China

Chinese Satellite Not a Threat – Ex-CIA Boss

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The discovery of a Chinese satellite floating over Montana has created lots more heat than light. Hourly news reports make it sound like a replay of Pearl Harbor.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a balloon!
Fact is, the satellite itself presents zero danger, weapons-wise, and if it were on a serious spying mission, it could be easily neutralized.

“Really, it’s not a big deal,” former Air Force general and CIA director Michael Hayden told US-based SpyTalk.

“We can neutralize so I don’t think it’s a danger either.”

The Pentagon has said as much, too, but its calming message has been pretty much overlooked in the hysterical coverage afforded news the satellite’s discovery a few days ago.

“But out of an abundance of caution, we have taken additional mitigation steps. I’m not going to go into what those are. But we know exactly where this balloon is, exactly what it is passing over. And we are taking steps to be extra vigilant so that we can mitigate any foreign intelligence risk,” a Pentagon briefer said Friday.

There is a “variety of capabilities to render it unusable or mitigate the threat,” Paul Cobaugh, a retired Army information operations specialist also told SpyTalk. “It’s not a threat.”

The satellite might well have drifted off its intended path as an aide in an upcoming satellite launch.

“The near-term goal for the High-Altitude Balloon (HAB) is to act as a testbed for ground communications and CubeSat systems prior to launch,” said a 2021 paper from US Army Space and Missile Defense Command Space and High-Altitude Research Center at West Point. “ The long-term goal for the HAB is to develop a station-keeping subsystem that will enable HABs to maintain their relative position over a single point on the ground and demonstrate militarily relevant capabilities and concepts.”

Armchair generals in social media sites like LinkedIn have been crying for the Air Force to shoot it down. The Biden administration, citing the potential of civilian casualties from the falling debris, declined to do that.

If it posed any real threat, the Pentagon has a range of decades-old technology to neutralize it, experts say. It could “spoof” Bei Dou, the Chinese satellite navigation system, to guide it to the ground, Brian Barritt, chief technology officer at Aalyria Technologies, said on LinkedIn.

Bottom line: Everybody needs to calm down.

Source: Spy Talk

China reaffirms the Support for Sri Lanka

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China is the first official bilateral creditor to have taken the initiative to announce debt extension to Sri Lanka. This speaks to China’s sincerity and action to support Sri Lanka’s effort to achieve debt sustainability, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning yesterday told the reporters at Regular Press Conference.

The complete statement issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry is as follows;

Shenzhen TV: It is learned that the Export-Import Bank of China has provided Sri Lanka a letter as required, offering an extension on the debt service due in the next two years and saying it would like to have friendly consultation with Sri Lanka regarding medium and long-term debt treatment. Can you confirm this?

Mao Ning: On January 19, the Export-Import Bank of China, as the official bilateral creditor, provided a financing support document to the Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies of Sri Lanka, saying the Bank is going to provide an extension on the debt service due in 2022 and 2023, which means Sri Lanka will not have to repay the principal and interest due of the Bank’s loans during the above-mentioned period, so as to help relieve Sri Lanka’s short-term debt repayment pressure; meanwhile, the Bank would like to have friendly consultation with Sri Lanka regarding medium- and long-term debt treatment in this window period; and the Bank will make best efforts to contribute to the debt sustainability of Sri Lanka. The Bank also noted that it will support Sri Lanka in its loan application to the IMF; in the meantime, the Bank will continuously call on commercial creditors (including the International Sovereign Bondholders) to provide debt treatment in an equally comparable manner, and encourage multilateral creditors to do their utmost to make corresponding contributions.

As we have said several times, as a friendly neighbor and true friend, China has been providing assistance for Sri Lanka’s economic and social development to the best of our capabilities. The financing support document is aimed at combining an “immediate contingency measure” and “medium- and long-term debt treatment” to rapidly, effectively and truly resolve Sri Lanka’s debt issue. As far as I have learned, China is the first official bilateral creditor to have taken the initiative to announce debt extension to Sri Lanka. This speaks to China’s sincerity and action to support Sri Lanka’s effort to achieve debt sustainability.

