In China, Sri Lanka
Dinesh Gunawarden and Xi Jinping

Dinesh Gunawarden and Xi Jinping. Photo Credit: https://english.news.cn/

Originally published by Friends of Socialist China, March 30, 2024.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena visited China from March 25-30 at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Li Qiang. The visit and the agreements reached were a powerful reaffirmation of the long-standing friendship between the two countries and a clear refutation of the slanders spread in the imperialist countries, in particular, regarding their bilateral cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and China’s supposed ‘debt trap diplomacy’.

Gunawardena met with President Xi Jinping on March 27. Noting that the friendship between China and Sri Lanka enjoys a long history and the two peoples share a natural affinity, Xi said that consolidating and promoting China-Sri Lanka relations serves the fundamental interests and reflects the common expectations of the two peoples.

China is willing to work with Sri Lanka to carry forward the spirit of the Rubber-Rice Pact, which is characterised by “independence, self-reliance, unity and mutual support,” to consolidate political mutual trust, enhance exchanges of experience in governance, expand practical cooperation, and advance the high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.

The reference to the Rubber-Rice Pact carries great significance. The root of the two countries’ special friendship, it was concluded in December 1952, at a time when Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) had not long won its national independence from British colonial rule and the Chinese revolution had recently triumphed. More particularly, by this pact Sri Lanka courageously defied and broke the US-led blockade that had been imposed on New China at a time when the Chinese Volunteer Army was fighting on the Korean front. The agreement, which met the crucial needs of both countries at that time, lasted for 30 years, and led to the United States imposing sanctions, including those aimed at crippling its rubber production, and cutting off aid to Sri Lanka.

Xi added that both sides should make joint efforts to promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, especially that of the two flagship projects, the Colombo Port City and the Hambantota Port. China and Sri Lanka should also work together to enhance logistics, energy, and industrial cooperation, and promote exchanges and cooperation in digital economy, green economy, clean energy, culture-oriented tourism and marine economy. China, he said, is willing to advance cooperation with Sri Lanka on rural poverty reduction, to help the country with economic transformation and upgrading, and with sustainable development.

The two sides, he added, should continue to maintain the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, enhance coordination on international and regional affairs, safeguard the common interests of both sides, uphold international fairness and justice, and promote the construction of a community with a shared future for humanity.

Gunawardena expressed appreciation for China’s assistance to Sri Lanka in times of difficulty, saying that projects such as the Colombo Port City and the Hambantota Port have boosted Sri Lanka’s economic and social development, as well as the overall development of the region.

The previous day Gunawardena held meetings with Premier Li Qiang and Zhao Leji, Chairman of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee.

Li said China and Sri Lanka are strategic partners of cooperation characterised by sincere mutual assistance and enduring friendship spanning generations. The two countries have always respected each other and enjoyed equality and reciprocal cooperation since the establishment of diplomatic relations 67 years ago.

Gunawardena thanked China for providing long-term support to Sri Lanka’s efforts to safeguard national sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, and helping the country realise economic and social development and cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and financial crisis.

Hailing the Belt and Road Initiative and the global initiatives proposed by China, he said that Sri Lanka has always adhered to the one-China principle and will continue to firmly pursue policies to strengthen friendly cooperation with China.

Zhao said that since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1957, China and Sri Lanka have always enjoyed a sound and steady relationship despite changes in the international landscape.

The two sides released a joint statement on March 29. Noting that the Sri Lankan leader had also attended the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2024, held on the southern island of Hainan, during his visit, the statement said that:

“The two sides share the view that the peoples of China and Sri Lanka enjoy long-standing friendship, and have engaged in mutual learning, mutual assistance and seeking strength through unity. In the 67 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, the two countries have strengthened traditional friendship, enhanced political mutual trust, achieved fruitful results in practical cooperation, and engaged in close coordination on regional and international issues, setting a fine example of friendly interactions and mutually beneficial cooperation between countries of different sizes. The two sides agree to carry forward the spirit of independence, self-reliance, solidarity and mutual assistance enshrined in the Agreement on Rice for Rubber, jointly tackle challenges, share opportunities and seek common development, thereby cementing and expanding the China-Sri Lanka strategic cooperative partnership based on sincere mutual assistance and ever-lasting friendship to bring greater benefits to the two countries and peoples.”

