28 May, 2022


For Firmer Growth, Sri Lanka Needs China’s Soft Power

By Marwaan Macan-Markar –

Marwaan Macan-Markar

Marwaan Macan-Markar

Billboards promise a futuristic paradise on the road that leads to this sleepy fishing town on Sri Lanka’s southern coast. Smiling pictures of the country’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, appear on most of them. Others include his siblings or sons — members of the large Rajapaksa clan who hail from this region and effectively run post-conflict Sri Lanka.

A short distance from Hambantota, about 190km from the capital Colombo, are early signs of the planned transformation of this flat terrain of shrubs and forests teeming with wildlife. An international airport has been carved out of a jungle inhabited by elephants. A gleaming cricket stadium now rises out of a dust bowl. The centerpiece of this Rajapaksa-led development model is a massive new harbor.

The president, after whom both the airport and port are named, is receiving kudos from devout voters here. “The president is the lifeblood of this area. Look at Hambantota, it is even better than Colombo,” remarked convenience store owner Sujith Sayakkara, 33. “Before, this place was nothing more than shrub jungle.”

He also has China to thank. The Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port is the result of loans from the Asian giant. The first phase of the port, costing $320 million, taps Hambantota’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean, just next to one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, traversed by 70,000 vessels annually.

Read more in the Nikkei Asian Review

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Latest comments

  • 1

    So this is how you fund your holidays ?

    Bet you “dropped into” yala as part of your research as well ?

    Also drove on the highway for sure , why no mention of that ?

    This is not news for us !

  • 2

    Unfortunately, the GOSL and the general public have mistaken Chinese infrastructure building to mean that China is going “protect” SL. There might come a day when China will challenge the US in the Indian Ocean, but that day is many decades away. A litmus test for China’s rise as a naval power is Taiwan, which has been described by the US military as “an aircraft carrier that won’t sink”. Until China can clean up its own neighborhood in the South China Sea and annex Taiwan, it is not going to challenge the US in the Indian Ocean. The conventional wisdom is that it will be 20-30 years before China will be in a position to wrest Taiwan away from the Americans. The Tamil issue will be settled on the island long before then, and all indications are that it won’t be settled in favor of the Sinhalese.

    • 0

      The Patriot says, “The Tamil issue will be settled on the island long before then, and all indications are that it won’t be settled in favor of the Sinhalese”.
      What are the indications?
      The Patriot is yet to find out the matter was Settled in May 2009. Settled in favour of Sinhalese and the rest of the country. The 5th anniversary celebrations of the settlement will be be on the 18th May. You are cordially invited to attend.
      Extemist Tamils lost everything, including their ego. Come to your senses, there is peace now. Enjoy the peace!

  • 0

    Have read this many times over. Please !

  • 1

    Never thought I’d accuse CT of publishing rubbishy propaganda like this but I suppose there has always to be a first time for everything. I only hope it is also the last!

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