5 July, 2022


Thoughts On Prime Minister’s First Official Visit To China

By Bandu de Silva

Bandu de Silva

Bandu de Silva

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s first official visit to China: Should it be an opportunity for balancing economic and strategic relations?

Now one can speak firmly about the impending visit to China by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe from April 6th 2016. According to Sunday Observer of March 27 2016 based on Prime Ministers statement in Parliament and other more recent news emanating from Beijing Foreign Office sources, this first visit by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremeasinghe is the sixth visit by Sri Lankan Prime Ministers /Presidents in the course of six decades since both countries established diplomatic relations in 1957.

The opening of relations with China was historically far more significant than that with our neighbouring big country, India, because it was with Revolutionary China, and not with India, that the small island nation entered into her first trade/payments agreement in 1952 since independence. That was in the year 1952. And this agreement, contemptuously termed the ‘’Rubber-Rice pact’’ in the West, which continued to be renewed and expanded into areas of broader cooperation leading to a long and lasting friendship between the two countries. As I wrote several times (in The Island) reminiscing my days as a young Sri Lankan diplomat who went to China with the pioneering diplomatic team in April 1957, just 59 years ago, (the only remaining one of that team), this bilateral relationship was an “exemplary” one between a small country (‘rat nations’ as Koreans call ) and big (an elephantine) country.

Ranil WickWith my own experience, I can wish the Prime Minister, a very pleasant arrival time climatically, in the Spring in Beijing, with tree -lined streets bent down by remnant snow flakes, and little flag –waving children in creches with cheeks turned rosy by the Goby wind, which I reminisce, but the real reception that the Prime Minister would get, despite its exterior manifestations of warmth always shown to Sri Lankan leaders, will depend on how the Prime Minister and his team together conduct bilateral affairs during the visit. I saw this happening during the visit of President Maithripala Sirisena and commented on it. Things remained as I predicted. (My two articles in Colombo Telegraph refer).[Note: Receptions can sometimes be chilly in Beijing as I witnessed once at the Beijing airport one frosty early Winter morning when Nikita Kruschev left after a cold reception. As Third Secretary, I was the assigned representative for airport protocol duty when weather was too severe for the aging Ambassador].

As I see from Sunday Observer report of March 27 2016, nothing firm has been outlined for the Prime Minister to reach agreement except signing of a M.O.U for joint ventures to manage and operate the Hambantota sea port and the Mattala airport, according to Minister Samarawickrama) and the mention of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which has been under discussion, Colombo Port City project which was suspended under the present government, the Hambantota port project continuation, (signing of a M.O.U for joint ventures to manage and operate the Hambantota sea port and the Mattala airport). Sri Lanka is expected to take up also discussions on new joint venture projects including the Southern Highway Extension and Kandy and Ratnapura Highways. As Prime Minister had told Parliament “deals with China which will be finalised during this trip will be a follow up to the one undertaken by President Maithripala Sirisena last year”.

According to Central Bank sources Sri Lanka hopes to get 1.5 billion US dollars from China almost immediately through some of the development projects. Investment and funding opportunities have been identified with a Consortium of Chinese banks included Bank of China. How this is going to fit into the scheme of joint ventures is not disclosed.

Though the Sri Lankan government is said to have recently cleared the blocked the US $ 1.4 billion Port City project investment by China, the position is still not quite clear. Positive response by Sri Lanka to this vexed question could go a long way to rebuild relations with Beijing.

It could not be gain said that the new government’s stance towards the Port City project has not dampened prospects of future Chinese investments as much as damage the trustworthiness of Sri Lankan governments on investments when political changes take place. Prime Minister is now keen to reestablish this confidence as Chinese themselves assessed his remarks made at Davos.(Xinhua January 21,2016). The Chinese view of Prime Minister’s emphasis was on prospects of Chinese investment.

