Reflections by Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka – Cheng Xueyuan, on the occasion on the occasion of the 62nd anniversary of the establishment of the China-Sri Lanka diplomatic relations
As the tide of history surges with vigor, our world today is experiencing profound changes unseen in a century. In the second decade of the 21st century, China has crossed the threshold into a new era. At this important historical juncture, China and Sri Lanka, the good neighbors, good partners and good friends featuring sincere mutual assistance and everlasting friendship, are going to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Sri Lanka. Myriad thoughts come across my mind when I think of the history of China-Sri Lanka relationship as the 21st Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka. When retrospecting history , I can always see the long-standing friendship between our two countries; when opening the Rubber-Rice Pact, I can always imagine how our two countries went through hardship together; when undertaking the joint construction of the “Belt and Road” Initiative, I always feel thrilled to inaugurates the new journey of friendly cooperation between China and Sri Lanka.
1.China and Sri Lanka are combined with long history of friendship and exchanges
It was on February 7, 1957, that China and Sri Lanka established diplomatic ties, yet the history of friendly exchanges of the two countries has lasted for more than 1,600 years. In 409, the eminent Chinese monk, Fahien in the East Jin dynasty, crossed thousands of mountains and rivers and stepped on this quiet and beautiful land of the lion with a longing for Buddhism. He recorded what he had seen and heard in the book A record of Buddhistic kingdoms, which has left precious historical materials for the study of Sri Lanka and opened up the history of friendly exchanges between our two peoples. Since 1405, the renowned Chinese navigator Zheng He from the Ming Dynasty of China made five stops out of his seven maritime expeditions in Sri Lanka. He brought Sri Lanka rich products such as silk and porcelain as well as a profound friendship from the Chinese people. The monument of Zheng He collected by the National Museum of Sri Lanka has deeply engraved the unforgettable memories. Over 600 years ago, one Ceylon Prince came to China, fell in love with China and settled in Quanzhou city. His descendants still live there. This story is still being told today. The anecdote became well-known in China and has been passed from generation to generation. These well-known stories made important pages in the friendly exchanges between our two countries.
There are many other touching stories of the friendly exchanges between China and Sri Lanka, like shining gems embedded in the long history of the exchanges between the two countries, which have also left the best commentaries on the friendship spanning thousands of years.
2.China and Sri Lanka relations have been tested by times of difficulty and emerged even stronger.
A friend in need is a friend indeed. The relations between our two countries have withstood the test of history. China and Sri Lanka are both civilizations with long histories. Both suffered a lot from imperialism and colonialism. Similar historical encounters prompt us to empathize with each other, understand each other’s deep aspiration for better life as well as support each other firmly.
On December 18, 1952, before we established the diplomatic relations, the leaders of our two countries broke through the heavy blockade of imperialism and made a decision with far-sighted political courage to sign the Rubber-Rice Pact. It has built a solid foundation for the long-standing friendship between China and Sri Lanka and has become the most direct and powerful proof that the relations can stand the test of difficulties.
China has been actively involved in supporting Sri Lanka in various fields, firmly supported Sri Lanka to safeguard national interests and dignity and pursue the development and prosperity. Especially, after finally bringing an end to the 26-year civil conflict in 2009 ,Sri Lanka found itself severely suffering from war trauma and was almost torn to pieces. When standing and trembling on the war ruins, Sri Lanka called for urgent support from the international community to rebuild this beautiful country, but surprisingly found that most countries chose to remain silent and watch the situation go on with folded arms. At this critical moment, it was China once again that stepped forward with open arms to Sri Lanka and participated comprehensively and deeply in the post-war reconstruction of the country.
Sri Lanka always supports China firmly as well. Sri Lanka is the first country in South Asia to sign a trade agreement with China, it supported the restoration of China’s lawful seat in the United Nations. Successive governments of Sri Lanka stick to the One-China Principle, and support China to safeguard national unity and territorial integrity, support China’s position on South China Sea issue. Sri Lanka is also one of the first countries to publicly support and participate in the Belt and Road Initiative.
True gold fears no fire. The friendship between China and Sri Lanka has stood the test of time and emerged even stronger.
3.China and Sri Lanka join hands and move forward with each other, to achieve steady and sustained growth of our relations.
Facing the unprecedented changes in the world, some countries are still hesitating at the crossroads of cooperation or confrontation, openness or closure, win-win cooperation or zero-sum game, China and Sri Lanka are moving forward with each other, upholding the international order of openness and inclusiveness, mutual benefit and win-win results firmly. We grasp the overall picture of China-Sri Lanka friendship, maintain our “strategic focus” and suppress interference, to promote synergy between the “Belt and Road” initiative and the development strategy for Sri Lanka with bilateral mutual political trust strengthened, pragmatic cooperation deepened and cultural exchanges enhanced. In a globalised world, we all have a stake in each other’s future, just like passengers riding in the same boat. A community with a shared future between China and Sri Lanka is taking shape.
China-Sri Lanka cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative has not only brought tangible benefits to the two countries and two peoples, but also brought new opportunities to regional development. The under-construction Colombo Port City, the Hambantota Port and Industrial Park are expected to become the new powerful engines for Sri Lankan economy to take-off. The gradual completion of the Puttalam Power Station, the Moragahakanda —Kalu Ganga Project, the Airport Expressway, the Southern Expressway, the Central Expressway and the Southern Railway has fundamentally changed the development landscape of the Sri Lanka. China’s aid, training, technology and management as well as the job opportunities created by these projects are deeply changing the future and destiny of ordinary people in Sri Lanka. I believe that Sri Lanka will regain its glorious status as the crossroads of the Indian Ocean in the near future and Sri Lanka people will live a happier life. With such deep integration and win-win development, the relations between our two countries definitely make steady progress and enjoy a brighter future.
On the occasion of the 62nd anniversary of the establishment of the China-Sri Lanka diplomatic relations, also coincides with the 71th anniversary of the independence of Sri Lanka and Chinese lunar New Year, I would like to stress again: China welcomes the Sri Lanka and other countries on board the express train of its development. Under the guidance of the important consensus reached by our two leaders, we will adhere to the golden rule of “extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits”, maintain our “strategic focus”, suppress interference, focus on the friendly and pragmatic cooperation under the framework of “Belt and Road”, promote the construction both in substance and depth, and bring more tangible benefits to our two countries and two peoples.
May the China-Sri Lanka friendship be everlasting! May our two countries strong and prosperous, our two peoples enjoy happiness and well-being!