25 August, 2019

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No Big Deal Seen In President’s First Official China Visit

By Bandu de Silva

Bandu de Silva

Bandu de Silva

To those who were looking forward enthusiastically to the Sri Lankan President’s first official visit to China to produce something sensational in the context of growing international interest in the Indian Ocean island as an important link in East –West relations, and it developing into a potential hub over which competitive interests by two big Asian powers are looming – that includes China’s much vaunted 21st Maritime Silk Route Project and India’s re-invigorated assertion in developing strategic links with key Indian Ocean nations like Seychelles, Mauritius, Maldives and Sri Lanka – the outcome of the deliberations between the two Asian leaders may appear disappointing if not a damp squib.

Nothing sensational that would have made headlines or attracted international attention by way of open support by Sri Lanka for China’s ambitious project of the Maritime Silk Route which occupied much space in the Chinese President’s address to the BOAO Forum in Hainan Island, seemed forthcoming from the Sri Lankan President during his first official discussions with the Chinese President except, according to Chinese media sources (Xinhua) [a mere courtesy] show of “willingness to work with China within the framework of the 21st century Silk Road concept ….” Reference to the Silk Road project or the Maritime Silk Route Project (MSR) was totally absent in the President’s speech two days later to the BOAO Forum.

Other much vaunted phrases like “strategic partnership” which the Chinese Ambassador in Colombo emphasized and to which the Chinese President had referred to in his opening remarks (according to The Hindu report) was not taken up by the Sri Lankan side. In a sense, this guarded response on the part of the Sri Lankan President may be seen as a triumph for Sri Lankan diplomacy which was reacting with discomfort over the extended implications attached by other interested international players particularly in India to Chinese intensions, notably, about China’s increasing blue water ambitions.

ChinaConsequently, it would appear that Sri Lanka wished to avoid giving further cause for such fears, if not an indication of coming altogether under the spell of India whose maritime interest in the entire Indian Ocean region was amply demonstrated recently by Prime Minister Modi’s visits to three Indian Ocean islands skipping a projected visit to Maldives.

That there was no joint communique issued after the talks between the two leaders but separate statements were issued by each side, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry issuing such a statement (but not picked up by the local media except The Sunday Leader without acknowledgement), itself points to divergent interpretations of the fallout of talks, each side interpreting what it pleases. The Acting Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka even went to town contradicting what was reportedly said   by the Chinese side on the vexed issue of the Colombo Port City Project.

One should, however, not be dissuaded by the overt expectations for the talks to produce the controversy-creating results. The new rulers in Colombo are facing many problems arising from contradictions within the broad coalition of forces that got together to oust the former regime, some arising from respective political agendas each sought to achieve. The external ramifications of these internal developments on bilateral and international situations cannot be overlooked. The way the Chinese infrastructural development projects came to be looked at by the new government is one such, despite the ostensible calls for the need for transparency et al, and suspending work on the major investment project of Colombo Port City Development, smackng of an attempt at exposure of the deeds of the previous government as much a wish to be transparent on investment projects.

The height of the Chinese reaction both officially and otherwise, to the new government’s outlook on Chinese Investments was reached by the way the Chinese President decided to throw aside customary protocol not taking up controversial issues during top level state visits, to surface this issue during bi-lateral talks with his Sri Lankan counterpart. From the way the Chinese media interpreted the outcome, the Sri Lankan side was seen being compelled to make quick amends by way of a damage controlling move. The trumps in China’s hand like support for Sri Lanka in international fora and the warnings about future Chinese investment and aid projects which were seen reverberating round the discussion table were, perhaps, it too strong for Sri Lanka to remain without making amends. These attempts on the part of Sri Lanka were manifest in the overtures made during President’s official discussions with the Chinese President, as seen from the Chinese angle.