China calls on all other creditors of Sri Lanka, especially multilateral creditors, to take synchronized, similar steps and give effective, strong support to Sri Lanka to help the country emerge from its default status at an early date and eventually work out an arrangement for Sri Lanka to achieve medium- and long-term debt sustainability. China also calls on the IMF to take into full consideration the urgency of the situation in Sri Lanka and provide loan support as soon as possible to relieve the country’s liquidity strain.

Going forward, China will continue to support relevant financial institutions in actively working out the debt treatment. We will work with relevant countries and international financial institutions to jointly play a positive role in helping Sri Lanka navigate the situation, ease its debt burden and achieve sustainable development.

Do Something Meaningful Rather Than Beating Around The Bush – China to US on Sri Lanka

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Following a comment made by the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland’s during her visit to Sri Lanka, China said US should show some sincerity and actually do something to help the island nation.

Responding to Nuland’s statement that the terms extended by China to Sri Lanka for getting IMF debt relief are not enough, the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said in a regular press conference on Thursday, that what was said by the US side does not reflect the truth.

The US Under Secretary said the US expects China, as the largest bilateral creditor to Sri Lanka, to give credible and specific assurance that matches IMF’s standard on debt restructuring.

 The Spokesperson said the Export-Import Bank of China has already provided Sri Lanka with a letter to express support for its debt sustainability and Sri Lanka has responded positively and thanked China for that.

“Rather than jabbing fingers at China’s close cooperation with Sri Lanka, the US might as well show some sincerity and actually do something to help Sri Lanka weather through the current difficulties,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson retaliated.

Spokesperson Mao Ning said as a friendly neighbour and true friend, China has been closely following the difficulties and challenges facing Sri Lanka and providing assistance for its economic and social development to the best of its capabilities.

“As to Sri Lanka’s debt to the Chinese side, we support Chinese financial institutions in having consultations with Sri Lanka to seek a proper settlement,” she added.

When asked whether there is any conversation or talk between China and the IMF where the IMF has confirmed that China’s assurances are credible and enough for the IMF to disburse the debt relief financial support, the Spokesperson said China supports the Chinese financial institutions in having consultations with Sri Lanka to seek a proper settlement to its China-related debt issue.

“China stands ready to work with relevant countries and international financial institutions and continue to play a positive role in helping Sri Lanka navigate the situation, easing its debt burden and helping it achieve sustainable development,” Spokesperson Mao Ning said at the regular press conference.

The Myanmar Tragedy

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When Burmawas ruled by a monarchyin the pre-colonial era, its Army was given the name of ‘Tatmadaw’.In the Burmese language Tatmadaw means Royal Armed Forces.Today the Tatmadaw has lost all its popularity and public support because of its action of deposing the elected government on 1st February 2021. One could understand the public reaction against the Tatmadaw by going through an article of Desmond published in the ‘Irrawaddy’ on 25th May 2022. The writer is of the opinion that the name Tatmadaw must not be used for the present day Myanmar Military because it is not ‘Royal’. “The word is too good for Min Aung Hlaing’s army, which is just a group of armed men killing their own people. There is nothing ‘royal’ about the actions of the present-day Myanmar military. Instead of the term ‘Myanmar Military, the most suitable term would be ‘murderous military’, which captures the true nature of Min Aung Hlaing’s army.” According to the Wikipedia, ‘ Min Aung Hlaing is a Burmese politician and army general who has ruled Myanmar as the chairman of the State Administration Council since seizing power in the February 2021 coup d’état. He took the nominally civilian role of prime minister of Myanmar in August 2021 upon the formation of the Provisional Government.’

On 2nd February 2022, the BBC said in a report on Myanmar Army, “Since it overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government in a coup one year ago, Myanmar’s military – known as the Tatmadaw – has gone on to shock the world by killing hundreds of its own civilians, including dozens of children, in a brutal crackdown on protesters.” The report further narrated, “For Myanmar’s citizens, it has been a year of indiscriminate street killings and bloody village raids. In December 2021, a BBC investigation report discovered the Tatmadaw carried out a series of attacks that involved the torture and mass murder of opponents.More than 1,500 people have been killed by security forces since the coup in February 2021.”

