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Chinese, SL leaders pledge further cooperation

Following the conclusion of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China two months ago, a high-level party official is in Sri Lanka this week to brief government representatives on its outcomes.

At the Congress, Communist Party leaders changed the party’s Constitution and laid out plans for increased national and international development. Wang Yajun, the Assistant Minister of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, said at a public meeting at the BMICH Wednesday that he believed the new positions would be good for Sri Lanka.

“Over the years I have been traveling far and wide, to countries along the belt and the road,” he said, referring to China’s “One Belt One Road” global development initiative.

Chinese investment into projects along its trade routes “has provided a lot of benefit to the people of these countries,” he said.

Minister of Public Enterprise Development Kabir Hashim agreed with this position.

He said the recent finalization by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority to cede a majority stake of the Hambantota Port to the state-controlled China Merchants Port Holdings Company was “historic,” and highlighted the island’s “strategic location.”

“Through this partnership, Sri Lanka will once again play an integral role in China’s reawakening of the historic Silk Road which saw the East and West united through trade and commerce,” he said.

Minister Hashim said that the deal offered the potential for further development of an area that had been a continuing “issue” for Sri Lanka.

He said the two governments would also sign a lease agreement for over 1,200 acres of land near Hambantota Port to set up a state-of-the-art industrial zone, which he said could introduce several thousand jobs.

He also lauded the China Harbour Engineering Company’s Colombo Port City project, which would “help launch Sri Lanka forward into the 21st century through the establishment of the financial, retail, and residential centres,” he said.

“China’s efforts have been to take China and its industries out to the rest of the world,” he said. “The success of the One Belt One Road initiative has been based on the ability of China to craft its development projects to make sure that both countries enjoy the gains.”

Sri Lanka owes about $USD 8 billion to China, and government officials frequently say they must strike deals such as Hambantota to begin to pay down the debt.