As I observed in my recent article entitled “Why better circumstances evaded President’s first official visit to China” (Colombo Telegraph), the President’s visit took place in a climate which was not the most congenial circumstance for such a visit. That it was the new Sri Lankan government’s own creation was admitted by the visiting President himself when accordibg to Xinhua report, he stated in response to the Chinese President’s remonstration during discussions at the Great Hall of China that the issues which had arisen over Chinese investment in Sri Lanka were “temporary”, and “problems do not lie with China.” If this were the case, he was virtually disowning what his own Finance Minister, Ravi Karunanayake said when he announced that Chinese investment had introduced corruption. That was what the new Sri Lankan government’s stance on Chinese infrastructural development projects, which one might say, was allowed to blow up into unnecessary proportions especially exacerbated through bad-mouthing by the Finance Minister which added to the dissatisfaction in Chinese official and non-official circles. That bad-mouthing itself, not once but twice over, showed a lack of collective responsibility and lack of cohesiveness in the pursuit of goals within the new government, if not its inherent internal weakness.

In the expanded version of my article sent to the printed media I observed:

“It is in this context that I say that better circumstances which should pervade the scenario during a state visit at a head of State level from a friendly country, has evaded Sri Lankan President’s first official visit to China. Though it is customary to evade discussion of contentious issues during a State visit at head of the State level, the prospects are that such issues would engage the two sides during this visit. That is primarily due to the doings of the Sri Lankan side. Issues which should have been handled with care and circumspection have been allowed to blow up into unnecessary proportions and the bad-mouthing by the Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake has added to the dissatisfaction on the part of China.

“The big question then is will President Sirisena carry an important message to Beijing which will neutralize fears of an overt pro-Indian attitude on the part of his government which would have adverse repercussions on Sino-Sri Lankan relations? That is the bigger issue. Would Sri Lanka be ready to forgo the opportunity of advantages offered by friendship towards China at a time when China has emerged as the economic giant of Asia and is going as far as establishing a new financial institution in the form of a new infrastructural support and development bank which is gaining momentum?”

The way things unfolded during the President’s first day’s discussions with the Chinese leader (as reported in the Chinese media) with the Chinese President which saw several bilateral Agreements being signed in their presence has vindicated the above observations I made earlier tentatively. Going by the day’s proceedings as reported in Xinhua news of same day (26 March), the contentious issue of Chinese investments in Sri Lanka, which was accompanied by the Chinese President’s emphasis on phrases like the need for “friendly cooperation” and “trustworthiness” and “reliable friendship” summed up not only what one may see as an expression of Chinese apprehension over the new Sri Lankan government’s attitudes towards Chinese investments, but also as a veiled expression of indignation over creating a “loss of face” situation for China, which the Chinese traditionally find difficult to stomach. One who has studied Chinese culture deeply will understand what a forceful factor the latter is, though Sri Lanka’s present ruling elite may have missed it. Wilmot Perera understood it within a few weeks of his assuming duties as first Ambassador in China.

What was the net result of blowing hot over Chinese investments in Sri Lanka? Wasn’t it a case of the Si Lankan President bending over his back to thank China for infrastructural support, ironically, including the much-maligned Hambantota port project and promising that a “more robust relationship would continue with China’ in future”.(Xinhua). He was even reported to have indicated willingness to work with China within the framework of the 21st century Silk Road concept of China.

As the Chinese side presented it, these looked as if they were words of surrender by Sri Lanka in the face of an uncompromising stance on the part of the Chinese for touching on the sensitive nerve of China’s pride – the ‘loss-of-face’ syndrome. Yes, China had other trumps in her hand too like the support given to Sri Lanka in international fora in the latter’s difficult situation which the President of Sri Lanka rushed to acknowledge. Besides, the reminder that Sri Lankan side that its government was at a juncture needing infrastructural support and investment most, was a mild warning about repercussions that could follow if bilaterally negotiated investment agreements with China were ruffled.

Of course, the Chinese did not want the Sri Lankan President to go empty-handed. Even before agreements to expand cooperation in health, agriculture, science, tourism and human resources development, they offered to establish a hospital for cancer treatment at Polonnaruwa with a laboratory for research in water treatment methods and developing technologies for treatment of kidney diseases. In the eyes of the Sri Lankan public, that should add to the other symbolic infrastructures like the Bandaranaike Memorial Conference Hall, the Supreme Court complex, the Nelum Pokuna Theatre, such a gift would remain for a long time to remind the Sri Lankan public of gestures by China. The Chinese know how to pick up and choose symbolic representations as much as they know where to make other big investments which will bring advantage to China. In this case, they have responded to an issue on which the Sri Lankan had shown a personal interest.

Media sources have given their own interpretation on exchange of views. It was rather the Chinese President’s remarks addressing the Sri Lankan Presidential team which was the starting point. If the news reports emanating from China are a guide, it looks as if the Chinese leader was emphasizing a few hard-driving points like the need for ‘’trustworthiness” and “reliable friendship” which are but very cutting references in the circumstances which could be construed as a direct response to the new Sri Lankan government’s handling of issue involving Chinese investments.

Curiously, in Colombo, the Foreign Ministry issued its own tempered version of what the Sri Lankan side presented in Beijing without any reference to the points that the Chinese side were raising. The acting Minister of Foreign Affairs was even placing a different emphasis to those reports coming from China on the major infrastructural project of the Colombo Port City Development.

Was there a deliberate decision to play down the visit so that in order to present Sri Lanka as having remained neutral in the face of competing interest of the two contending Asian giants, China and India, to assert a dominating role in the Indian Ocean region?

In conclusion, taking the versions of the two sides separately presented over the outcome of the visit, if one is inclined to take the Chinese version, it could be seen as a diplomatic victory for the Chinese to find the Sri Lankan President almost agreeing and assuring the Chinese of the significance and relevance of past Chinese investments in infrastructure development Sri Lanka while according to the Sri Lankan version, it provided the opportunity to play down on much misunderstood terminology used in the past which could further embarrass her vis-a- vis her recently resurrected cordial relations with neighbouring India. In short, despite assurances of friendship with China and a “robust relationship” with regard to Chinese investment, there were no manifestations of any conclusions which went contrary to India’s newly manifested security interests in the Indian Ocean region in which Sri Lanka was one of the most important links. The Sri Lankan version should provide a sense of relief to India that her neighbouring small nation did not ruffle her feathers. Curiously, how interesting it is to find that two Indian naval ships were timed to visit Trincomalee harbor though ostensibly to provide naval training to the Sri Lankan navy personnel, was timed for the Sri Lankan President’s visit to China.

*The writer was a former senior career diplomat of Sri Lanka who had his first diplomatic posting in China and later as Ambassador to several European countries including France.

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Latest comments

  • 13
    3

    “”if not an indication of coming altogether under the spell of India whose maritime interest in the entire Indian Ocean region was amply demonstrated recently by Prime Minister Modi’s visits to three Indian Ocean islands skipping a projected visit to Maldives.””

    Ha ha ha ha lankan old pricks with no formal education like Churchill the war criminal is learning the hard way that he and his fascist idiots from south indian muslim stock are being exposed.

    No two words in ascertaining the ownership of the Indian ocean than allow parriaha states to control and sell drugs, and floating armour to isalmist while begging from India and kissing their arse.

    Talk of Mauritius, it will always play center as Indians from Chandra Gupta Mauyra the Hindu not the supposed to be grandson criminal Asoka. and block any gutter snake from establishing control.

    Anyway oceans were demarcated after WW2 by the winners and India was not part of it as much as China.

    Like with the Carnation Revolution if all the Portuguese sounding names in Lanka are fenced in for rehabilitation by Modi that would be the greatest blessing the island can have.

    • 7
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      Only Javi understands what Javi writes !!His gobbledygook is stupid and stupendous.Seems he is an old retiree,with nothing worthy to be original . Poor fellow deserves some sympathy.

      • 8
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        “Poor fellow deserves some sympathy. “

        So you got a [Edited out]- Phew!

        Without guide or copying you never could pass an exam at your low grade is-school.[Edited out]

        Every time you change name (at least a dozen times)like a white van coward, beggar from pick pocket island of buddhist- same logo of the buruva – a transvestite slave bought in by the Portuguese from Africa and mixed at asia that was what the Portuguese learnt from the Muslim.-

      • 3
        10

        “Only Javi understands what Javi writes !!His gobbledygook is stupid and stupendous”

        Lord have mercy on those that are intelectually challenged. They understand not what they read. And Lord, bless the likes of Javi for we need more of them to spark our imagination and keep us alive and agog in this miserable world with their gobbledgook.

    • 4
      9

      “Like with the Carnation Revolution if all the Portuguese sounding names in Lanka are fenced in for rehabilitation by Modi that would be the greatest blessing the island can have”

      Well, de silva is a portuguese sounding name conferred by the wine-drinking,trigger happy colonial marauders on sychopantic lankan ancestry originating from kerala. So, perhaps Modi will have no problem identifying his lot for fencing in.

