21 June, 2024


Belt & Road Initiative Is Not A Chinese Plot

By W. Vishnu Gupta

W. Vishnu Gupta

The present Sri Lankan regime seems to have grudgingly and unwillingly accepted the inevitable effect of Belt and Road initiative of China. BRI should have been adopted wholeheartedly before 2014 and not for the nefarious reasons uttered by politicians. Senior Minister John Amaratunga, a diehard supporter of the prime minister has said recently; “Sri Lanka looks forward to benefiting more from the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and is ready to welcome more Chinese investment into the country.

Furthermore this Minister currently responsible for Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs has gone on record for saying; “To start with, Sri Lanka is fully supportive of the Belt and Road Initiative of China. We have no debate on that. We look forward to benefiting more from this policy that China has adopted.” What a quirk of fate.

Kiss the hand they wish to cut off

The UNP lead government has taken almost four years to wake up from deep slumber and move away from antagonistic policies towards China. Not so long ago the UNP maligned then government of the strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa.  The UNP claimed that Port City project was dangerous and detrimental to Sri Lanka.

On December 17, 2014 then Opposition United National Party (UNP) Leader Ranil Wickremsinghe vowed to scrap the Colombo Port City project after the Presidential election on January 8th2015.

“UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe met tourist industry leaders yesterday at the Opposition Leader’s office. Pegasus Reef Hotel Director P.M. Withana and UNP MP Harsha De Silva also participated at the meeting – Wickremesinghe made this early declaration during a meeting with tourism industry stakeholders at a meeting in Colombo. He said the multi billion project would be scrapped because it would end up destroying the coastal belt from Negombo to Beruwala.- Financial Times, December 17 2014.

After lackluster four years of controlling the government, very same man Ranil Wickremesinghe, who predicted doom and gloom due to Chinese investment has stated in 2019; “the Port City will transform Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo into a financial and trading hub”

The citizens must take what these oligarchy leaders say to the voters with a grain of salt. The UNP leadership has taken a U-turn and publicly announced;

“We hope more investments will come into Sri Lanka from China. There are a lot of Chinese companies who are looking to invest here, particularly in the tourism industry. We will gladly welcome all of them and give them all the support and assistance to start their projects here which will help our economy,”

“We look forward to engaging more with the Chinese government under the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative)”

These statements made by Sri Lankan politicians must be treated as nothing but political grandstanding or tongue in cheek policies.

African market and the Critical Hub of BRI

Africa within foreseeable future will be as populous as China. Their colonial past forced them to depend on western countries however; situation has changed mainly due to China’s overseas development strategy and foreign policy. As such, the African leaders do not have to choose sides as they did during the cold war and the Africans have many choices to make. Under this context Africa will become the next best evolving market for the goods and services offered by any developed country. The competitors jockeying for a major share in this new market are China, Japan, USA, France, Turkey and India. China leads the pack.

China and many African nations have been partnering investments for nearly a decade. Both parties trust each other without any strings attached. High level contacts of the two sides are made in the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation.  At the 2018 China-Africa Cooperation Forum, China announced it would be providing $60 billion in financial support to Africa. It shows the level of commitment of China’s investment in Africa.  The collaboration and cooperation has made Africa one of China’s greatest allies in the current global market environment. The investment trend will continue at a steady rate.

Geographic Strategic Advantage

There is no secret behind the primary motivation of China’s push toward increased investments in African nations and Sri Lanka.  Sri Lanka’s role BRI is crucial in China’s development and trading strategy in the continent of Africa. Unfortunately, Sri Lankan corrupt politicians driven by short term personnel gains (bribery and graft practices) have failed to understand the long term benefits to Sri Lankan citizens in participating BRI initiative. There is no master plan based on national requirements, both present and past governments have followed shoot from the hip approach.

Source, Hub and Destination

As per national economic strategy, China would like to secure a solid base of raw materials to fuel China’s own rapidly growing economy based on the demands and production capacity of “The factory of the world”. Africa has become the source of raw material and the emerging market for the finished goods. The stakes in Africa are high, many are targeting the continent’s rich abundance in raw materials. For example; Africa is estimated to contain 90% of the entire world supply of platinum and cobalt, half of the world’s gold supply, two-thirds of world manganese and 35% of the world’s uranium. More importantly, Angolahas become China’s third-largest oil supplier. Among the others following Angola are Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

China-Africa trading strategy is also driven by the major growth opportunity presented by emerging market economies in Africa. According to statistics from the General Administration of Customs of China, in 2018, China’s total import and export volume with Africa was US$204.19 billion, a year-on-year increase of 19.7%, Among these, China’s exports to Africa were US$104.91 billion, up 10.8% and China’s imports from Africa were US$99.28 billion, up 30.8%.Under this backdrop, China must secure a safest maritime passage for her cargo ships plying between mainland and African continent to ensure the success of this mega trading arrangements with African governments.

