|Chinese Ambassador H.E Yi Xianliang Meets with Local Media|
On 10 March, the Chinese Embassy in Sri lanka held a media seminar. Chinese Ambassador H. E. Yi Xianliang discussed with the representatives of some major local medias, including Daily News, Daily Mirror, The Island, Ceylon Today, Rupavahini (TV) Corporation, MTV, Adaderana TV Station about enhancing China-Sri Lanka relationship, jointly building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and some much-talked- about issues.
Ambassador Yi made a briefing about the development of bilateral ties and mutual beneficiary cooperation between China and Sri Lanka, stressed that the two countries should completely implement the outcomes of President Xi Jinping's state visit to Sri Lanka last September, explore the common interests under the framework of jointly building 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and promote the Strategic Cooperative Partnership and pragmatic cooperation to a new level. Yi elaborated Chinese government's stance on Colombo Port City Project, Chinese submarine docking and replenishing at Colombo port, the cooperation among China, Sri Lanka and India, etc.
Full text of Ambassador Yi Xianliang's Article:
Working for a Better China-Sri Lanka Relationship
----Message from H. E. Yi Xianliang,
New Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka
[ Note: H. E. Mr. Yi Xianliang, new Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka, has assumed office since 24th February, 2015. In this article, he would like to share with the Sri Lankan audience his first impression about Sri Lanka and its people, the successful cases of China-Sri Lanka practical cooperation, as well as his vision for the future development of the bilateral relations. ]
I Impression on Sri Lanka and
Overall Picture of China-Sri Lanka Ties
I was reminded that "you will not only live in a land of higher temperature but with people of a fervent heart" two weeks ago, before I came to this beautiful country, Sri Lanka. I was warmly welcomed and the presentation of my credentials to H.E. President Maithripala Sirisena was arranged within 32 hours of my arrival. This shows the strength of feeling the Sri Lankan people have for the Chinese people as well as the great importance attached to the China-Sri Lanka relationship by the government.
The friendship between China and Sri Lanka dates back 2000 years . The historic ties and the friendly exchanges between the two sides, e.g. the famous visit of the Chinese monk Fahien which took place 1600 years ago and the Chinese navigator Cheng Ho's five visits to Sri Lanka in the 15th century, are widely known in Sri Lanka today. Although I have just arrived in Sri Lanka, I have already been impressed by the beauty of this country and the friendship and sincerity of its people. In addition, I find that there are many common features between our two countries., Both peoples are friendly, industrious and hospitable. Certainly, Buddhism is one important linkage between our two countries. It's my great pleasure to have the opportunity to work as the Chinese Ambassador in Sri Lanka. I plan to travel around the island during my tenure to learn more about this land and the people.
Sri Lanka recognized the People's Republic of China in 1950. The Rubber- Rice Pact, signed in 1952. laid the foundation for mutual trust at the political level between Sri Lanka and China. The friendly relationship between China and Sri Lanka is time-tested. There is consensus on this among all political parties and peoples of both countries. Furthermore, it is promoted as well as safeguarded by 351 bilateral treaties, which cover all fields of the relations. In the past five decades, with the concerted efforts of both sides, our relationship has witnessed a dynamic and healthy development, irrespective of the party in power in Sri Lanka. As Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, stressed to me, our relationship is an all-weather friendship.
In recent years, China and Sri Lanka have established a Strategic Cooperative Partnership featuring sincere mutual support and ever-lasting friendship. I chatted with a bar attendant a few days ago.He was much impressed with the state visit by H. E. President Xi Jinping to Sri Lanka last September. He said that it was quite similar to the famous visit of China's Premier Zhou Enlai in 1957. He had learned about this from his grandpa. President Xi's visit was of landmark significance in the annals of China-Sri Lanka relations and achieved fruitful outcomes. We are committed to jointly implementing those outcomes and bringing tangible benefits to both peoples.
II Pragmatic Cooperation between China and Sri Lanka:
Noises on the Cooperation and Projects are Capricious
China's development in the past three decades has been the subject of daily conversation around the world. Chinese experiences are not only in the textbooks of various colleges, but are also influencing the practices of some countries. The most important lesson to be learned is placing infrastructure development as the first priority. In the past decades, the Chinese business community, with the cooperation of Sri Lankan companies, has carried out and completed quite a few mega infrastructure projects of in Sri Lanka with the support of preferential loans from Chinese banks. We uphold certain principles in strengthening practical cooperation with Sri Lanka, which includes equality and no strings attached, win-win orientation, committing to enhancing the capability for self-development of Sri Lanka and benefiting the general public.
