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High-powered Chinese delegation visits Sri Lanka

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Officials, led by Yang Jiechi, will meet Sri Lanka’s President and PM on Friday

In what is alleged to be the primary outbound go to by high Chinese officers to South Asia because the outbreak of COVID-19, a senior Chinese delegation will meet Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo on Friday.

A “high-powered Chinese delegation”, led by senior Chinese chief and high overseas coverage official Yang Jiechi, who’s a member of the Communist Party of China’s Politburo and the director of the Central Committee’s Foreign Affairs Commission, the highest policy-making physique, will arrive in Colombo on Thursday night time, the Foreign Ministry in Colombo stated in an announcement.

“Being the first ever Chinese visit in the South Asian region since the global coronavirus epidemic, the visit is expected to strengthen cooperation between Sri Lanka and China, in the areas of combating the global pandemic and revival of economic relations,” the assertion stated.

Four-nation tour

Sri Lanka will likely be Mr. Yang’s first cease on a four-nation tour, which may even see him go to the UAE, Algeria and Serbia, the Chinese Foreign Ministry stated, including he was invited by the governments of the 4 nations.

The go to takes place towards the backdrop of worsening India-China relations and rising U.S.-China tensions, and a push by Beijing following the pandemic to deepen its financial ties within the neighbourhood, together with by cooperation to battle the influence of COVID-19, a transfer that’s being carefully adopted in each New Delhi and Washington.

The Chinese delegation’s assembly with Sri Lanka’s two strongest leaders comes a fortnight after the digital summit between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Mahinda Rajapaksa. It additionally comes days after the ‘Quad’ assembly in Tokyo, the place U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referred to “regional tensions” between India and China.

Debt freeze

New Delhi, within the bilateral summit, promised Colombo a $15-million grant for the promotion of Buddhist cultural exchanges. However, there was no closing phrase on Colombo’s request for a debt freeze and a further $1.1-billion forex swap facility — RBI signed one for $400 million in July — that President Gotabaya and PM Mahinda have sought from New Delhi. In March this yr, Sri Lanka and China signed a “facility agreement” for a $500 million mortgage, on Colombo’s request. In Friday’s conferences, the 2 sides will doubtless talk about strengthening financial cooperation, particularly taking a look at ongoing Chinese-backed initiatives such because the $1.Four billion port metropolis developing on over 650 acres of reclaimed land by the seafront in Colombo.

Mr. Yang arrives within the midst of an uncommon China-U.S. spat taking part in out in Sri Lanka. In an announcement on October 5, the Chinese Embassy in Colombo slammed the U.S. for “naked hegemony, supremacy and power politics” after the American Ambassador in Colombo, Alaina Teplitz, in an interview with native media, criticised Chinese initiatives in Sri Lanka.

“The U.S. believes that partnerships between countries should be open, transparent, and mutually beneficial — and if this is what Sri Lanka’s relationship with China embodies, then we encourage it,” she stated, including that “a 2019 World Bank study concluded that more than 60% of China-funded Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects are allocated to Chinese companies and stressed that tender processes are opaque.”

The Chinese Embassy responded strongly, saying the interview “severely violated the diplomatic protocol”. “While it’s always not surprising to see the U.S. interfered into a sovereign country’s internal affairs, the general public is still astonished to witness its despicable attempt to manipulate others’ diplomatic relations,” the assertion stated, including it “strongly suggest[s] the U.S. quit the addiction of preaching others and applying double standards”.

Chinese analysts have welcomed the return of the Rajapaksas to the helm, with PM Rajapaksa’s stint at President marking a speedy deepening in strategic and financial ties. Last month, each nations marked the six-year anniversary of the Colombo Port City mission, which had been launched by Mr. Rajapaksa and President Xi Jinping in September 2014 as a flagship mission in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Marking the anniversary, China’s official Xinhua information company stated final month the mission “has powered through a turbulent six-year period, overcoming numerous challenges, including the Easter bombings in April 2019 hitting three luxury hotels near the project and affecting the country’s tourism, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the country less than a year later.”

Economic influence

While Sri Lanka’s early public well being interventions helped comprise the pandemic within the island nation, the financial challenges since stay, particularly with Sri Lanka’s essential tourism, export and remittances sectors badly hit.

According to officers on the Ministry of Foreign Relations in Colombo, a particular “travel bubble” arrange for the aim of the Chinese delegation’s go to will confine its members to Colombo, and limit their engagements to only two conferences with the Head of State and the Prime Minister, below the “strict health protocol” prescribed by the Ministry of Health.

“The delegation will undergo a pre-departure PCR test before arriving here,” an official instructed The Hindu, at the same time as some Sri Lankan netizens questioned the protocols in place, because the high-level conferences are scheduled the day after the delegation arrives.

Though Sri Lanka is going through a brand new wave of COVID-19, following a latest outbreak in a garment manufacturing facility simply outdoors Colombo, the nation has drawn worldwide reward, together with from the World Health Organization, for efficiently containing the unfold of the virus in the previous couple of months, as a result of concerted efforts of the general public well being staff, with the assist of the military.

After Sri Lanka detected its first native case of COVID-19 in March this yr — a visiting Chinese vacationer examined optimistic in January — well being authorities have recorded 4,459 circumstances, 13 deaths and three,278 recoveries to date. In addition to closing airports, aside from choose repatriation flights, the Foreign Relations Ministry had additionally issued a be aware to all missions, outlining the protocol for resident diplomats and UN representatives returning to the island nation after journey overseas. The necessities, along with a pre-departure PCR check, or one on arrival, embrace self-quarantine for 14 days.



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