Sri Lanka expressed its appreciation to China for “the support that helped its financial difficulties, and, in particular, the pioneering step taken by the Chinese financial institutions last year to propose a bilateral debts settlement plan and the preliminary agreement reached with Sri Lanka on the settlement of China-related debts on the basis of friendly consultation.”

Sri Lanka also expressed thanks and appreciation for “the assistance on its economic and social development, and speaks highly of the important role played by Belt and Road cooperation in boosting the economic development and livelihood improvement in Sri Lanka and other Belt and Road partner countries. The two sides agree to work together to deepen high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, accelerate the formulation of a Belt and Road cooperation plan, and make all-out efforts to advance the Colombo Port City project and the integrated development project of Hambantota Port as signature projects of Belt and Road cooperation between the two countries.

“Sri Lanka welcomes the investment of more Chinese enterprises, and stands ready to provide a favourable investment and business environment for them and roll out at a faster pace preferential policies to facilitate the implementation of the Colombo Port City and Hambantota Port integrated development projects. China will continue to encourage competent Chinese enterprises to invest in Sri Lanka and assist Sri Lanka in achieving economic transformation and sustainable development.”

After detailing concrete steps in a range of areas, including trade, emergency humanitarian assistance, economic development, people’s livelihood, agriculture, education, cultural heritage, tourism, sister city and people-to-people exchanges, and medical aid, the joint statement continued:

“The two sides will jointly champion the building of an equal and orderly multipolar world, practice true multilateralism, promote greater democracy in international relations, and call on all countries to jointly safeguard the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, jointly defend the universally recognised basic norms of international relations, and jointly contribute to the reform and development of the global governance system.”

They also “hold the view that in marking the 70th anniversary of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, it is important to further carry forward these five principles, i.e. respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence, and commit to building a community with a shared future for Asia and for humanity.”

The following articles were originally published by the Xinhua News Agency.

Xi meets Sri Lankan PM in Beijing

BEIJING, March 27 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena in Beijing on Wednesday.

Noting that the friendship between China and Sri Lanka enjoys a long history and the two peoples share a natural affinity, Xi said consolidating and promoting China-Sri Lanka relations serves the fundamental interests and reflects the common expectations of the two peoples.

China is willing to work with Sri Lanka to carry forward the spirit of the Rubber-Rice Pact, which is characterized by “independence, self-reliance, unity and mutual support,” to consolidate political mutual trust, enhance exchanges of experience in governance, expand practical cooperation, and advance the high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, Xi said.

He noted that China and Sri Lanka should join hands to advance their strategic cooperative partnership featuring sincere mutual assistance and ever-lasting friendship.

China firmly supports Sri Lanka in safeguarding national sovereignty, independence and national dignity, and in exploring a modernization path suited to its national conditions, Xi said, adding that China will continue to provide due assistance within its capacity for Sri Lanka’s economic and social development.

He said that both sides should make joint efforts to promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, especially that of the two flagship projects, the Colombo Port City and the Hambantota Port. China and Sri Lanka should also work together to enhance logistics, energy and industrial cooperation, and promote exchanges and cooperation in digital economy, green economy, clean energy, culture-oriented tourism and marine economy.

China will continue to import more high-quality specialty products from Sri Lanka, encourage Chinese enterprises to invest and do business in the country, and hopes that the business environment in Sri Lanka will be fair and transparent, Xi said.

He added that China is willing to advance cooperation with Sri Lanka on rural poverty reduction, to help the country with economic transformation and upgrading, and with sustainable development.

The two sides should continue to maintain the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, enhance coordination on international and regional affairs, safeguard the common interests of both sides, uphold international fairness and justice, and promote the construction of a community with a shared future for humanity, Xi stressed.

Noting that Sri Lanka and China enjoy a traditional friendship, Gunawardena said that Sri Lanka adheres unswervingly to the one-China principle, unequivocally follows the policy of friendly cooperation with China, and gives China priority on its diplomatic agenda.