Myanmar’s Nobel Peace laureate,Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi had been thecivilian leader of Myanmar since her party won election in 2015 but during all that period the Tatmadaw always remained more powerful and authoritative than the civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. It retained control over the armed forces by appointingkey cabinet ministers and its own commander in-chief.Moreover after the National League for Democracy’s landslide in November 2020, Tatmadaw generals refused to accept the outcome, arguing that the results were fraudulent. This stubborn attitude of the Tatmadaw was widely condemned and criticized internationally. Unfortunately, keeping aside all international disliking and criticism, India the ‘biggest democracy’ in the region, gave a warm welcome to the anti-democratic forces in Myanmar.

Between India and the current Myanmar regime,the warm relationship started soon after the coup in February 2021. While the regime was being internationally condemned for its coup, India was careful not to make any direct reference to the military takeover or to condemn it in its statements. Since coup there have been multiple engagements between India and Myanmar Military rulers. At the time when world was distancing itself from Military Junta of Myanmar, India extended invitation to Commander-In-Chief (Navy) Admiral Moe Aung of Myanmar to attend the third edition of Goa Maritime Conclave 2021 in Goa from 7th to 9th November. The Goa Maritime Conclave is hosted by Indian Navy once after every two years. During the visit the Commander-in-Chief had separate one to one meetings with India’s National Security Advisor, Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of the Naval Staff. The Commander-in-Chief participated in discussions on topics like active cooperation between Indian Navy and Tatmadaw maritime security and non-traditional security threats in Indian Ocean.On 22ndDecember 2021, India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla paid a two-day official visit to Myanmar. That was country’s first official outreach to the military Junta that seized power in February 2021.

Ignoring all its claims of being caretaker of basic human rights, Indiahas been tryingits best not to antagonize the Junta which has killed more than 2,000 people for rejecting military rule. Despite international condemnation on the regime, India has been openly cooperating with the military Junta, extending diplomatic support and even assistance in organizing a general election that Min Aung Hlaing plans to hold this year. When world talks about isolating Myanmar military regime, discussion of its few allies tends to focus on Russia and China’s engagement with the Junta and support for it on UN Security Council. One country that has been strangely absent from this conversation, however, is India.

India’s support to the Military rule in Myanmar is in fact an effort of giving tough time to Chinese interests in Myanmar. The Aljazeera pointed out in an analysis that the growing conflict in Myanmar is undermining the investment environment for China. According to an analysis paper by the Institute for Strategy and Policy Myanmar, Chinese investments are facing growing risks as the anti-coup conflicts escalate across the country.“Of more than 7,800 clashes recorded nationwide since the coup in February 2021, at least 300 have taken place in areas where major Chinese projects are located or near potential project sites for Chinese investments.” says Aljazeera. By providing support to Myanmar’s military rulers, India is simply discouraging China’s presence in the country.In spite of the fact thatIndia is the major supporter of Myanmar Military regime, the international media remains silent on this pro-dictatorship approach of India. Myanmar is no doubt facing worst situation of human rights violation leading to a very agonizingpolitical chaos. Certainly this is the worst phase of Myanmar’s history, and this all is happening particularly in an era when so-called super powers ever seem determined to discourage all anti-democracy movements.But in case of Myanmar, the world’s self-claimed ‘biggest democracy’ ispatronizing the human rights exploiters.

Sino-Lanka Relationship: From thatched shacks to brick houses

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A month ago, I paid a short but productive visit to the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, bringing to the students of two local schools and residents of two villages rice, stationery, fuel and solar street lampsdonated by China, and having a good talk with the Hon. Governor Anuradha Yahampath and local civil society representatives. I learned a lot during this visit at the local communities. On one hand, I can better feel for the hardship that local people is enduring that makes me keep thinking about how we can do more to help them. On the other hand, I did feel how deep-rooted the China-Sri Lanka friendship is and how eager the people of the Eastern Province are for achieving development. In this regard, China has both willingness and ability to help them live a better life at an early date.

