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Rajapaksa moves to accelerate Colombo Port City Project despite US sanctions

Sri Lankan prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa called to ‘accelerate’ construction of the  Chinese-led Colombo Port City project, claiming it will become an income generator for the cash stricken island, in the future regardless of concerns over imposed US sanctions.

The Colombo Port City (CPC) is a large-scale urban development project constructed and operated by China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) a subsidiary of China Communications and Construction Company (CCCC). The project will be the largest single foreign direct investment of around US$1.5 billion.

However, the US government’s recent sanctions ban over 20 Chinese companies from buying American products, including the CCCC.

Regardless, Rajapaksa claimed the recent US sanctions will not impact the planned project and work on the CPC will continue unaffected.

During a recent tour of the multi-billion dollar site, the Sri Lankan president thanked the Chinse government for their assistance in the project. CCCC’s investment in Sri Lanka has raised concerns, with the New York Times reporting in 2018 that around USD$7.6 million from CHEC was given to Rajapaksa’s 2015 presidential election.

Debt-trap Diplomacy

CHEC has also built a port in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota province, however, the country was unable to repay the debt forcing the government to relinquish majority control of the port in 2017 in lieu of repayment.

This scenario became known as a cautionary tale highlighting the issue of ‘debt-trap diplomacy’.

Many critics believe China’s infrastructure building program aims at ensuring other states around the world unwittingly become pawns in China’s global strategic agenda.

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