Towards greater progress of China-Sri Lanka friendship

In celebration of China’s 74th National Day

Monday, 2 October 2023 01:20 –      – 51

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History has provided a wonderful opportunity for Quanzhou (pictured) and Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, to become sister cities

Since its independence, Sri Lanka has established friendly relations with China. The relations between the two countries have developed steadily, especially in the fields of culture and trade, and have resulted in very close ties. A very memorable partnership has been formed between our two countries.

The history of friendly interactions between China and Sri Lanka dates back a long time. In ancient Chinese texts, Sri Lanka was once referred to as the “Lion Country” or “Simhaladvipa Country.”

In 410 AD, the eminent monk Faxian from the Jin Dynasty travelled to Sri Lanka to study. He brought back Buddhist scriptures and wrote a book titled “Records of the Buddhist Kingdom”.

Historical records contain evidence and tales of Chinese merchants visiting Sri Lanka’s oldest port, Mathota. Fragments of Chinese porcelain and coins found in various parts of Sri Lanka can be considered the oldest discoveries representing trade relations between China and Sri Lanka.

During the Ming Dynasty, the navigator Zheng He made several voyages to the West and visited Sri Lanka multiple times. A stone tablet, brought by Zheng He’s fleet in 1409 AD, still exists in the Sri Lankan National Museum. This tablet was brought to Ceylon, known today as Sri Lanka.

In the 15th century, according to Ming Dynasty records, Ceylon sent a prince with Zheng and his fleet to visit the Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. On the way back to his homeland, the prince settled in Quanzhou, Fujian, and was granted the surname “Shi” by the Ming Emperor.

The 19th generation of his descendants still live in Quanzhou. This history has provided a wonderful opportunity for Quanzhou and Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, to become sister cities.

Sri Lanka’s visionary leaders have long been committed to establishing political and friendly organisational ties with China. Notably, the esteemed parents of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena deserve special mention. His father, Philip Gunawardena, formed a unique bond of comradeship with Premier Zhou Enlai during the anti-imperialist struggle in Paris, France, in 1928. His mother, the late Sri Lankan female political leader Kusuma Gunawardena, served as the president of the inaugural China-Sri Lanka Friendship Association.

In January 1950, Sri Lanka became the first country in South Asia to formally recognise the People’s Republic of China. This significant event laid a solid foundation for the modern relations between our two countries.

In 1952, the historic Rubber-Rice pact between the two countries was the first major barter trade agreement signed between New China and a non-socialist country, and it is a true reflection and portrayal of the sincere and mutually supportive relationship between the two countries. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations on 7 February 1957, the leaders of the two countries have taken a series of measures to strengthen their bilateral relations in a number of areas in order to further enhance and maintain social, economic, political and cultural relations between China and Sri Lanka.

In 1964, when Premier Zhou visited Ceylon, Sirimavo Bandaranaike wanted China to build an international convention hall for Ceylon in anticipation of the Fifth Summit of the Non-Aligned Countries held in August 1976 in Colombo. The building was finally completed in May 1973 and named the Bandaranaike Memorial International Convention Hall, which has been described as “a symbol of Sino-Sri Lankan friendship and a jewel of Sri Lanka.”

In 2012, the second largest airport in Sri Lanka, Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota, was completed with the assistance of the Chinese government in planning and construction.

On 17 September 2014 the Colombo Port City project was launched in the construction of a $ 1.4 billion, by former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and President Xi Jinping. It is the single largest FDI project in the country being built on an artificial island.

The Colombo Port City, a large-scale investment project jointly undertaken by China Harbour and the Sri Lankan Government, is being built here, and is known as a model of cooperation between the two countries in building the “Belt and Road Initiative.”

Over the years, Sri Lanka and China have exchanged frequent high-level visits and bilateral relations have flourished. Sri Lanka is also an important partner in China’s plan to build the Belt and Road Initiative. 2023 is the 66th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Sri Lanka, hosted by the Ministry of Investment Promotion of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka’s Consulate General in Shanghai co-sponsored the “Ceremony of Donation of Lord Buddha Relics from Sri Lanka” was held in Shanghai. This marks another landmark friendly exchange between China and Sri Lanka in Buddhist culture.

As China marks its 74th anniversary this year, I wish to convey our heartfelt congratulations and sincere greetings to the Chinese people. Sri Lanka understands the importance of the historical bond we share with China. It is essential to nurture these ties and create more platforms for collaboration. The shared history, cultural exchanges, and economic partnerships stand testament to our unwavering commitment to each other.

(The writer is Sri Lanka’s Consul General in Shanghai.)

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