Reference to “strategic cooperation” and the idea of the “Maritime Silk Road Project” which on the part of the Chinese, dominated the Chinese infrastructural development during the Rajapaksa regime and even took central stage during the Hainan Summit last year which was attended by President Sirisena do not figure in the pre-meeting media thrust by the Chinese side while its total absence from the Sri Lankan side is to be expected. However, as I commented on discussions during President’s visit last year that if the news reports emanating from China were a guide, it looked as if the Chinese leader was emphasizing a few hard-driving points like the need for ‘’trustworthiness” and “reliable friendship” during that visit which were but very cutting references in the circumstances which could be construed as a direct response to the new Sri Lankan government’s handling of issues involving Chinese investments. These words are still reverberating by the Chinese at a lower key at the level of the Foreign Ministry spokes person, Hong Lei, when he used the less cutting terminology calling for China-Sri Lanka “strategic cooperative partnership” featuring “sincerity mutual assistance and long lasting friendship to new heights.” (Hiru News, Friday 02, April,2016) citing Xinhua. Here seems to be an advanced indication to the visiting Sri Lankan Prime Minister, what the expectations of the Chinese side are. As much as it is important to take note of these expectations, it is not to suggest that Sri Lanka should be expected to play a role lesser than that of a mutual partner. At the same time, it has to be admitted that China, fully utilizing the amenability of the Rajapaksa regime, went many steps forward in the direction of enveloping Sri Lanka in the in the expansion of her strategic ambitions in the Indian Ocean region, jeopardizing her own ideal status of neutrality in the midst of big-power ambitions. I wrote last year that Sri Lanka, with a government in a hurry to develop infrastructure for whatever reasons, then offered an easy overall target for large scale infrastructure development investment. There was no questioning by China if the projects were feasible, or environmentally acceptable, or not, what political, social economic impact the projects would have. Those aspects were left to the Sri Lankan government to decide.”

It is time for China, as much as for other big powers, to rethink their strategies from the point of view of the situation of small countries like Sri Lanka also from the position of the latter; but this is a hard proposition in the Kautilyan world of survival of the fittest.(Matsaya Nyaya of Kautilya). Consequently, it is through diplomacy alone that a country like ours could survive in this complex situation.

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Latest comments

  • 12

    This Man Should Visit CHINA With-Out any clothing …….FULLY NAKED….for Critizisng CHINA and the Friendship that they extended towards our country…..And now visitng CHINA……….One Of The Ungrateful Prime ministers we had …………People are cursing this man ………….Just a utter waste of our money that he is spending…..We are ashamed to call him as our Prime Minister

    • 11


      “This Man Should Visit CHINA With-Out any clothing …….FULLY NAKED….for Critizisng CHINA and the Friendship that they extended towards our country…..And now visitng CHINA……….One Of The Ungrateful Prime ministers we had …………People are cursing this man ………….Just a utter waste of our money that he is spending…..We are ashamed to call him as our Prime Minister”

      You sound and type like the PURAWESIYA who knocked a few stupid words and typos under:

      GL Grilled For 3 Hours Over Chavakachcheri Suicide Jacket.

      April 2, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      This Is A Highly Dangerous Situation In The Country………….We cannot Take These As JoKes………….This YAMAPALANAYA Government Is A Threat To The National Security …..That Each People Should Understand………WHEN PEOPLE EXPRESS THEIR CONCERN over national security they are called to the FCID…………. People Should Get In To The Road And Should Chase This Yamapalnaya DevilS……IF THERE IS A WAR STARTED AGAIN ALL THESE CLOWNS SOhULD BE HELD RESPONSIBLE

  • 12

    Ranil is a pathetic loser. He is going to get his balls kicked by the Chinese. They will implement all the stalled projects in their own terms and will not offer Ranil a dime. John Kerry aney where are you with the 0.5% interest loan.

  • 7

    I wish him success. Rajapakses are fools to think China is like Gaddaffi’s Libya.This is about business. China will work with anyone in any nation to foster their interests.

