H.E. Mr. Yi Xianliang, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, delivered a guest lecture at the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS), Colombo 08, on Monday, 6th June 2016 on “China-South Asia Cooperation with Special Reference to Sino-Lanka Relations”. The lecture was followed by an open discussion and the official launch of RCSS’ ChinaSA – SAChina (China in South Asia, South Asia in China) Platform on rcss.org. The platform attempts to aggregate and bring together media content, key statistics and data, and other material related to the cultural, economic and political relationship between China and the region as a whole. The discussion was well attended by the diplomatic community, representatives of local and international think tanks, academics, journalists and other state and non-state stakeholders.

Speaking at the RCSS, Ambassador Xianliang highlighted the strengthening of economic ties between China and South Asia: Chinese trade with the region has risen to a staggering $111.22 billion, a 4.9% increase since the 2014 fiscal year, and Chinese construction efforts in South Asia now amounts to $21.8 billion, an 82% increase since last year. The Ambassador further suggested that through transparent trade and investment, China’s involvement in South Asia will help to boost development in the region. He addressed concerns that China’s economic corridors and maritime silk road efforts could constitute a type of Chinese ownership over sovereign land by assuring that all of China’s involvement in South Asia is purely economic-oriented, as opposed to being strategically motivated. He added that cooperation and transparency between India and China is key, in order to sustain cooperation with the entire region and that ties between the two large countries have been significantly strengthened over the years.

Ambassador Xianliang focused on Sri Lanka by looking back on the historical and religious ties China shares with the island nation, exploring the cultural significance of the Chinese Buddhist monk Faxian and his travels to Sri Lanka centuries ago. Sri Lanka and have historically enjoyed strong relations, particularly during the former Prime Minister Bandaranaike’s period. He went on to talk about the Rubber-Rice Pact, which acts as a symbol of goodwill that existed between the two countries.  He suggested that China’s continued cooperation with Sri Lanka is paramount to the developing country’s stability and peace.

Considering the turmoil taking place in the Middle East, Ambassador Xianliang suggested that China’s business ventures in Sri Lanka aid in curbing any extremism, as it has in Pakistan. To this end, the Ambassador has met with more than 20 Chinese CEOs to promote cooperation with Sri Lanka. Particularly within the tea and fish industries, he felt there was much potential for economic growth in Sri Lanka. The Ambassador reiterated throughout his talk that China was open to multilateral trade and investment initiatives. In closing, he expressed his confidence in Sri Lanka’s potential on the world stage by saying “Sri Lanka is not a small country”. Ambassador Xianliang closed by expressing his confidence that Chinese relations with Sri Lanka and South Asia will continue to blossom. -RCSS