How China captivated Sri Lanka


In early June, US President Joe Biden essentially blacklisted Chinese companies by banning US investments in certain Chinese companies that “undermine the security or democratic values ​​of the United States and our allies.”

On this list were the port city developers China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC) and the parent company China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).

In its China policy, the United States is firmly established with its bipartisan consensus. This would raise concerns in countries like Sri Lanka, which has a large Chinese infrastructure portfolio that is constantly growing in the country.

Regional powers and their periphery

Such Chinese companies are hardly exclusive in Sri Lanka. In fact, they operate in America’s own backyard along the 82-kilometer Panama Canal. The Panama Canal was built for the strategic expansion of the US, connects the Atlantic-Pacific route and is now surrounded by Chinese infrastructure projects.

Chinese companies such as CHEC and CCCC are also involved in infrastructure development in Panama. In 2017, Panama ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan and enlisted billions of dollars in Chinese BRI aid for infrastructure. China is involved in a $ 1.4 billion bridge project over the canal and a $ 4 billion railroad project.

It is also involved in the energy sector, mining, and a Chinese telecommunications infrastructure project with Huawei, including a digital free trade zone in San Miguelito. Panama’s move to Beijing had a ripple effect: 15 Latin American nations welcomed China’s BRI.

However, the current Panamanian regime has managed to rebalance and reduce its Chinese infrastructure, including the bridge, in light of the Chinese “debt trap” and US geopolitical security concerns.

Similarly, in the backyard of the regional power India, Sri Lanka has invited the Chinese BRI with several projects affecting India. Colombo has fallen into the deliberate scheme of a Chinese debt trap and has paid off its loans in a variety of ways, from leasing its strategic assets to debt-equity swaps to creating extrajudicial special economic zones.

As in Panama, the Sri Lankan government would have to reverse its “ride-on” foreign policy of China and “balance” it and develop a thoughtful perspective on the geopolitical and regional security concerns inherent in its close relationship with China.

The intertwined regional geographical orientations such as India-Sri Lanka and the USA with its immediate periphery in Panama cannot be outweighed by the strategic interest of an extra-regional power, China. The same “Monroe Doctrine” applies in China’s periphery.

Victory of the Chinese port city in Colombo

Sri Lankan House Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena signed the Colombo Port City Economic Commission law in ink on May 27 after being approved by two-thirds of the government. The Sri Lankan Supreme Court has ruled several clauses of the bill unconstitutional.

The majority-power Praetorian regime passed the Port City Bill in a hurry, ignoring and threatening the nation’s sovereignty.

The House Speaker, justifying the passage of the bill during the pandemic and lockdown, stated, “There were precedents for parliamentary sessions to be conducted unhindered even during World War II and when the Sri Lankan Parliament was bombed. ”

(Asanga Abeyagoonasekera is a geopolitical analyst and author of “Conundrum of an Island”. [2021]’. This comment was originally published by ORF New Delhi)

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