    China is a very clever nation with long term strategic interests and also has been a sincere friend to Sri lanka. Sadly the UNP top hierarchy has always been contemptuous of China and felt they can run to the USA for everything because the US helped the UNP via cash and other means such as the brilliant Social Media revolution to enable regime change. If you talk to UNP top rungers you know they think ideologically they are unbridled capitalists and say all sorts of insulting things about China in private.

    Now having said that, I welcome the PM’s visit to China. He is orchestrating it so that he will get full court press and coverage and he is probably hoping for the sort of reception Mrs. Bandaranaike received in China during the dark days of socialism. So I hope he does well. This man is pragmatic and has come to realize there ain’t no money for Uncle Sam to dole out even in high interest loans.

    The only reason the US and India got involved in the erection err I mean elections was the MR regime totally overplaying the China card in a post Non-Aligned world.

    I am not a fan of RW’s in the political realms. But he is one of the most widely read informed leaders SL has had on many topics of international trade etc. Sadly people do not like him in a personal way because of his inability to make eye contact and speak directly and display a friendly or warm personality. That may be due to Aspbergers or being in the Autistic spectrum as many have come to realize. That does not mean he isn’t high functioning and very well informed.

    Sri Lankans or Sri Lankan diaspora both Sinhala and Tamil(except the Tiger tamil facists) should cheer for his success on this trip. SL is in dire straits with erratic financial and economic policies of this regime. The budget was a joke. They have not started a single viable project. They are reeling with a cash shortage and dwindling exchange reserves. LKR is sliding; there are massive interest payments. The Rajapakses ruined SriLankan Airlines.

    When top Royalist Permanent Secretaries of the Civil Service who even went to Harvard for Training also enabled and participated in the corrupt acts amounting to Billions of Dollars you know the Country was a typical Third world basket case. Really as some people said it was “RAJAPAKISTAN” during the second tenure of the much loved President. Sirisena was his crony too and only fell out because he was not made the Prime Minister.

    Now back to Ranil’s visit. He will do well. He always does well with foreign visitors where he is more comfortable. The china bashing that this regime and the state owned newspapers engaged in immediately after their victory in 2015 is now silent. They have realized China’s important to SL.

    China will not care that Rajapakses are not in power. They DO NOT depend on personalities in third world nations. Rare relations were with Mrs. Bandaranaike but that too was limited in the sense CHINA does NOT intervene in domestic politics the way the US and India does. Neither does Russia for that matter. Rajapakse is full of himself if he thinks China will favor him now that he is out of power with no hope of coming back with all the massive corruption cases hanging over his head and even a possible murder charge that Ranil is cleverly using to his advantage.

    So here is the bottomline.
    1. China is all about business.
    2. China is all about their interests.
    3. This visit will be a success despite Rajapakistanis screeching here on CT
    4. Ranil has eaten humble pie with Uncle Sam only interested in strategic military partnerships but without donations to the begging bucket.
    5. China will help Sri Lanka in order to revive their investments.
    6. China is a corrupt Oligarchy and want their interests served with all the money they spent.
    7. US is shitting in their Sri lankan made Victoria’s Secret undies because of the strategic Asia Pivot and they desire to use Ceylon as a hub for Indian Ocean policing.
    8. India will be ok with this regime because they know Ranil and Mangala are totally subservient. In fact Ranil will not worry if India overruns Sri lanka and he is very gung-ho about ECTA and even making a land bridge for a reason.
    9. Thus, India knows Ranil is under them and will not worry too much about China.
    10. Ranil wants to former a greater economic union with India but fails to see what India has done to Nepal over decades and even the recent blockade.
    11. Ranil is pragmatic.He will do well. This trip will silence the Rajapakistanis.
    12. Ranil’s blue eyed boy for so many reasons is Hon Sagala Ratnayake who was once in an arranged marriage with Ranil’s cousin Professor Wijeseundere’s daughter now. That is why a relatively unknown like him was sent to Beijing to supervise this visit. It is a critical visit. Everyone know why Sagala is “special”..Sagala is his point man and hit man so to speak. Ranil is disgusted with Matara Man Mangala and his frequent trips with gay abandon to the US

    This is a win-win for both sides. If it does not, then replacing foundation stones and opening stones for project started and completed by the MR regime to show it is the work of this regime will not work. Eventually they will run out of excuses and LKR will be 175 for a USD by end of the year.

