|China-Sri Lanka Cooperation Rooted in the Friendship of the Two Peoples|
---On the Occasion of Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe's Official Visit to China
Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe will soon be heading for Beijing on a fresh journey for further development of friendship between China and Sri Lanka. Compared with his previous visits to China, there are both similarities and differences. Similarly, the Chinese side has made full preparations, and are earnestly waiting for the distinguished Sri Lankan guests. Differently, with several years passing by, China and Sri Lanka have undergone tremendous changes on the road of development, and the friendship between the two countries is now much more profound. In September 2014, H.E. Xi Jinping, President of China, paid a state visit to Sri Lanka, which was the first ever visit of a Head of State during the past 28 years, opening a new chapter of China-Sri Lanka relations. Six months later, in March 2015, H.E. Maithripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka, undertook a state visit to China shortly after resuming office, which consolidated and deepened China-Sri Lanka friendly cooperative ties. I have full confidence that the forthcoming visit by Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe will inject new driving force to the development of our bilateral relations, and further strengthen the China-Sri Lanka strategic cooperative partnership.
I. The everlasting friendship between the two countries is integrated with history and reality.
A Chinese tourist talking to me mentioned his three deepest impressions about Sri Lanka. First, there are a lot of joggers at the Independence Square in the morning and evening, which to him demonstrated the dynamic and positive spirit of this country. Second, the spectacle of local women presenting flowers to the Buddha in the early morning, which reflects the ardent religious conviction of the Sri Lanka people. Third, the sincere and natural smiling faces of the local people meeting with an unfamiliar Chinese like him. One of my Sri Lankan friends, who has frequently traveled to China since the 1970s told me, “Whenever I was in a Metropolis such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, or in the remote countryside of Shaoshan in Hunan Province, what I felt was the atmosphere of industriousness and harmony. When the Chinese people got to know that I was from Sri Lanka, a prominent Buddhist country, they all naturally put their palms together in respect for the spiritual traditions of the country.” Active and positive, sincere and friendly are the common national characteristics of Chinese and Sri Lankans, which are also the mutual impressions of the two peoples.
Harking back to the memory of history, the notable presence in Sri Lanka of the learned Chinese monk Faxian and the stone tablet of the Chinese navigator Cheng Ho reveal to us over one thousand years of friendship and relationship between China and Sri Lanka. An old picture taken on the occasion of the signature of the Rubber and Rice Pact witnesses the brotherhood of our two countries through thick and thin; and the firmly standing BMICH reflects the depth of China-Sri Lanka friendship maturing from generation to generation.
In the past several decades, China has maintained good relations with the Sri Lankan government, political parties and the people, irrespective of the vicissitudes of the international situation and the change of ruling parties in Sri Lanka. The special and friendly feeling of the Chinese people toward the Sri Lankan people has endured thousands of years and remains still fresh. In 2009, Sri Lanka concluded the civil conflict and ushered in permanent peace. China stands unswervingly with Sri Lanka on its path of reconstruction and development. Today, mega projects such as the Colombo South Container Terminal, Norochcholai Coal Power Plant, Colombo-Katunayake Expressway, Southern Expressway, A9 road, Mattala International Airport, Phase one of Hanmbantota Port and Nelum Pokuna Theatre have become the new landmarks of China-Sri Lanka friendship. China's Support has laid an indispensable foundation for the development of Sri Lanka. The rapid increase of Chinese tourists in Sri Lanka has become a new phenomenon of China-Sri Lanka friendship. Direct flights between Chinese major cities and Colombo have been a new normal. It is also a new trend for Sri Lankans to do business, travel and study in China. Even in the intranquil year of 2015, bilateral trade between China and Sri Lanka grew steadily, amounting to 4.56 billion US Dollars. Chinese tourists to Sri Lanka reached a historical new height of 215,000. The Chinese side provided dozens of scholarships and over 1300 training opportunities to Sri Lanka. The exchanges and cooperation in various fields such as religion, culture, education, and science and technology keep expanding. Facts prove that the historical trend of China-Sri Lanka friendship is irreversible.
II. The zero distance between Beijing and Colombo
My Sri Lankan friends always tell me that they highly appreciate the support and assistance from China for the social and economic development of Sri Lanka. Actually, it is the outcome of mutual help and joint efforts of the two governments and two peoples. There is no distance between our two countries. China is committed to pushing forward the bilateral strategic and cooperative partnership featuring sincere mutual help and friendship of ever-lasting generations with Sri Lanka, so as to benefit the two peoples. China's assistance toward Sri Lanka has neither hidden agendas nor any attached political conditions. In the new era, the story of China-Sri Lanka close cooperation has just begun.
Thousands of miles away in Beijing, Chinese President H.E. Xi Jinping, Premier H.E. Li Keqiang, and the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress H.E. Zhang Dejiang are looking forward to meeting with Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe to exchange views on deepening bilateral ties and practical cooperation. The representatives of China EXIM Bank, China National Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank are ready to discuss issues on economic cooperation and investment with the Prime Minister. The elites of Chinese business sectors are also looking forward to the presence and keynote speech of the Prime Minister to learn of the investment opportunities of Sri Lanka. The two sides will also sign several agreements in the fields of economy, trade, tourism, justice etc. I am confident that the Prime Minister will have an enriched, wonderful and fruitful trip to China.
III. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road: a new movement of China-Sri Lanka cooperation.
As an important stop of the ancient Maritime Silk Road, Sri Lanka had witnessed a prosperous era in history. Currently, China and Sri Lanka are in discussion how to jointly build the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. The Chinese side would like to maximize the synergy of each other’s respective development strategies within the framework of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to achieve mutual benefits and common development. China welcomes the decision of the Sri Lankan side to resume the Colombo Port City Project, and supports Sri Lanka in building a regional financial, logistics and shipping hub. We look forward to exploring and signing Free Trade Agreement with Sri Lanka. We will continue to encourage Chinese companies to invest in Sri Lanka, and actively participate in projects like the construction and management of ports and neighbouring industrial zones, transportation infrastructure, processing and manufacturing industry, etc., and jointly foster new economic growth points of bilateral economic cooperation. China will fulfill its promises to assist Sri Lanka to carry out livelihood projects such as the Kidney Disease Hospital, the Outpatient Department of the National Hospital and the Water Quality Monitoring Center. As a Chinese saying goes, the relationship between two countries is based on the affection between peoples of the two countries. China will continue to support the Sri Lankan side to develop tourism and tea products promotion in China, encourage Chinese citizens to travel in Sri Lanka, support the airline companies to open more direct flights, and facilitate people to people engagement and trade exchanges. China will continue to provide scholarships and training opportunities for Sri Lankans and support the exchanges and cooperation between universities, think tanks, media and Buddhist organizations of the two countries, and enhance mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples. Looking forward to the future, the friendly cooperation between China and Sri Lanka will definitely bear more fruit and bring benefits to the two peoples.
There are endless possibilities and wonderful prospects for the friendship and cooperation between China and Sri Lanka. In April, in Beijing, grasses are tall and the nightingales are in the air and the world is full of vitality. China-Sri Lanka relations will also usher in a more beautiful and bright spring.
I am looking forward to extending a warm greeting to Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe in Beijing.
Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka