21 May, 2022


Sri Lanka And China: Towards Innovation Driven Economies

By Asanga Abeyagoonasekera –

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

September begins with summer Davos in Tianjin, China, themed, ‘Creating Value through Innovation’; and over 1,500 participants from 90 countries will be in attendance. The discussion will be on how innovation can generate more and better value for all stakeholders of our society. China has given top priority for innovation. Last year too, the theme for the same conference was on innovation. Recently, presiding over a meeting of the Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China, President Xi Jinping said the Chinese military must make great leaps in development and innovation so as to close the gap with its better-developed peers in the world. He urged the military to innovate in military strategies and management. This statement is a clear indication of China’s development of its military strength. Growth in innovation, research and development has become a top priority for the Chinese economy.

Last week, at the National IT conference, this author spoke on a similar topic: Sri Lanka’s journey towards an innovation driven economy. The topic was discussed along with talks on the bottlenecks, such as low budget allocation for research and development, plaguing the industry In Sri Lanka, a very nominal amount of annual expenditure – 0.5 per cent – is allocated for research and development purposes. There are many research institutes in the country without proper funding. While the country is moving towards a five hub development strategy, it is important to focus on improving the research and development sector.

According to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa‘s policy statement, it has been envisaged to make the country a regional hub in five areas. This will transform Sri Lanka into a strategically important economic center. The five hubs are: knowledge hub, commercial hub, maritime hub, aviation hub and an energy hub. The idea is to use the geographically strategic position of the country as an advantage to achieve the five hub status. Sri Lanka’s post war economic growth rate is positive and the country is moving from a factor driven economy to an efficiency driven economy.

On this journey it is important to concentrate on strengthening the second layer that includes institutions of the society. Government institutions and administration has to be strengthened to achieve results from the five hub development strategy. There are issues such as corruption, governance problems and the need to transform loss-making public institutions into profit-making ones. These are only some of the challenges the government has to overcome.

To achieve the status of a knowledge hub, Sri Lanka needs to improve its education sector, especially at a university level. 40 per cent of high school students fail mathematics, and we need to improve the quality of teachers and facilities required for schools. Many students are unable to enroll in universities owing to lack of seats; this needs to change.

If Sri Lanka continues with its present growth rate for the next two decades, the country could become a high income nation. It’s important to develop the five hubs. Many regional nations promote the hub concept as well, and, as a result, the competition for this status will be very high.

Hambantota port, being developed with Chinese assistance, will play a pivotal role owing to its location at the center of the Maritime Silk Road. As the aviation hub, Sri Lanka has already developed the second International Airport in the south of the Island. The significant increase of tourist inflows, from 200,000 to a 10, 00,000 within few years after the war is a major achievement.

The Chinese president’s historical visit with 150 top officials and business leaders will be another significant event in September. The Sri Lanka-China Free Trade Agreement, to be signed during the president’s visit will be an iconic moment and a leap forward for the relationship of both nations in over 60 years. The agreement is supposed to cover wide areas such as trade, services, tariffs, market access in China, diversifying Sri Lanka’s exports and overall enhancement of the country’s export potential. China is the 18th export market for Sri Lanka, with $121 million in exports and imports worth $3 billion. To Sri Lanka, this is an extremely unfavorable trade deficit that needs to be addressed.

Sri Lanka is moving towards becoming a higher income nation by 2040 with a per capita estimation of above $22,000. China and Sri Lanka with their close strategic collaborations should work towards moving from efficiency driven economies to an innovation driven economies. As the entire focus is on economic development, it is also important to focus on reconciliation to create a harmonious society in Sri Lanka. The government could consider initiating a new ministry for reconciliation and diaspora affairs to undertake the new mandate of promoting, designing and implementing reconciliation efforts. The development of strategies to re-engage with the disconnected Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora will be another important area the new ministry could work on.

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Latest comments

  • 2

    Innovation cannot be that separated from the culture. If the culture is to go back to feudal and tribal thinking, that country won’t innovate. For a country to innovate there should be a cultural habit of asking two questions: 1) is there a better way to do this? 2) why did that happen that way?

    If people get punished for asking these two questions, if people go to jail for asking these questions, that country won’t innovate. China will try, but with their top down hierarchy, there is a limit. Even Japan cannot match American rate of innovation because of this cultural barrier. So, think twice before anchoring on the Chinese model.

    If you get a chance to go to the Sri Lanka Inventors’ Commission, please see the wonderful work that small team is doing. They travel to remote villages in Sri Lanka and get those kids to think about their immediate surroundings to see Gold on the flip side of seemingly dark lives. That is the model. Get the village folk to ask the above two questions as habit. Then see how they will start to experiment things.

    Don’t go far, think about the fact that there are around 5 million houses in Sri Lanka with a kitchen. Each kitchen is a food laboratory. There is a researcher – the house wife. There are material – the vegetables. There are lab equipment – the kitchen utensils. Now give them challenges to innovate food, and reward. It will trigger a new culture of food innovation. Think about the situation today. Mom prepares the “pol sambola” copying how the Grandma did it. And the daughter just copies it. See? Innovation and culture cannot be separated.

    Do you think somebody who promotes stone age tribalistic thinking will change the culture leading to an innovative society?

    • 1

      Koheda yanney? Mallay Pol.

      • 2

        Fashionable non-conformist Sihala Buddhist planted Culture
        Vulture Coming Soon- Collective Thinking!
        It’s to do with the takeover of his tatthas iskole. While Sihala Buddhist took over these schools promising the moon for free.

        The poorest of the poor the number of innovative electricians, mechanics Jesuit father Ignatius (In 1962, a radio electronic lab was brought to St. Lucia’s Cathedral by Fr. Ignatius Perera) produced was the envy of the Sihala Buddhist monks.
        Both Cyril Ponamperuma and ANS Kulasingha were schooled by De La Salle Brothers and sent to USA.- Innovation by design in education.

        • 2

          Ja_vi You JIHADIST;

          C_R_A_P No relevance to the article.

          Man THREE Million Muslims killed by Muslims and the number of body bags rising by the minute.

          (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕)(^‿◕)(^‿◕)(^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕)

    • 2

      “China has given top priority for innovation.”

      Chinese way of education does not permit innovation and that is an accepted fact in the schools of IT (software developers china)While western education especially `christian` creates the individual innovator. This is what the South Indian Company who run over 500 schools of IT at Shanghai alone have found out and had an editorial in the Shanghai Economic Newspapers September 2007.

      Chinese cannot innovate but are very good at collective thought and work.

      So the Chinese calm down by saying the whole world is a copy.

      It’s the Maoism way of life- you cannot have the cake and eat it too.

      • 2

        Ja_vi You Canadian JIHADIST:

        China has given top priority for innovation.”

        The Norochcholai Power Plant is the biggest Cheenavedi given to Sinhala Lanka which is serving the country well including the Muslim residents of Kathankudi. You must be proud of the collaboration.

        (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕)(^‿◕)(^‿◕)(^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕) (^‿◕)

  • 5

    This essay should get the first prize if written by year 10 school kid with a heading like “My dream”.
    Author found data like China exports worth $121m and imports worth of $3biilion as very unfavourable. These are the trade figures with SL leader’s best ally. EU and US buy 50% of SL exports and SL consider them as enemies who try to tarnish the great image of SL (or images of their leaders?) With this kind of foolish thinking, how SL going to generate per capita income of $22,000 by 2040?

    • 1


      “This essay should get the first prize if written by year 10 school kid with a heading like “My dream” — that sums it up very neatly!

      And, we are still pretending to dream of becoming the academic hub – hubba, hubba!!

  • 4

    China or what you call the PRC is one of the most barbaric states with one party having total control and its funny this man have guts to talk about another oppressive state like the MARA regime in SL.

    Chinese citizens are living under total state control without any form of free expressions or human rights.