    I wish him success. Rajapakses are fools to think China is like Gaddaffi’s Libya. China and US are both alike in the sense they promote their interests. Third world leaders are expendable. Even Mrs. Bandaranaike realized that when India ignored her and made deals with JRJ. That is how the real world of business operates.

    • 1

      [Edited out]

  • 5

    Has Rani polished his begging bowl? The one he took to Davos! This time he may receive a few crumbs.

    • 6


      “The one he took to Davos! This time he may receive a few crumbs.”

      You may be right, the rest was gobbled up by the crooks earlier in fact before January 2015.

    • 1

      What about the bunch of crooks in waiting?

  • 4

    Batalanda Ranil ,our Yahapalana PM sucked the White asses dry. but nothing came to bail him out. except the USD 6.5 Billion from Pension Funds of Sugar Daddies, Diaspora retires and The ex LTTE savings accounts, to earn a cool 6.85 percent per annum in USD .

    With handsome commissions to UNP money bags and their friendly investment bankers and of course Aloysious and Father in Law Family outfit.

    Batalanda and Bodhisattva Sira,s Yahapalana Economics has reversed our Growth to 4.4 percent which is is 50 percent reduction in just 12 months.

    But then our Yahapalana suckers have no idea about Economics .

    Batalanda promised 1 Millon jobs for the Dalits. Wonder how many jobs went with that 50 percent drop in the Growth Rate?,

    Now Batalanada is in panic mode.

    Bodhisattva Sira,s stooges can,t even address a meeting in any country side location, without getting booed and abused and cursed.

    Although this is advantageous to the UNP, Batalanda can not carry on without money coming in to keep the Government functioning.

    That is why he has bitten the bullet and begging the Chinese for help.

    I am sure the great Chinese people are not that stupid to help Batalanda to screw of poor inhabitant population which in fact over 70 percent of the nation, who have been friends with the Chinese people for nearly 50 years.

  • 3

    I am not sure how the Hon. PM of Sri Lanka is going to face the Chinese leaders for what he had uttered about them and China during and after the Prez and General elections! His thick black glasses won’t hide his past (or his nakedness, as his critics say), though he thinks nobody can see him, like the Australian ostrich that hides its head in the sand from aboriginal hunters! I hope he would not make a fool out of himself in front of Chinese leaders, and handover Mother Lanka unconditionally as a hostage in return to cover up his past mistakes and foolishness like his uncle JRJ did before the power-hungry Indian RAW in 1987. Hon. PM should know (since he compared Prof. G.L. Peiris to Napoleon a few days ago) what Napoleon had said about China: “Ici repose un géant endormi, laissez le dormir, car quand il s’éveillera, il étonnera le monde”: (“Here, lies a sleeping giant. Let him sleep, for when he wakes up he will shock the world.”). (Attached to the original French version, please find the English translation; otherwise Hon PM will blame CT that he does not read French. A few days ago, he cunningly and ridiculously avoided MP Gammanpila’s questions in Parliament by saying he doesn’t read Hindi.) Mr. Prime Minister! The West and the Rest are well aware of the above fact about China, but do you know that they strategically use small, defenseless countries like Sri Lanka as a sacrificial goat to check if the ‘sleeping giant’ is still asleep!

  • 5

    The Prime Minister must make use of this visit to address the balance of payments crisis and the restructuring of the loss making ventures and particularly the Sri Lankan Airlines.