He expressed appreciation for China’s assistance to Sri Lanka in times of difficulty, saying that projects such as the Colombo Port City and the Hambantota Port have boosted Sri Lanka’s economic and social development, as well as the overall development of the region.

Sri Lanka will take part in the China-proposed Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative and Global Civilization Initiative, said Gunawardena, adding that the country will work with China to promote bilateral friendship, expand cooperation on trade and economy, education, tourism, poverty reduction and other fields, and improve international and multilateral communication and coordination.

Chinese premier holds talks with Sri Lankan PM

BEIJING, March 26 (Xinhua) — Chinese Premier Li Qiang held talks with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on Tuesday in Beijing.

Li said China and Sri Lanka are strategic partners of cooperation characterized by sincere mutual assistance and enduring friendship spanning generations. The two countries have always respected each other and enjoyed equality and reciprocal cooperation since the establishment of diplomatic relations 67 years ago, he added.

China is ready to work with Sri Lanka to implement the important consensus reached by the two heads of state during their talks last year, carry forward the tradition of friendship, consolidate political mutual trust, and expand bilateral cooperation in various fields to promote common development, Li noted.

China supports Sri Lanka’s efforts to realize national unity and stability as well as independent economic development, Li said, adding that China is willing to push forward the implementation of major projects under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and deepen bilateral cooperation in trade, agriculture and marine research.

He called on the two sides to explore cooperation potential in clean energy and telecommunication while strengthening exchanges and cooperation in culture, tourism and education.

China encourages more companies to invest in Sri Lanka and is willing to increase imports of Sri Lankan quality products, Li said, expressing the hope that Sri Lanka could provide a good business environment for Chinese companies.

Gunawardena thanked China for providing long-term support to Sri Lanka’s efforts to safeguard national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and helping the country realize economic and social development and cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and financial crisis.

Hailing the Belt and Road Initiative and global initiatives proposed by China, he said that Sri Lanka has always adhered to the one-China principle and will continue to firmly pursue policies to strengthen friendly cooperation with China.

Sri Lanka will work with China to solidly advance the Belt and Road cooperation, deepen cooperation in various fields, and further cultural exchanges and engagement between the two peoples, to promote the common development of the two countries and regional peace and stability, Gunawardena said.

Li and Gunawardena witnessed the signing of a batch of deals in areas such as trade, investment, customs and development cooperation after their talks at the Great Hall of the People.

At the invitation of the Chinese premier, Gunawardena is on an official visit to China from March 25 to 30.

China’s top legislator meets Sri Lankan PM

BEIJING, March 26 (Xinhua) — China’s top legislator Zhao Leji met with Dinesh Gunawardena, prime minister of Sri Lanka, in Beijing on Tuesday.

Zhao, chairman of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, said that since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1957, China and Sri Lanka have always enjoyed a sound and steady relationship despite changes in the international landscape.

China stands ready to work with Sri Lanka to consolidate political mutual trust, continue to firmly support each other on issues concerning each other’s core interests, build the Belt and Road with high quality, and deepen cultural and people-to-people exchanges to promote bilateral relations for more development, Zhao said.

Noting the importance of communication and cooperation between legislative bodies in enhancing knowledge and trust, Zhao said the NPC of China stands ready to strengthen communication with the parliament of Sri Lanka at different levels and enhance coordination during multilateral occasions, to provide legal guarantees for bilateral cooperation in various fields.

Gunawardena expressed Sri Lanka’s gratitude for China’s long-term support and assistance, and said that Sri Lanka will firmly uphold the one-China principle, continuously deepen cooperation in various fields, including exchanges between legislative bodies, and inject new impetus into bilateral friendship.