      • 3
        3

        [Edited out]

    • 5
      4

      Javi.

      This old codger missed very important development as he always does.

      Hindians asserted their security and geopolitical interest/agenda and shoved them in Maithiri’s throat by quoting Manimekalai and Chinnaswami Subramania Bharatiyar’s poem available on :

      (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKLzxSGhVyw.)

      In the last paragraph he wrote,

      singalath theevinukkoar paalamamaippoam
      saedhuvai maeduduththi veedhi samaippoam

      Approximate translation:

      “let us build a bridge to the island of Srilanka, lets raise the level of land covered by Sethusamdram, and build roads from india to Srilanka,”

      Why did Modi mention this poem/song when he addressed the Parliamentarians? Has Hindia been working on a hidden agenda?

      Read this news item:

      Sri Lanka: Chinese leader for 3-way talks on Indian Ocean
      Associated PressBy KRISHAN FRANCIS |

      Excerpt:

      COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s government said Wednesday that Chinese President Xi Jinping has proposed three-party talks with India and Sri Lanka to clear any misgivings over its activities in the Indian Ocean region.

      https://uk.news.yahoo.com/sri-lanka-chinese
      -leader-3-way-talks-indian-130456862.html#OMTn2Em

      In a way China also has pushed Hindians for trilateral talks regarding Hindian ocean and future of Sri Lanka. Its about who would control this brothel called Sri Lanka and how to share the fall out.

      • 7
        1

        NV
        Associated Press is owned by North Indian diaspora USA.
        APS is the biggest that does wholesale of news to the world even BBC.

        Russia is on Defense treaty with India this is as big as cold war days.
        Russia would never trust China after the fall out and what is happening on its estern border- Putin has been stern with Xi on this matter – cleared the chinese road names – but they are a brothel like lanka still play dumb villagers.

        Xi is trying to play checkers with NaMo after the mistake he made on chinese foreign policy- non interference. NaMo has no time on that xi better look after his own Local developmenocal plan no to foreign investment. which is sagging and folk are not happy- 100 million jobs in 10 years.

        Russia never wanted the 7th fleet in the south china sea- China is prepared with its nuclear subs to destroy them and hide in 5000 kilo M of underground shelters.
        Russia does not need shit- ther are rich and powerful and are the best chess players yet – they have never been beaten by the west- the bear will be bears when it comes to nuclear test.
        Lanak brothel as you put it- will only boil like crabs in hot water and no one wanting to eat them because they are pick pockets.

      • 6
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        Stupid Veddha in borrowed western clothes always listening to his wife or he wont get to sleep.- gods second mistake-
        TG/CT gave you folk the pick pocket government- Hey Ho.
        – why do you keep saying Hindian when world power New England highest caste is `Boston Brahmin` as they like to call themselves??
        …for the Indian to have an epic as big and old as Mahabharata which has awed the world and IC in particular is something to take consideration of. China to have giant statues of Indian and UNESCO protected is something to think about when you speak of modern ideas of – hidden agenda.
        School drop- out Sonia lost her hubby due to her stupidity (remember she was house keeper at Indira’s) Recently wanted to donate Kashmir and Pakistan did not know what to do if it got Kashmir because Kashmir wants to be a nation land locked and be like Swiss but cannot be because it has `muslim brains` and crusade. Dr Swami Lungi, is there at Kashmir writing his school maths story.
        Modi gave the Sarema parliament a world and Indian Ocean view- any maritime view in Indian ocean will be Indian like the Atlantic is American- Not stupid to play Suez but is the owner and lanka must pay homage or lead the miserable life- of pick pockets running a brothel for Muslim drug barons. Opium was taken to China from muslim Bangladesh (grown there) to pay for the Tea because the Tea Baggers refused to pay taxes to England.
        What binds China, Russia and India the terror Muslim as in Hitler days- do you hear a sound from them in Asia No- something big they would be slaughtered when the republicans take over US?

  • 9
    3

    “” especially exacerbated through bad-mouthing by the Finance Minister “”

    Being a business man he just said it right and Xi understands it well too- no fuss.
    these are matters the finance minister can renegotiate- we always do it with the Chinese because they don’t wear stiff collars like the European educated idiots.

    the finance minister was giving voice to the voice of the people. the people were right- Chinese can have 5 different sale prices when it comes to production.