What left the deepest impression on me was Kaluwankerny, a remote fishing village with a nearly 50 minutes’ drive from the town of Batticaloa. This village has been hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic, economic crisis, and grave poverty. I visited several families in the village andfound out that only one of them had a bed. Many families had no choice but to live in thatched shacks.The Eastern Province was caught in a rare rainstorm in those days, which added to the hardships of the villagers who live in shacks and make a living out of fishing. Fortunately, the Chinese Embassy had funded the building of several brick houses for the village, giving shelter for many villagers against wind and rain.During this visit, I was heartened by the villagers who were not overwhelmed by poverty. When they were standing in muddy road and welcoming me at the village entrance, all I saw were smiling faces and when we were talking together under the simple awning, I could feel their aspiration for a better life, not to mention the great vitality in the clear eyes of the village kids. I believe their future must be full of hope!Moving from thatched shacks to brick houses, getting rid of poverty and living a better life is not mission impossible, but a real story that has happened countless times in China.

Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, China has won the largest battle against poverty in human history. In the past decade, a total of 128,000 impoverished villages and close to 100 million poor rural residents have been lifted out of poverty. A total of 1.1 million km highways has been reconstructed in the rural arears. More than 9.6 million poverty-stricken people have moved into new resettlement houses. Millions upon millions of children from poor families have fair access to education. With all these achievements, local people’s live have undergone tremendous changes. The fact that China eradicated absolute poverty, finished building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and thus completed the First Centenary Goal has become a major eventof great immediate importance and profound historical significance. In the progress of advancing rural revitalization across the board, people in China’s rural areas will surely lead a better life.

China’s experience in poverty alleviation indicates that poverty is not unconquerable. By applying the people-centered philosophy, highlighting poverty alleviation as top agenda of governance and eradicating poverty through development, huge number of villages in China had successfully got rid of poverty and even become rich. We would like to share experiences with Kaluwankerny residents and more Sri Lankan friends and provide necessary support to help them live an ideal life as early as possible. As China believes that one swallow does not make a summer, building a human community with a shared future is the way forward for all the world’s peoples.

The world today is undergoing momentous changes unseen in a century. The world economy is in face of serious challenges and the geopolitical environment remains tense. Food and energy crises are compounded with one another. Factors of instability, uncertainty and unpredictability are mounting in the international landscape. Faced with these challenges, it is imperative that all countries advocate peace, development, and win-win cooperation and embrace the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind. As a responsible major country with a global vision, China will continue to promote all parties to replace division with unity, confrontation with cooperation, and exclusion with inclusiveness, and join hands to solve the common challenges of humanity and create a better future together. China, as Sri Lanka’s good and genuine friend, will continue to contribute to Sri Lanka’s early recovery and development. We welcome more Sri Lankan friends to communicate with the Chinese embassy so that we can better understand your difficulties and help you in urgent need.

Finally, I would like to share some good news with Eastern Province friends. First, the Chinese Embassy has funded the building of another batch of brick houses in Kaluwankerny so that more villagers will be able to bid farewell to their shacks. The second good news is for the residents of Morawewa, the other village I visited. To solve your difficulties in gaining access to drinking water, the Embassy has decided to provide financial support for constructing well and laying water pipes in the Division.Last but not least, China and the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka are exploring more cooperation in areas such as agriculture, fisheries, tourism and education. We never pay lip service when it comes to China-Sri Lanka friendship. We are willing to work together with all walks of life in Sri Lanka with concrete actions, to bring more benefits to people of all ethnic groups of the two countries.

China’s economy is on a rebound

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China’s economic data for the year 2022 has been released in Beijing on Tuesday. The striking part is that China’s GDP growth slowed down to 3 percent.

From an Indian perspective, it may seem momentarily that China’s economy is slowing while India’s expanded by nearly 7 percent (per World Bank predictions.) Can India catch up with China in a medium term scenario? 

This is where the devil lies in the fine print. The heart of the matter is that China’s GDP growth of 3 percent translates as a year-on-year expansion of its economy touching a whopping $18 trillion. 

To put matters in perspective, China has an economy that is five and a half times the size of India’s economy (GDP: $3.5 trillion). (Emphasis added.) 

Yet, this is being regarded as a lacklustre economic performance, attributed to headwinds stemming from a combination of adverse circumstances characteristic of 2022 — ranging from the coronavirus and geopolitical tensions to repeated US interest rate hikes and the waning overseas demand due to the world economy tiptoeing toward recession. 

The sporadic outbreaks of Covid in manufacturing bases including Shanghai and South China’s Guangdong Province disrupted production in local factories and logistics, which combined with a property market slump.

To be sure, “Zero-covid” has been a well-documented drag on the Chinese economy over the past year; factories suffered when workers were locked down, and consumers reined in their spending as they lost pay checks and jobs. 