There are many cases of successful cooperation between the two sides and here I proposed to mention only a few.
1. Shortly after the internal conflict ended in 2009 in Sri Lanka, the engineers of the China National Aero Technology International Engineering Cooperation (CATIC-ENG) risked their personal security to enter the northern area to survey the road conditions even though the land mines had still not been cleared. The A9 highway, linking Jaffna and central area of Sri Lanka, was completed by CATIC-ENG within 28 months. This halved the traveling time between Jaffna and central Sri Lanka. The entire Sri Lankan people, especially those in the northern area, benefit greatly from this road.
2. Sri Lanka is an island with great potential and needs in maritime transport. However, the harbour capacity has been seriously limited in meeting the needs of a rapidly growing economy. No doubt, the Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) has been successful in solving this problem. With the Chinese company's investment of around 71.5 billion Rupees (550 million US dollars), technology and construction, this new harbour was also completed within 28 months, 32 months ahead of schedule. It was opened in Aug. 2013 and has handled 680,000 containers in 2014, enhancing the total capacity of the Port of Colombo by 14%. This represents the fastest growth among the world's ports last year. Hundreds of Sri Lankans were employed on this project. The Chinese management team is less than 20 people. CICT, a joint venture between the China Merchants Holdings International Company (CMHI) and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, has paved the way for making the Port of Colombo a major regional commercial hub in the Indian Ocean. It is the only terminal in the country with the capacity to handle the largest container ships in the world.
3.. Provision of basic services, including electricity is arguably most important for improving the lives of the ordinary people of any country. Now more than 50% of total electricity in Sri Lanka is generated by Norochcholai Coal Power Plant (NCPP), which was constructed by CMEC of China. Sri Lankan people can also enjoy sufficient electricity at much lower cost. This gives strong impetus for Sri Lanka's economic and social development. The first phase of NCPP was inaugurated in 2011. I was informed that another similar coal power plant was planned at the same time but is still in the proceeding of undergoing various assessments. There is good reason for Sri Lankans to be grateful to CMEC's for its efforts and contribution.
4. Coastal area development is essential for countries with a long coastal line. In the past decades, China has developed more than 30 coastal cities by constructing port cities or zones. H.E. President Maithripala Sirisena, Hon. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, Hon. Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera have talked to me about the deep impression that Shenzhen has made on them. It is a young but modern metropolitan city with over 18 million population, a GDP of 1500 billion Chinese Yuan (250 billion US dollar), and lots of big companies, such as Huawei, Zhongxing, etc.. You may not know that, Shenzhen was a small fishing village only 30 years ago.
The Colombo Port City has been the subject of much debate recently. Actually this is a project solely invested by China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), not using a single Rupee from the Sri Lankan side. The blueprint was drafted after consulting many major international agencies. These investors have the determination to invest in this mega project not only because of being optimistic about the project itself, but also because of their confidence in Sri Lanka's future. The construction of this project will exert great impetus to the urban development of Colombo, the local economic development and the improvement of Sri Lanka's national image. The direct investment for this project is 1.4 billion US dollars. it will bring a second round of investment of 13 billion US dollars, and will create over 83,000 job opportunities. As such the Port City may be a miniature Shenzhen and will be of great significance for Sri Lanka's economic development, especially in attracting foreign investment and promoting local tourism.
Last week, some voiceswere raised against the Port City project. All the people I met, not only the politicians, Parliamentarians but also the ordinary people told me that Sri Lanka needed this project and hoped the review by the government would be completed as soon as possible. As far as I know, CCCC has gone through due procedure and followed all the legal obligations. As the Chinese Ambassador, I urge both the government and the Chinese company concerned to observe the rule of law and keep mutual trust and confidence in each other.
