Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivered his congratulations to newly appointed Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, following the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna’s (SLPP) election victory in parliamentary elections last week, as Beijing looks to expand ties with the regime.
Hu Wei, the Chargé d’affaires of Chinese Embassy, conveyed President Xi Jinping of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) message to PM Rajapaksa during the swearing-in ceremony at the Kelaniya Temple on Sunday. Describing Rajapaksa as an “old friend” of Xi’s and has assured him to “have confidence in our support”. He has also extended his interest in promoting bilateral relations between both states.
In Premier Li’s greetings, he acknowledges Rajapaksa’s commitment to promoting friendship between China and Sri Lanka. During Rajapaksa’s previous tenures as the island’s leader, China made billions of dollars of investment in Sri Lanka, and Rajapaksa enjoyed a close rapport with Chinese leaders for establishing bilateral ties.
According to official estimates, Chinese loans and investments in Sri Lanka amounted to over USD eight billion.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian told a media briefing that “China and Sri Lanka enjoy traditional friendship and we have been advancing our strategic cooperative partnership based on sincere mutual assistance and ever-lasting friendship. We have been expanding and deepening our cooperation across the board”. China and Sri Lanka’s friendship has only been further consolidated through he process of controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both sides have already spoken on key areas of cooperation, including projects like China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Sri Lanka, the port city of Colombo and development of Hambantota.
Rajapaksa publicly thanked Xi over Twitter on Saturday, “Thank you for the well wishes from President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party. China’s support for Sri Lanka’s development spans decades. I’m certain that our long-standing, friendly relations will continue to improve as we enhance our cooperation”