Externally, the escalating geopolitical tensions due to the western sanctions against Russia drove up bulk commodity prices, subjecting China to imported inflation pressure. Second, the historical reality is that as the Chinese economy and the US economy grew closer and closer during the decades since 1980, the extent and depth of the Chinese economy affected by the US monetary policy also grew stronger and stronger.

That is to say, the US interest rates and the Chinese economy are inversely related, especially in import, export, and China-US exchange rate. 2022 witnessed extraordinary fluctuations in the US financial market, which was bad news for China

Nonetheless, China’s 3% GDP growth compares by far favourably with those of the US and Japan — “the peer competitors” — whose GDP grew by less than 2% (per IMF projections.) Analysts expect a much better performance in the year 2023, exceeding 5% in GDP growth. (In comparison, the World Bank estimates that global growth will slow from 2.9 percent in 2022 to 1.7 percent in 2023, and the US’ GDP is expected to increase by just about 0.5 percent in 2023, the weakest forecast in three decades.) 

This has geopolitical ramifications, as China is well-placed to make a far more significant contribution to global growth than any other major economic power, which would inevitably translate as increased prestige in the world community and create greater opportunity to leverage foreign policy objectives. 

China’s consumer-led rebound to buttress global growth implies that its vast market potential will be seen as a locomotive of growth by other economies, especially in the ASEAN region, Africa and Latin America. 

Contrary to doomsday predictions, China’s transition away from the “zero-Covid” policy has been relatively smooth. The new regime aims to cope with the Covid mutants that are highly contagious, but less potent and dangerous. In retrospect, hundreds of thousands of human lives were saved in China, unlike in India or America. 

Interestingly, the latest economic data from China also showed that notwithstanding the 3% growth rate last year, the country’s GDP per capita has stayed above the $12,000-mark, which is close to the high-income countries defined by the World Bank.

Equally, the Chinese stock markets remain bullish indicative of the optimism. In political terms, this sets the stage for China’s most important annual political gatherings ahead in March, which are expected to unleash the economy once more. 

What Indian analysts in their schadenfreude tend to overlook is that an attitude toward China predicated on that country’s misfortunes and setbacks is a road to nowhere. There are some profound conclusions to be drawn from the data on the Chinese economy. 

Clearly, with global economic growth likely to decline sharply and global inflation still hovering at high levels in 2023, the economies of major developed economies are likely to show stagflation. Suffice it to say that the European countries will be inclined to view the Chinese market as holding the key to an early economic recovery. Recasting the global supply chains by decoupling from China is going to be easier said than done.

Second, the US simply cannot compete with China anymore as a manufacturing country. In infrastructure, the gap is so patently wide. Ukraine has shown that the US lacks the capability to fight Russia and  needs a coalition. It is no different when it comes to China. 

Surely, the economic data on the Chinese economy will be taken very seriously in Washington. The US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was due to meet with Chinese Vice Premier (“economic czar”) Liu He in Zurich on Wednesday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos with view to “expand communication” between the two largest economies in the world. 

According to Politico, Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Beijing on Feb. 5-6. Blinken’s talks will show whether the dialogue between President Biden and President Xi Jinping at Bali has led to more productive bilateral relations. A serious rapprochement seems  difficult to achieve after the US House of Representatives created a committee on strategic competition with China recently. 

However, both powers want to put the deterioration of relations on pause or at least keep it under control. They will try to avoid crises, although that is not guaranteed. Typically, it has been Washington who invariably initiated any deterioration of relations. 

Addressing the CSIS in Washington last week, Biden’s advisor on China, Kurt Campbell described the Bali summit meeting as “an effort to build a foundation for a new relationship with China.” He said 2023 will be the year “to build some guardrails,” although the dominant feature of US-China relationship will continue to be competitive. 

Campbell messaged that the US wants it to be “a productive, peaceful competition” that can be channelled for the betterment of life of the two peoples. 

China Rebukes US Hypocrisy and Julie Chung’s Blabber over Sri Lanka  

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“China, China, China!”, our US colleague starts chanting this infamous mantra and blaming China as a “spoiler” to the island’s negotiation with the IMF during her recent interview with a UK television program on Sri Lanka’s debt issue, Chinese Embassy in Colombo in its firing statement has noted.

