka, commenced a programme to donate dry rations and hand sanitizers to Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka, to overcome Covid 19. They started with Sri Wijayalokaramaya Temple in Rukmalgama, Pannipitiya. (Continued)

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