COLOMBO: By the end of 2017, Chinese companies had completed more than US$ 15 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka, says the Chinese Ambassador, Cheng Xueyuan.

The projects cover transportation, water supply, electricity, ports and an airport.

“Chinese projects have created more than 100,000 jobs for Sri Lankans and trained tens of thousands of technical and management personnel,” Cheng said.

The Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) employs more than 1,000 local technical staff, who account for 90% of its employees,” the envoy said in a statement on Sunday.

“The Norocholai Power Station, built by China, provides about 40% of Sri Lanka’s electricity ending a history of frequent power cuts. The Colombo airport Expressway is a great convenience to international travellers and has contributed to the blooming of tourism,” he said.

“The Colombo International Container Terminal, a Sino-Lankan joint venture, has become the fastest growing container terminal in the world. The newly completed Moragahakanda Project, which is the biggest reservoir in Sri Lanka, has brought great benefits to local agriculture,” the envoy pointed out.

On Going Projects

On the on-going projects Ambassador Cheng said that in October this year, Section-I of Southern Railway, the first railway to be built in the past 100 years, will be officially opened. And by the end of next year, the Expressway linking Colombo and Hambantota will also be built.

Sino-Lankan Complementarities

Envoy Cheng pointed out that Sri Lanka is located at the center point of the main international sea lane in the Indian Ocean, which is its biggest advantage.

“Colombo Port City together with Hambantota Port and Industrial Zone are like two powerful engines for Sri Lankan economy to take-off,” the envoy said.

Colombo Port City

Colombo Port City is jointly developed by a Chinese company and the Sri Lanka Port Authority, aiming to build a shipping, logistics, tourism and financial center in South Asia, with a direct investment of US$ 1.4 billion and a planned second-level Building Complex valued at US$ 13 billion.

“The Colombo Port City (re-named Financial City) is expected create more than 80,000 jobs. At present, 80% of the land reclamation projects have been completed. .

China Filled a Vacuum

Envoy Cheng said that China filled a vacuum that existed after the 30 year war against Tamil militants ended in May 2009.

“After finally bringing an end to the war in 2009, Sri Lanka was facing a rare opportunity to develop itself and urgently needed the international community to provide strong support to infrastructure construction and financial investment.”

“However, because of the international financial crisis and some ideological reasons, Sri Lanka did not receive the expected foreign support.”

“At that critical moment, it was China which participated in reconstruction,” he recalled.

Hambantota Port

About the controversial Hambantota port in South Sri Lanka, the envoy said that the Sri Lankan government turned to some foreign countries for operating the port but failed, and port operations were greatly affected.

“To solve this problem, at the end of 2017, Chinese companies were again invited by Sri Lanka to join hands with the Sri Lanka Port Authority to run the port. A Chinese company obtained the right to operate the port together with the SLPA, with the stakes being divided 70:30,” Cheng said.

Denying charges of underhand dealings, he said: “The whole procedure was in accordance with international rules, laws and market practices, and done in a fully open, equal and transparent way.”

“The port is now developing fast. The Ro-Ro shipping business has increased significantly, and the shipping supply business is rapidly recovering,” he asserted. Industrial Park

At the proposed China-built Industrial Park next to the Hambantota Port, there will be large-scale projects such as LNG power stations, a petroleum refinery, cement, and iron and steel factories. These will bring drastic changes to the local economy by becoming engines or growth, he said. .

Answer to the World’s Economic Problems

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s flagship project, is China’s answer to the economic problems facing the world today by stressing cooperation, multilateralism, mutual consultation and constructive activity rather than destruction, Cheng said.

“Today's world is lacking in motivation for economic growth. It is full of turbulence in certain areas. There are imbalances in regional development. Some global and regional powers often shift their own problems to other smaller countries in order to maintain their own interests, triggering alarm bells about the onset of unilateralism and anti-globalization,” the envoy observed.

The BRI, he said, has come at the right time to give the troubled world an alternative and show a new way out of the mess the world is in, he added.

Transparent Initiative

Asserting that the BRI is a transparent and consultative project, Cheng said: “ From the very beginning, it has followed the golden rule of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, abiding by international rules and followed market principles.”

“No country is dominating the process; all parties have an equal say. There is no back-room deal; everything is transparent. There is no ‘winner takes all’; every project delivers win-win results,” Cheng said.

Need to Abandon Cold War Mentality

Calling for the abandonment of the Cold War mentality of opposing everything, the Ambassador said: “The abandoning of Cold War thinking and zero-sum game concept is a must for the promotion of BRI. The real reason why the BRI is widely supported lies in its clear equality, openness, and inclusiveness.”

“We're fully confident that as the Belt and Road cooperation continues to develop along the right track, those blinding and irrational criticism on BRI will eventually disappear like floating clouds,” Cheng said.

China’s Economic Strength and Potential

Giving an idea of the humongous economic power of China, Ambassador Cheng said: “2018 marks the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening up. Over the past 40 years, China's GDP has grown from $200 billion to $12.7 trillion, with an average annual growth of nearly 10%, and an increase of GDP per capita from less than $200 to $8800.”

“With the biggest population and the second largest economy in the world, being the second largest importer and consumer, China will import more than US$10 trillion in goods and services, invest more than US$750 billion abroad in the next five years, and the number of outbound tourists will exceed 700 million.’

“A population of 1.3 billion has generally achieved a well-off society level, which contributes to global poverty reduction up to 70%, and more than 30% to global economic growth,” he said.