“Before her baseless accusing and lecturing, our US colleague should have at least asked herself: Who is the single largest shareholder of the IMF with a veto power over major policy decisions? Who is keeping printing US dollar, with more than $3 trillion in 2020 alone? Who are those private creditors owning 40% of Sri Lanka’s total external debt stock with the highest interest rates? Who sued Sri Lanka in its federal court immediately after the island’s default?,” the statement added.

The statement further reads as follows;

The public may also like to know how the US have walked the talk to help the Sri Lankan people when they have already received 10000 MT of rice, 9000 Liters of diesel, 5 billion LKR of medicines and 3 million fabric meters of school uniform materials gifted by China? They may also question what are the political pre-conditions of US Aid, while being assured by China’s “No strings attached” commitment and practice.

Isn’t it hypocrisy at its finest for our US colleague to play the blame game instead of a self-examination? After all, why didn’t the US take decisive actions in the IMF for a more comfortable solution for Sri Lanka or extend grant to the island with the rocket amount of US dollars they print every year, instead of sowing discord between China and Sri Lanka? Both Chinese and Sri Lankan people are wise enough to judge without any foreign lecturing who is the spoiler of our development.

Diplomacy: Malwathu Mahanayake Meeting Chinese Delegation

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On 11th January 2023, Chargé d’affaires Hu Wei of the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka called on the Mahanayake Thero of the Malwathu chapter of Siam Nikaya, Most Venerable Thibbatuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thero in Kandy. They had a friendly conversation about the millennia close exchanges between the two peoples and Buddhist communities of the two countries, as well as China’s firm support to all walks of life in Sri Lanka to fight against COVID-19 epidemic and the economic crisis. The issue of the 14th Dalai Lama’s intention to visit Sri Lanka was also discussed.

Chargé d’affaires Hu Wei stated that the government and people of China including in the Tibet Autonomous Region strongly oppose any foreign country to receive the Dalai Lama in any name, because the 14th Dalai Lama is absolutely not a “simple monk” as he self-claimed, but the head of the feudal serfdom and the theocracy in Tibet prior to 1951, a political exile disguised as a religious figure who has long been engaging in anti-China separatist activities and attempting to split Tibet from China.

Smashing the lies of the Dalai Lama group, the Chinese Chargé d’affaires briefed the Mahanayake Thero that in the Dalai Lama era, about 1 million people were serfs accounted for 95 percent of Tibet’s population. Its GDP was only 129 million RMB and the Life Expectancy was only 35.5 years (in 1951). Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the Tibetan people are now enjoying a prosperous economy with a GDP of 210 billion RMB (31 billion USD) and the GDP per capita of USD 8,000 (twice of Sri Lanka and 4 times of India where he resides now), longevity of 72.19 years on average and freedom of religion with 46,000 monks and nuns in over 1,700 temples in Tibet.

Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the Tibetan people are now enjoying a prosperous economy with a GDP of 210 billion RMB (31 billion USD) and the GDP per capita of USD 8,000

Hu emphasized that China and Sri Lanka have been firmly supporting each other on issues concerning each other’s core interests, including the Tibet related issue. Both sides especially the Buddhist communities must prevent a sneaky visit of the Dalai Lama to the island to promote “Tibetan independence” and safeguard the China-Sri Lanka historical relations from being damaged.

The Malwathu Mahanayake Thero highly appraised the close friendship between Sri Lanka and China dated from Ven. Faxian Thero’s visit to the island 1,600 years ago, and China’s continued support to Sri Lanka since the latter’s independence, particularly in Mme. Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s time. In the last three year fighting against the COVID-19 and economic crisis, China has been assisting us with numerous of PPEs, vaccines, rice, diesel etc., which is fully appreciated by the Sri Lanka people including the Maha Sangha.

Recalling his several visits to China including one Buddhist exchange tour in the Tibet Autonomous Region, Most Venerable Thibbatuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thero expressed his high appreciation on China’s economic and social development, and the freedom and prosperity of Buddhism in the oriental country. “I still remember visiting an ancient temple on top of a high mountain in Tibet. The scenes, the statues and the low level of oxygen are unforgettable. It’s quite different with what the western media portrays” said the Mahanayake Thero.

