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"China's experience" benefiting Sri Lanka's growth

09-15-2013 14:23 BJT

Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, is an island country in the Indian Ocean. It may be far from China, but its relations with China have been close and have stood the test of time.

In January 1957, Sri Lanka formally established diplomatic relations with China. In May this year, China and Sri Lanka elevated their relationship to that of strategic partners.

This is Chatuka Senanayake. The man in the picture is his grandfather Richard Gotabhaya Senanayake, Sri Lanka’s Cabinet Minister of Trade and Commerce in the early 50s.

In 1952, five years before the establishment of diplomatic ties between Sri Lanka and China, Richard Senanayake signed an important agreement with China. The agreement was to sell China natural rubber in exchange for rice.

Often called the "Rubber-Rice" Agreement, it mutualy favored both countries. China needed rubber which was hard to get following UN sanctions on the export of rubber from Malaysia, prompted by the Korean War. And Sri Lanka was dealing with a rice shortage. After signing the agreement, China's then Prime Minister Zhou Enlai gave this walking stick to Senanayake to express the Chinese peoples' gratitude.

That bond of friendship continues to this day.

"A warm China-Sri Lanka relation is a vital factor for us to put money into this country," said Liu Yunshu, in charge of overseas operation at China Merchants Holding International Co.

The relations have been warm. In the past decade, this company has invested more than 500 million U.S. dollars in Sri Lanka.

China has been Sri Lanka's biggest donor since 2009, providing 1.2 billion USD worth of assistance, representing 54 percent of the total 2.2 billion USD in aid committed by foreign countries.

The money has been widely used in infrastructure building and staff training. Training for people like 20-year-old Naveen who operates this sophisticated crane. He received 3 months training in China's southern city of Shenzhen.

This kind of training has brought opportunities not only for individuals, but also for the island country as a whole.

"Our biggest advantage is the experience we have in developing a country from the ground up. Since the reform and opening up process, we know how to boost a country’s economy from a per capita GDP of only hundreds of U.S. dollars to thousands of dollars. This experience is exactly what Sri Lanka needs," said China's Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Wu Jianghao.

"We are learning from China in many areas, such as infrastructure construction and labour force management. We believe we should learn from your development," said Basil Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka's minister of economic development. "China has a huge population. If China can feed so many people’s need and achieve such growth, why can’t we in Sri Lanka?"

In 2009, Sri Lanka emerged from a brutal civil war. President Mahinda Rajapaksa then came up with a new strategy for national development, called "Mahinda Chinthana." The great hope is that the Chinese experience of development coupled with "Mahinda Chinthana" will bring the sunshine of growth to this pearl in the Indian Ocean.


Editor:James |Source:

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