The cargo ships travelling back and forth between Africa and China have to cover a vast distance. For instance, there are about 7500 Nautical Miles between Kenyan port Mombasa and Port of Qingdong, China. It is an enormous distance and there are only three logical ports in the Indian Ocean with enough capacity to berth huge cargo ships either for transshipment to India, replenishment, maintenance or emergency without any detour. All three ports are in Sri Lanka; Colombo, Hambantota and Trincomalee. Hambantota is the first choice. The other option is Port Louis in Mauritius. It is not as attractive as Sri Lankan ports due to its location and very cozy relationship it maintains with India. Hence it is obvious that Sri Lanka is in an enviable position to satisfy one of the parameters of China-Africa development strategy equation which is the “HUB”.

No wonder that Sri Lanka has become the darling of competing trading powers vying to get a big piece of the African economic pie. East-West shipping route lie within the Sri Lankan territorialwaters in the Indian Ocean and passes only six to ten nautical miles south of the country. It is the most cherished and desirable position in the maritime route linking China and African continent that attracts world trading powers and it has no bearing on economic policies or popularity of Ranil, Mahinda or Maithri.

Currently, more than 60,000 ships ply this route annually, carrying two-thirds of the world’s oil and half of all container shipments.

Undoubtedly, Sri Lanka’s geographic strategic location is the key to ensure the only safest maritime route for Chinese vessels. Chinese mega scale investment on Hambantota harbor and Port City Development is closely linked with the China’s strategy in Africa. Despite the claims made by some politicians in Sri Lanka, China has no  desire to increase global political influence, very often they (Chinese) have declared that internal politics of any nation is irrelevant to their foreign policy. Mining and drilling oil will remain a primary focus of China’s investments in Africa; however, given the market opportunities Chinese would not fall behind any other nation to extend throughout virtually every market sector, including infrastructure development to food processing.

Finally, Belt and Road Initiative of China is not a plot as some detractors have argued. Also, it should not be considered as a “Sugar Daddy” by the vile local politicians and make predictions without any substance. Sri Lankan leaders must be serious about the economic/social dilemma faced by common man / woman and be honest to transform very valuable national assets taking advantage of BRI. For instance, developing Hambantota district to be another “Shenzhen” of Indian Sub-continent is a great idea whose time has come.

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Latest comments

  • 5

    Yes, indeed, good points Vishnu!
    there has been a lot of Fake News against China, generated by various right wing US think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and Center for development, that blame China for the debt trap in Lanka , when in fact it is the IMF Washington Consensus and their big bank sovereign Bond traders and US puppet Bondscam Ranil and his financially illiterate butterflies who have put Lanka into a debt trap and the IMF bailout Business

    Various right wing American think tanks have being carrying out a propaganda war against China and they are also advocating US militarization of the Indian Ocean, which should be a zone of peace. Heritage foundation recently stated that there is a US Navy Logisitcs Hub code for military base in Trincomalee, and the Bondscam Ranil is Trumpland’s puppet.
    Time to push back on all the American Spin and weaponization of Sri Lanka which is being forced to militarize in the fake Drug War promoted by foreign mercenaries

  • 2

    China was a country harassed by Japan, Mongolia, UK and USA. Now it has almost come above those. Belt and road initiative a was a thorn in the eye for USA. USA used most counterproductive initiative to Exploit other countries. China is living in a very hostile atmosphere because of the USA jealousy on other prospering countries.
    Sri Lanka recently did not have visionary as well as intelligent Leaders. Then most visionary Leader R. Pemadasa was killed by the USA, I guess. Mahinda Rajapakse was not visionary. His war success was because the conditions pushed him to the wall and his brother and Sarath Fonseka saved the country, of course with MR supported too.
    But, MR did not have or a development policy. Ranil is worse. He simply does not know what to do it. I heard only thing he says once his Royal team briefs him “So, then, do that way”. He just believes his Royal team make him successful. Any other talked something good is destructive to him.
    MR could have have begun concentrating on the Belt & Road initiative. He did not do it. See how Myanmar is doing with the help of China. See how Malaysina ports were doing beczause of
    china. MR was not that Motivated for Srilanka. In that sense, India is a disaster to Sri lanka. Because, Indians are very very greedy. they would kill even their country man to succeed. then the Indian establishment is full of double agents. .
    See vietnam, they were brave and loved their country. On the other hand our Leaders are just like Indians. they would sell a piece of India if they can get hands on some extra money.