Commenting on the rumor of several monks inviting Dalai Lama to visit the island, the Chief Prelate stressed that “China is the closest friend of Sri Lanka. Our relations with China must not be hurt. It is better that government also understand the importance of contribution rendered by China for the upliftment of Sri Lankan economy. We as Sri Lankan always indebted to China for their continued support and humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka whenever we are in need. Seeing is believing. I hope more Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis from Sri Lanka could visit China, and more devotees from China could visit Sri Lanka and the Malwathu Maha Viharaya.”

Chargé d’affaires Hu Wei also paid courtesy calls to Ven. Dimbulkumbure Wimaladhamma Thero, Anunayake of Malwathu chapter and Ven. Wedaruwe Upali Thero, Ven. Anamaduwe Dhammadassi Thero, Anunayakes of Asgiri chapter on the same day.

Statement issued by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Sri Lanka

BRI and a Better Future for Sri Lanka

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Acknowledging the positive role that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) play in the economic development of Sri Lanka, the Belt Road Initiative, Sri Lanka (BRISL) held a three-day seminar at the Galle Face Hotel, Colombo from the 27th to the 29th of December, themed: “BRI and a Better Future for Sri Lanka.” Organised with the objectives of alleviating misconceptions, countering harmful narratives, and enhancing knowledge on BRI and its impact on Sri Lanka through dialogue and deliberation between university students, academia and other stakeholders, the seminar featured presentations and experience-sharing exercises by form of field visits to key China-Sri Lanka joint development projects in the heart of Colombo. Participants were given the unique opportunity to visit project locations such as the Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) and the Colombo Lotus tower and monitor internal operations that are not open to the public, to better understand the operational dynamics of internationally acclaimed BRI projects, while interacting with senior members of the staff. Further, the seminar provided the participants with an opportunity to acquire an overview of the professional skills necessary for career success in preparation of their employment prospects in the future. The BRI Seminar Series intends to provide a platform biannually for undergraduates representing all regions of the island to critically discuss and form objective viewpoints on the BRI.

The informative seminar was held with the participation of 25 undergraduate student delegates from state universities across the island, including the Department of International Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences – University of Kelaniya, the Department of International Relations, Faculty of Arts – University of Colombo, the Department of Economics, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences – University of Ruhuna and the Department of Economics, Faculty of Commerce and Management, the Department of Economics, Faculty of Arts and Culture – Eastern University of Sri Lanka.

Mr. Hu Wei, Chargé D’affaires of the Embassy of the Peoples’ Republic of China in Colombo, greeted the visiting student delegation and hosted a dinner on the 26th of December at the Shangri La Hotel, Colombo. Making his remarks at the occasion, Mr. Wei appreciated the initiative taken by BRISL to bridge the knowledge gap between ordinary Sri Lankans and their perceptions of BRI projects in the island and recognised the need for learned discussions at university and academic levels to improve Sri Lanka’s standing as a key regional beneficiary of the BRI. Mr. Maya Majueran K of BRISL emphasised the importance of the seminar in offering practical experience relating to strategic projects of the BRI to undergraduates. He also invited the participants to study the importance of Sri Lanka being a BRI partner, based on factual information.

The three-day seminar was enriched with the presentations made by key academics and practitioners in the disciplines of international relations and economics, whose analytical and thought provoking presentations and knowledge sharing stimulated rich discussions amongst participants. Day one of the seminar series saw presentations from Prof. Samitha Hettige, Professor of Management and Dr. George Cooke, diplomatic historian and senior lecturer at the Department of International Relations, University of Colombo, who set the foundation for the direction of the seminar through historic evidence of China-Sri Lanka relations. The presentations unravelled misconceptions of how BRI and China’s investments are seen as a novel phenomenon. Policy Analyst and Economist at the UNDP, Dr. Vagisha Gunasekara and Prof. Sirimal Abeyratne, Chairman of the Stakeholder Engagement Committee of the CBSL and Professor in Economics, University of Colombo, in their presentations on day two of the seminar delved into differentiating between Chinese investments, loans, and grants. The speakers stressed the importance of BRI to Sri Lanka in elevating itself as a key trade partner to China, the equalisation of Sri Lanka’s infrastructure to its regional peers to facilitate trade and the necessity for far-seeing, consistent national policies to better benefit from foreign loans and development projects, while meeting Sri Lanka’s interests. On day three of the seminar, Mr. Umesh Moramudali, lecturer at the University of Colombo, and Mr. Thilina Panduwawala, head of economic research at Frontier Research, presented their paper titled “Evolution of Chinese