    The approval of the Port City project, handing over the management of the Hambantota Harbour and Mattala Airport and the development of the 1,000 acre FTZ must be finalised without any further delay.

    A BOT power plant, preferably based on LNG from the deposits discovered by Cairn,is another high priority project. This will help to shelve the long delayed Sampur Power Plant. Such FDI will help to overcome the balance of payments crisis.

  • 1

    What is the pointing in being gleeful about failure? Eventually whether it is MR or RW, the country will suffer if this trip does not bring much benefit to SL. I wish RW success. The massive loans, the Billion dollar waste at the National Airlines etc did not happen overnight. No doubt there are corrupt elements trying to make a quick buck in the UNP too; always have. But RW must be wished good luck even though he has had to eat humble pie with the handouts not coming from the US as he had hoped for. Eventually if he fails the nation fails so why not all MR fans or RW fans or cynics like me wish him well because he is not doing this trip out of fun; it is sheer necessity after his regime antagonized the Chinese and insulted them. But Chinese are smart and patience. They know the current regime is here to stay and so they will want it to succeed to meet their strategic goals. Chinese are not bowled over by third world personalities and MR or GR or SF. IT IS THEIR interests they foster like Sri Lanka should be fostering their national interests. So I for one will say good luck RW.

  • 2

    United States of America owes China US$1.2 TRILLION. How can US give even a penny to other countries? Hon. PM! How many times did you beg the current American authorities for money but you came back empty-handed. We don’t blame the Americans. They too are struggling like us!
    However, you need to do your homework as the co-caretaker of the country (we don’t expect Prez Sirisena to read lengthy reports in English and do the maths; let him enjoy his term and leave the office peacefully on time)!
    If you put China’s ownership of U.S. debt in perspective, its holding of $1.2 trillion is even larger than the amount owned by American households because U.S. citizens hold only about US$959 billion in debt; Please read the annual debt report issued by the US Federal Reserve before talking to the Chinese leaders; otherwise they will notice that you have appeared in their doorstep just like a typical Sri Lankan beggar!

  • 3

    Good article with many points to consider, ponder upon, and implement.

    Hopefully it will go 1/4 and 1/4 with China and India, and leave the rest up to a Socialistic Democratic Union of Environmental Tradition for Sri Lanka.

    This means, that instead of the 1-million Indian created jobs, it will be a 100,000 Indian inspired jobs (Ok, that’s less then 1/4…rest of the 150,000 will come from US globally-inspired jobs). Chinese string of pearls can go ahead without the port city. Absolutely No Land-Bridge to destroy the fragility of unique Lankan heritage and environmental systems.

    Rest of the 1/2 will depend on adequate Lankan home entrepreneurship and self-sustaining economy + adequate taxation – Lankan privatized economic bubbles – Lankan corruption.

    After these are implemented, we will be free to push the numbers one way or another dependent upon the super-powers aspirational needs. All in all, it is the integrity of the local economy that will help us survive. We have to be humble.

    • 0

      100 k jobs from india and 150k from US , you are in a dreamland my friend . They dont have any money to give as now these donkeys have kicked the chinese out they have their own agendas and Sri Lanka is not one of them . RW has realised his folly a bit too late and is now going with the begging bowl to China to save his skin from the impending economic disaster . China and Japan is the only game in town .

  • 0

    Ranil senior, please go there and give a big TOKKA to Mr. Xi for helping MR on unwanted things

  • 0

    This is a true story, happened in a suburb village of Matara
    This mother in Law did not like her son in law. He was a fisherman.
    On a particular stormy night she saw her son in Law venturing in to the raging sea. This woman preyed to the gods that her son in law should perished. She did not mind her daughter becoming a widow.

    The politicians ,like that foolish mother were preying that Ranil,s trip to China will be a disaster!

  • 0

    It happens to be a great along with useful little bit of info. I’m grateful that you choose to discussed this particular infoomatirn around. You should keep us up to date such as this. Appreciate spreading.

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