    • 3

      China is being targeted by Japan and South Korean which is America’s proxy in Asia with various fake news.Japanese think tanks has also been spreading fake new, quoting Washington’s so called Center for Global Development (CGD), to blame China for Lanka’s foreign aid and corruption caused debt trap, when in fact Japan’s JICA and ADB (which Japan owns and operates with US), has 25% of Lanka’s sovereign debt.
      It is the Washington Consensus and its Asian / Japanese and EU allies that are waging low scale economic war to crash the economy, and the Fake Human Rights in Geneva war against Lanka in order to control Lanka’s policy process and strategic assets in their Cold War against China.
      60 percent of Lanka’s sovereign debt is owned by Washington linked sovereign bond traders and the World Bank-IMF and they have been crashing the economy and rupee as they have done Greece, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Haiti, Venezuvela etc.

      Sri Lanka is far better off with China as a development partner, than with the Washington Consensus -Paris Cub of Fake aid donors. US is weaponizing and using TNA and Sumanithran to Dived and Rule in the Human Rights Endgame to set up the US military base in Trinco. Otherwise, US citizen Gota who has command responsibility for war crimes should have been tried and locked up in his Homeland – California!

  • 2

    China’s long term intentions on Sri Lanka vide BRI are not as innocuous as the Writer seeks to convey.
    Neither is it as deleterious as the other side of the spectrum is known to be. This crucial matter requires careful, deep study and political guidance to get the best advantage to Sri Lanka in the next few decades. With the right leadership Sri Lanka can benefit substantially from China’s growing economic influence and investments in their star BRI project. This is where the issue is. So far, our political leadership dealing with China in the matter have been lead by ministerial sources that are, to say the least, alarmingly ill-equipped and venal. Came down the grapevine an anecdotal report that a young VIP MP told a group of visiting senior Chinese key officials the project concerned can be given to them but they will have to agree to give him an incredible 40-50% of the entire cost of the project. The wise Chinese have all in other words laughed him off – reporting the brat both to higher SL and Beijing officials. Men of such low repute are not new to current Chinese leaders who deal extensively with African leaders with long established negative records.

    SL political leadership and officialdom should take the opportunity of discussing the matter at length with Mr. Vishnu Gupta in conjunction with others well versed in a subject in which this country’s future may well depend – if handled well.

    R. Varathan

  • 1

    Whoa! Whoever thought that we would end up like this. When I think back to the forties and fifties, and the very nice Chinaman who would call on our family to sell his super dress materials and accessories. If we would ever question the price, he would promptly and courteouly reply “good things no cheap, cheap things no good”. The Chinese will be always be welcome in our house.

    The Chinese know what they want, and they will get it.

  • 5

    The issue is not with the Chinese, but because it’s not a win win deal, due to our corrupt politicians.
    The Chinese are smart enough to exploit our weakness, to give the Chinese the unfair advantage.

  • 1

    china is the new colonial power. with its genocidal communist party. the above article is a paid one i guess.

  • 1

    Comment by Jehan….
    Politically do not insulted to PRC by Jehan. Every right thinking People of Sri Lankan knows that Jehan stand for whom?
    Write some thing with facts not by insulted to PRC .
    PRC was semi-colonial country before 1949 .The People of China stood by Mao leadership CPC….1949.liberation of country .It comes to 70 years …2019.
    Having different view by Jehan ‘s of that Western civilization, it ideology that some thing else, indeed that is permitted in Lankan system of democracy . But come with facts, not jointly with gossiper, but not with political slandering grate nation. Your inductive logics are not working at all