    China is a pariah among all its neighbors like Japan/Vietnam/The Phillipines/Taiwan/Malaysia and now Hong Kong is getting the real Chinese favor by reluctant to go ahead with the promised universal suffrage and heading for a disaster.

    China should be isolated from the rest of the Free world in all means and Sri Lanka will be another Chinese state soon with the present regime is selling the country for the kickbacks it got from Chinese companies.

    • 0

      You are in the wrong decade my friend. Get a news paper and read more. China is now on the way up and there are no Jews there to manipulate the stock markets and banks. They don’t depend on credit ratings from the US.

      • 1

        But their economy hugely depend on USA. If there are 10 bombs destroying New York and Los Angeles, China would collapse on the following week…

  • 2

    “Growth in innovation, research and development has become a top priority for the Chinese economy.”

    It has been that way for a long time. That is why they are busy hacking the western companies left right and centre. So if you want to copy the chinese model of Innovation then you need to boost the number of hackers. So first SL need to become a Hub of Hackers.

    Then as you suggest “Sri Lanka needs to improve its education sector”. With people like Namal doing PhD we are well on your way to achieving that.

    We are already: A drug hub, white van hub, corruption hub, elected thugs hub and a mustache hub. Let’s add more hubs, spill around buzz words and ride the latest fad until we are the mirage of Asia.

  • 2

    A knowledge hub is a good idea, but what sort of knowledge are we talking about? Militarism involves the gaining of knowledge, too. I would like to see a focus on languages and music – things that will bring harmony to the people of Sri Lanka. Playing music together transcends racial, linguistic and religious barriers, but music is not the “knowledge” the Chinese innovators are searching for – they want innovation in the military (presumably bigger and more destructive weapons).

  • 2

    A good fairy tale, as u watch daily ITN news. The author is none other than a another political appointee who’s job is to cover the gov debacles.as he correctly pointed out the hambanthota port and the second international air port s are generating vast amount of foreign income…wake up…
    Listen to ur heart Mr Author, what educational hub are u talking, when from 5 the grade scholarship to law entrance all the exams are corrupt and manipulated. There are no proper schools for children, please don’t be a stooge , be a patriot.

  • 3

    `The significant increase of tourist inflows, from 200,000 to a 10, 00,000 within few years after the war is a major achievement.
    `The Chinese president’s historical visit with 150 top officials and business leaders will be another significant event in September.`

    Asanga Abeygoonasekera,

    85% of Hambantota development still owned by China.

    Your pop was a mediocre student please don’t imitate him- the world has moved.

    All Chinese Mainland folk get their working holidays on the same day 7days x3 times. More than 0.6 billion travel on these days. American tourism by Chinese is a $6 billion business.

    Tomorrow is Moon Festival lasting 7 day vacation and many are scheduled to fly to Maldives (Government officers work 6+1 days a week). for just a couple of days as they have other matters to do within the 7 days.

    Sri Lanka just provides the connecting flight if that is what is meant by tourism. Chinese have overtaken the European traveller to Maldives as there are cheaper and secure locations for whites to travel elsewhere. Chinese don’t spend like the Europeans and may involve in water sports.

    On the 7th Sept Japanese PM is visiting Lanka for one night to inform Rajapassa among other things that he has signed a `defence treaty with NaMo of India` and that Japan is to be the highest Aid to giver to India from this year.

    On the 15th Sept Xi travels to meet NaMo for FDI discussions.

    Will SL sign a defence treaty with China so that NaMo does not push his agenda?? Very tricky.!

    NaMo is due for a cavity check by White House on the 28-29 Sept.

    Lankias there are no permanent friends but how much they can make.
    Tell me one country that does not exploit- but none.

    It takes long to be young.

  • 3


    The five hubs are: knowledge hub, commercial hub, maritime hub, aviation hub and an energy hub. The idea is to use the geographically strategic position of the country as an advantage to achieve the five hub status.

    *** You have failed to add two further hubs to make it Seven

    *** The ” Tiananmen Square Hub”

    *** The ” Nanthikadal Hub”

    By far the biggest Innovations of the Modern Era like the Western Industrialisation.

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