    China never kept its currency undervalued because it respected your greed and got everyone world over with cheap goods by the belly- the price of fuel at the pump is cheaper at Beijing than US the patent right holder.
    talk of subsidies who provides more but China to it’s people- who are the people the party men only – 30 million in all.

    to bring in India in every discussion of yours with China yet being just a speck in the ocean and a begging bowl at that proves what a terrorist supporting Lankan people from Indian soil you are- terrorist.

    Xi at first signs of aggression from USA told Obama that our main issue today is the small countries setting us against each other – our trade and exchanges speak volumes of our understanding.
    UK’s & America’s largest export is Arms not peanuts.
    China is an exporter of small arms and ammunition that terrorist need too.

  • 3
    10

    The issue is simple. China is the emerging power. US is the declining power that is indebted to the emerging power. India is a nobody. India has so much potential but it will not be achieved as long as they continue to have this vassal like attitude towards the Whites. SL needs China, a trusted long term friend. SL does not need India, but would like to have good relations with India due to historical connections. SL does not need the US, period. SL’s national interests are completely the opposite of the US’s. Those in the UNP who try to sell SL to the US are traitors, and they will be taught a lesson in the next general election.

    • 5
      2

      “”The issue is simple. China is the emerging power. US is the declining power that is indebted to the emerging power. India is a nobody.”2

      Simple for maggots used to travel in a rotten apple. your passport has no vale because you are maggots.

      China is emerging because West opened doors at WTO to give the Chinese a proper diet- even today most cannot drink milk they fall sick.
      With sale of their goods to the west they make no goods for export- that is where most money comes from. Don’t you pick up the crumbs of poor working class British tourist- executives go to Bali or Maldives for long bank holiday weekends.
      The Chinese can have regulated holidays for all on same day- one week at a time – spring, summer and autumn. Maximum sport for them is water sports which they have yet to catch on to.

      Only USA can print money at will because it has the patent right as moneda de franca.- only barter trade can overcome that- west will not do barter trade with you but sink you.

      India is somebody and you are a kallathoni from there. Like the stupid roman solider from Italy who taught that EU was somebody big when it comes to forcing trade from India.
      The EU foreign minister the italian woman has lost her shoe

  • 2
    11

    IF there are no corruption and bribery involved in the state visits, of course, it’s not a Big Deal.
    MaRa knows to make a mountain out of a molehill and the Chinese know very well he is the man of their CHOICE to fit their dirty agenda in this region. Yes, NO BIG DEAL!!!!

  • 5
    1

    Native Vedda ,

    “”This old codger missed very important development as he always does. “”

    He is reminiscing his uncles hal kadde at pitta kottuva (pettaha, col 11) and how he climbed the coconut tree and found bananas in the 21st centenary. By stopping the tram cars, gas lines of colombo, sovereign bar soap, to have a wash with lifeboy- BCC pol thel.

    Try this for prosperity of all irrespective of race or religion.

    Expose Expose Expose!!!

    Diversity make all Portuguese sounding names Muslim as they are Portuguese marrakala link via the Deccan Plateau.
    (People of Kerala are smart enough to know where and when the tide begins and don’t need to sell mother India to China they have brains and move with Nadu Tamils in China- they are respected by the public as good businessmen and teachers of IT software not the tea shops in the middle east.)

    Then the Lankan pick pocket brothel will prosper with better quality heroin from Iran and Bangaladesh (the employment link established by aria_Alla_battala _sihala at Genève )
    If they were white of European gene as per genes they would have been accepted by Portugal (even today the Portuguese cannot change the family name except marriage and it is still roman law unchanged)– there are bench marks in Europe on that count to do with colonies of English, Dutch, French, Portuguese, Danish Flemish. How do you think Australians, Canadians, Americans come back to UK??

    • 2
      2

      Seriously,codger Javi needs some assistance.

      • 2
        1

        “”Seriously,codger Javi needs some assistance. “

        Paavi,

        Ha ha from bestiality breed!

        go find yourself a hyena and your medieval m. east bound woman/wife/daughter niece can relish.

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