  • 1

    I heard the New Oil Refinery has sent USA and India as well as many Sri lankan politicians and parties in circles. On other Other hand, one of the most active Neo-Liberal Economic program implementing Mangala Samraweera is thinking whether he has to down size and accept a cheif Minister position for the Ruhuna. Ranil, for his 40 years of Politics, has laid a very bg foundation stone but while he was laying the foundation Stone, No HEavy equipment was seen near by to start the project and it was jsut a stone, had been thinking whether he would lose the election. Mahinda Rajapakse was upset for a few days. did anything think why CBK, Ranil’s best friend, and the first person of the country Maithripala sirisena were missing. I heard both
    Mahinda Rajapakse and CBK tried to start such projects and some one did not allow. They are upset about it.
    Venezuela also had such a very big electricity black out. another convoy of
    Humanitarian Aids to hungry and sick people were not allowed alleged by MAduro’s people by setting fire to it. but, Maduro can not be taken to UN courts because just days before that China had said a Huge CARGO PLANE LOAD of Humanitarian aids directly to inside of VENEZUELA. the suspicion was that former Shipload landed in Colombia might have been a TROJAN HORSe. I herd Ranil had been asked whether he anted any Humanitarian Aids during his 52 days LOCK U”P inside the Temple Trees. Further to that, Mahinda Rajapkse is thinking about the RACE problem in Sri lanka, whether to devide further or talk about the Reconciliation began with the Oil Refinery and Should it be informed to Tamils. Sumanthiran was also upset that he was not informed about it.

  • 1

    Bless the intended Chinese markets of course. But wait! Isn’t that what we in Theravada Buddhist Sri Lanka have been trying to get away from for generations viz. Western post-colonial capitalistic environmentally degrading system now converted to the Chinese system of the same orientation?

    Well, Western markets are also trying to survive. Isn’t China being rather one-sided in causing imbalances?. In this super-evolved day and age, haven’t we finished with playing “Age of Empires?”
    Best that can be suggested is that all countries of the world move towards environmental conscious Democratic Socialism.

    1. China to live within its borders and not build up Western-type cities to compete with the West;

    2. Britain to rejoin the EU to socialize and environmentalize;

    3. Sri Lanka to never, ever, join with India to commercialize for Neo-Western colonialism;

    4. Sri Lanka to never join China for the alternate capitalistic commercialization;

    5. Trump’s Russia alliance to socialize the whole world.

  • 1

    Dear Ramona

    Good observations, thanks. Our thinking must be PRO-SRI LANKAN not Anti-China, Anti-USA , Anti-India or Anti any other nation on earth.

    • 0

      Yes Indeed Vishnu. However, all the pro-feelings should/can only come, within a greater Socialistic network. Anything capitalistic like China’s bid to overtake the West, is too competitive in nature – the very thing that produced the World Wars, and in this day and age, probable nuclear holocausts.

  • 0

    Yes Indeed Vishnu. However, all the pro-feelings should/can only come, within a greater Socialistic network. Anything capitalistic like China’s bid to overtake the West, is too competitive in nature – the very thing that produced the World Wars, and in this day and age, probable nuclear holocausts.

  • 0

    Ranil Wicks take that every issues of politics , economic and social the very lightly.
    By and large all political manipulating are permitted by his “Democracy of UNP ” and “Rule of governances” advocated base on Neo-liberal order since 1977.
    RW of UNP carry forward same that principles as JRJ of UNP did his misdeeds of political since 1977 to 1988. ….until 1994!
    By showing current projects manipulating of Oil Refinery in prime location of South port at Magampura….Sri lanka by UNP. This is a purely political cover one’s tracks of UNP to win next election in 2020.
    This is result of that RW has undermined covenant in last election promised 2015 January 8th and same years August 27 against will of People.
    The UNP policies are that all sort of lager scale proposed projects that” Oil Refinery” is one of that?
    What is to be done before construction of Oil Refinery to be full fill?
    1 Proposed Project Report of Oil Refinery.
    2 To build number of Oil Tanks capacity of crude oil that we are going to Refine.
    3 Refinery building plan of Technical Know -how that world reputed Companies, China Japan Korea and even Italy are one of them. This refinery construction companies are very few numbers in the
    4 Supple of Oil by large super tanks ships are also important by our policy makers to be look at.
    5 Investors who agreed to buy, that refine Oil.
    6 Bunkering of oil is not only sufficient to Oil refine in daily basis. We want large buyer in many parts of Global Market.
    What I view is that UNP of RW of Primer and his team and MS of President are lack of knowledge of these proposed project .
    If it is starting such projects good for the the country. Development of Economy has no miracles, or short cuts ,it needed wise move by team works to be tap all efforts of Sri Lankan.

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