Joint Statement between the People’s Republic of China and The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

Beijing, March 29, 2024

  1. At the invitation of H.E. Li Qiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena, Prime Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, paid an official visit to China and attended the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2024 from March 25 to 30, 2024.
  2. During the visit, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena called on H.E. Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, held talks with Premier Li Qiang, and met with H.E. Zhao Leji, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. In a cordial and friendly atmosphere, the two sides had in-depth discussions and reached extensive common understandings on bilateral relations and regional and international issues of mutual interest.
  3. The two sides share the view that the peoples of China and Sri Lanka enjoy long-standing friendship, and have engaged in mutual learning, mutual assistance and seeking strength through unity. In the 67 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, the two countries have strengthened traditional friendship, enhanced political mutual trust, achieved fruitful results in practical cooperation, and engaged in close coordination on regional and international issues, setting a fine example of friendly interactions and mutually beneficial cooperation between countries of different sizes. The two sides agree to carry forward the spirit of independence, self-reliance, solidarity and mutual assistance enshrined in the Agreement on Rice for Rubber, jointly tackle challenges, share opportunities and seek common development, thereby cementing and expanding the China-Sri Lanka strategic cooperative partnership based on sincere mutual assistance and ever-lasting friendship to bring greater benefits to the two countries and peoples.
  4. The two sides agree to keep the momentum of high-level interactions, expand exchanges and cooperation between governments and other stakeholders, strengthen strategic communication, promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, and continue to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in all areas.
  5. The two sides reaffirm their mutual support on issues concerning each other’s core interests and major concerns. Sri Lanka reaffirms its firm commitment to the one-China principle, recognizing the government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government representing the whole of China and Taiwan as an inalienable part of China’s territory, supporting all efforts of the Chinese government to safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity, and opposing “Taiwan independence” in any form. Sri Lanka reiterates that it will never allow its territory to be used for any anti-China secessionist activities. The Chinese side reiterates that it will continue to firmly support Sri Lanka in upholding national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and show respect for and support Sri Lanka in independently choosing a development path suited to its national conditions. China reaffirms its commitment to an independent foreign policy of peace. Sri Lanka reaffirms its commitment to an independent nonaligned foreign policy.
  6. Sri Lanka commends the Chinese people for the great achievements they have made in pursuing modernization under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, and holds the view that the Chinese path to modernization provides a pathway and an action plan for developing countries to develop on their own.
  7. Sri Lanka expresses appreciation to the Chinese side for the support that helped its financial difficulties, and, in particular, the pioneering step taken by the Chinese financial institution last year to propose a bilateral debts settlement plan and the preliminary agreement reached with Sri Lanka on the settlement of China-related debts on the basis of friendly consultation. The Chinese side expresses its readiness to continue supporting its financial institution in actively consulting with Sri Lanka, maintain friendly communication with other creditors, and play a positive role in the International Monetary Fund, to help Sri Lanka ease its financial difficulties and achieve debt sustainability.
  8. Sri Lanka expresses appreciation and thanks to the Chinese side for the assistance on its economic and social development, and speaks highly of the important role played by Belt and Road cooperation in boosting the economic development and livelihood improvement in Sri Lanka and other Belt and Road partner countries. The two sides agree to work together to deepen high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, accelerate the formulation of a Belt and Road cooperation plan, and make all-out efforts to advance the Colombo Port City project and the integrated development project of Hambantota Port as signature projects of Belt and Road cooperation between the two countries.
  9. Sri Lanka welcomes the investment of more Chinese enterprises, and stands ready to provide a favorable investment and business environment for them and roll out at a faster pace preferential policies to facilitate the implementation of the Colombo Port City and Hambantota Port integrated development projects. China will continue to encourage competent Chinese enterprises to invest in Sri Lanka and assist Sri Lanka in achieving economic transformation and sustainable development.
  10. The two sides expressed satisfaction over the progress of bilateral cooperation in economy and trade. Sri Lanka expressed appreciation over the multiple measures China has adopted to increase import from Sri Lanka. China expressed its readiness to continue supporting Sri Lankan enterprises in the tea and other industries in establishing ties with relevant Chinese associations of importers and exporters, facilitate Sri Lanka’s participation in expos such as the China International Import Expo, the China-South Asia Exposition and the China Import and Export Fair, make good use of e-commerce platforms, and further enhance cooperation between enterprises of the two countries on the basis of mutual benefit and win-win outcomes. The two sides will work toward the early conclusion of a comprehensive free trade agreement in one package in line with the principles of equality, mutual benefit and win-win outcomes.