5. Another controversial issue in recent days is China's loans to Sri Lanka. What I would like to underline is that, against the backdrop of the global financial crisis in 2008, major donors reduced their preferential loans to Sri Lanka. China also faced difficulties at that time. At the request of the government of Sri Lanka, China overcame these difficulties and increased financial support following fully the principles of mutual benefit and win-win results. The loan arrangements, which are made upon consensus and oriented towards the entire nation and its people, have played an extremely positive role in Sri Lanka's economic and social development. In fact, the interest on both governmental and commercial loans from China are reasonable and of the same rate offered to all other countries which received such financial assistance. The Sri Lankan side appreciates China'sfinancial support which is significant for its long term economic and social development.
6. Over time, there has been increasingly active people-to-people and cultural exchanges between our two countries. In 2014, the Chinese tourists visiting Sri Lanka increased by more than 130% year-on-year, amounting to nearly 130,000 people. We are willing to encourage more Chinese tourists to visit Sri Lanka to see with their own eyes the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. The Confucius Institute and Confucius Classes are helping more and more Sri Lankan friends to learn Chinese. In recent years, artists from different parts of China have come to Sri Lanka annually to present the diversity and inclusiveness of Chinese culture and art to the Sri Lankan audience. In addition, scholarships have been increased to facilitate more Sri Lankan students to pursue education in China.
7. I was the Chinese Governor to the Asian piracy-combating agreement body--ReCAAP before I came here. I worked with Governors from Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Denmark, India, Japan, Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the UK, the US and Viet Nam for years. We had close cooperation in combating piracy. I was shocked by the controversy and misleading comments on the Chinese submarine's docking at Colombo Port for logistical replenishment last year. Actually, the Chinese submarine came to the Colombo Port on its way to and back from the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the Somali coast to carry out escort missions for the merchant vessels, from both Chinese and other countries'. The dockings were regular port calls for replenishment of supplies and is a common practice of navies of all countries. It was transparent and received prior approval by the Sri Lanka government. China has no intention to use Sri Lanka to threaten any other country's security. At the same time, port calls by naval ships is a commercial issue which brings revenue to the receiving country. Based on my understanding, the Sri Lankan government supports the international anti-piracy campaign and welcomes the docking of vessels from any friendly country in its ports. We are willing to continue the normal cooperation with Sri Lanka and other countries in this regard in the future.
III Vision for the Future
A Chinese saying goes that state-to-state relations grow out of close interactions between the peoples. China and Sri Lanka enjoy a profound people-to-people friendship. There is no reason why t our two countries can't sustain and build on our already excellent relations. China's friendly policy toward Sri Lanka is oriented towards the whole country and China's practical cooperation with Sri Lanka is geared to its entire people, regardless of who or which party rules this state.
These days, the media has referred to the Indian element in the relations between China and Sri Lanka in a negative way. I must stress that India, the same as Sri Lanka, is a friendly neighbour and cooperative partner of China. As stated by Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, when he met with his Sri Lankan counterpart, of Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, in Beijing, trilateral cooperation among China, Sri Lanka and India is greatly welcomed. It will benefit the three nations and three peoples. As an important component of China's friendly policy toward neighboring countries, the China-Sri Lanka relationship is never targeted at or influenced by any third party. I am sure that good China-Sri Lanka relations would also benefit India and its people.
Sometimes, there may be certain technical or practical problems and challenges emerging between China and Sri Lanka in such fields as trade, investment, etc. We hope that both of us will take the two countries' overall warm relationship as the first priority, and resolve the relevant problems through friendly bilateral consultation. I have not heard any complaint that China has done anything harmful to the interests of Sri Lanka. We believe that the Sri Lankan side will reciprocate our goodwill. China has confidence in our bilateral relations because in the past decades we always stood by each other, in good or bad times. China is willing to continue as a trustworthy and reliable partner of Sri Lanka and its people. No matter how the situation changes, the two sides should cherish the long standing bilateral friendship, and unswervingly stick to warm bilateral relations, advancement of bilateral mutually beneficial cooperation, as well as mutual support in international and regional affairs. China will, together with Sri Lanka and other relevant countries, commit to enhancing the capability for self-development with the joint construction of the 21st century Maritime Silk Road.
Finally, the Chinese government and her people are looking forward to a successful state visit by H. E. President Maithripala Sirisena which will take place soon. The Chinese side envisages that the visit will further strengthen the ties and cooperation in trade, infrastructure, public health care, agriculture, science and technology, tourism as well as cultural exchanges, so as to benefit both countries and peoples.