  11. China is ready to work with Sri Lanka and continue to deliver on the emergency humanitarian assistance to support Sri Lanka in its economic development and livelihood improvement. China is ready to work with Sri Lanka to step up cooperation in such areas as medical health, connectivity and climate change. China welcomes Sri Lankan officials, experts and scholars on climate change to take part in training programs in China.
  12. The two sides speak highly of their exchange and cooperation programs in such fields as the development of tropical crops industries, protection and utilization of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems, and farming and processing of agricultural products. The two sides will continue to work together on agritech exchange and training, with a focus on shared cooperation priorities, and help Sri Lanka enhance its comprehensive agricultural production capacity. China will give full scope to the role of the China-South Asian Countries Poverty Alleviation and Cooperative Development Center in Chongqing, to carry out the China-Sri Lanka friendship hybrid rice demonstration park and other poverty reduction and livelihood assistance projects in Sri Lanka, strengthen exchange and training for agricultural technology and management personnel, promote the application of scientific and technological outcomes, and help Sri Lanka increase rice yield and farmers’ income and boost rural development. China welcomes more imports of quality agricultural products from Sri Lanka.
  13. The two sides fully recognized the importance of education exchanges for increasing understanding and friendship, and expressed readiness to further enhance exchanges of teachers, students, and researchers. The two sides will work together to ensure the sound development and operation of the China-Sri Lanka Joint Center of Science and Education under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and carry out joint studies, personnel training and other cooperation. The two sides are ready to strengthen coordination and deepen exchanges and cooperation in fields including disaster prevention and mitigation, maritime rescue, relief and research, maritime domain awareness, marine biological diversity,maritime personnel training and capacity building, and further explore cooperation on the blue economy for the building of a maritime community with a shared future. The two sides will hold periodical bilateral consultations on maritime affairs.
  14. The two sides will, under the framework of the Alliance for Cultural Heritage in Asia, deepen cooperation on cultural heritage. China is ready to provide assistance to Sri Lanka in the authentication and restoration of porcelain ware and other Chinese artifacts brought to Sri Lanka by Admiral Zheng He during his navigation in ancient times.
  15. The two sides will continue to encourage tourist travel by their citizens in each other’s country, encourage the strengthening of aviation connectivity, and leverage the role of the China Cultural Center in Sri Lanka. China will continue to support Sri Lanka in holding tourism promotion activities in China. Sri Lanka is ready to roll out more tourism facilitation policies.
  16. The two sides agreed to deepen sister-city and people-to-people exchange and cooperation, to foster deeper understanding and affinity between the two peoples. The two sides will take active steps to promote the establishment of a sister-city relationship between Dali city of Yunnan Province of China and Seethawakapura of Sri Lanka. The medical team of Yunnan Province will continue to provide services in Sri Lanka under the Brightness Action program.
  17. The two sides will jointly champion the building of an equal and orderly multi-polar world, practice true multilateralism, promote greater democracy in international relations, and call on all countries to jointly safeguard the purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter, jointly defend the universally recognized basic norms of international relations, and jointly contribute to the reform and development of the global governance system. The two sides will join hands in promoting universally beneficial and inclusive economic globalization, firmly reject unilateralism, protectionism and deglobalization in all their forms, and ensure the stable and smooth functioning of the global industrial and supply chains.
  18. The two sides hold the view that in marking the 70th anniversary of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, it is important to further carry forward these five principles, i.e. respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual nonaggression, mutual noninterference in internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence, and commit to building a community with a shared future for Asia and for mankind. Sri Lanka reiterates its firm support for and readiness to actively participate in the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative proposed by China.
  19. During the visit, the two sides signed cooperation documents in industrial investment, standardization, livelihood assistance, agriculture, media and other areas.
  20. Prime Minister Gunawardena expressed appreciation to the Chinese government and people for the warm hospitality extended to him and the Sri Lankan delegation, and invited Chinese leaders to visit Sri Lanka. Chinese leaders thanked Prime Minister Gunawardena for the invitation, and the two sides will maintain communication via diplomatic channels.

*****

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