Lending to Sri Lanka Since the mid-2000s – Separating Myth from Reality,” in which they established that 19.6% of Sri Lanka’s external debt is owed to Chinese financing entities, a figure higher than often thought to be. However, the paper highlighted that China’s financial assistance and loans to Sri Lanka does not possess any ‘hidden debt’ as often erroneously reported. Making the last presentation of the seminar, Mr. Cheng Huaqiang, Deputy General Manager of the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) – International, South Asia, and Mining Engineer Mr. Kanishka Chathuranga gave an overview of how the cooperation has facilitated BRI initiatives in Sri Lanka through building infrastructure while indirectly benefiting local workforce through technology and skills transfer and experience sharing. All presentations were followed by interactive Q&A sessions moderated by Mr. Yasiru Ranaraja and Mr. Maya Majueran K, founding directors of the BRISL. The student delegates actively took part in discussions to pose questions, initiate discussions, and critically analyse the presentations made.

With the view of enhancing practical knowledge and experience sharing, and to learn first-hand the benefits of BRI related investments and projects, the afternoon sessions of the three-day seminar were reserved for field visits. At Huawei Technologies Lanka, the undergraduates were debriefed by Mr. Liam Liang, deputy CEO for Enterprise Business, Mr. Christophe Lee, Director Public Affairs and Communication, Mr. Nadun Gunawardana, Head of Solutions for Enterprise Business and Mr. Sameera Antony, Senior HR Operations Manager, on the technological service provider’s ongoing work to narrow the digital divide in the country and digitise essential services with state and private sector partners. Ms. Nicole Dunuwila, Regional Manager Investment Promotion & Marketing (South Asia) for the Colombo Port City provided a tour of the project facilities and explained the future vision in developing the location to a world-class commercial and residential hub. At the Colombo Lotus Tower, Site Manager, Mr. Jiao Zhichao of the China National Electronics Import & Export Corporation, provided the undergraduates access to the restricted control rooms to witness first-hand, the complex operations powering the tower. Chief Executive Officer of the CICT, Mr. Jack Huang greeted the delegation and shared his expertise on the dealings of the CICT and its strategic value to Sri Lanka with lessons for better integration with state actors for increased trade. The Finance Manager of the CICT, Mr. Don Jayawardene, Mr. Grant Yang, General Manager of the Admin Department and the Deputy Manager of the Commercial Department, Mr. Chandima Seneviratne also provided insights into CICT’s contribution to the Sri Lankan economy. Undergraduate delegates were encouraged to engage with staff to reflect on how future academic and employment prospects could be enhanced, while gaining in-depth knowledge of the operations of each facility and their strategic importance as part of the BRI.

The three-day seminar concluded on a high note on the 29th of December with the participation of officials from the Chinese Embassy in Colombo, resource persons and media. Participants representing all attending universities commented on the quality and the nature of the seminar that enabled objective and critical discussions to allow for shaping calculated, unbiased, and informed opinions on the BRI and its role in Sri Lanka’s development ambitions, which are often clouded with unsubstantiated narratives and accusations, serving interests of vested parties. Dignitaries attending, encouraged the undergraduates to read and enhance their knowledge using a range of sources that go beyond mainstream narratives and to act as ambassadors of the BRI – Sri Lanka partnership for “mutual benefits and win-win cooperation.”

BRISL successfully organised the first of the biannual seminar series with the valuable support from the Embassy of the Peoples’ Republic of China in Colombo. The Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka, Colombo International Container Terminals Ltd, China Harbour Engineering Company, China Merchants Port Holdings Company Ltd, CHEC Port City Colombo (Pvt) Ltd, Huawei Technologies Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, Colombo Lotus Tower, and China State Construction Engineering Corporation graciously supported the initiative.

Belt & Road Initiative Sri Lanka (BRISL) is an education and consulting platform that specialises in educational, cultural, business and technological cooperation under the BRI. Involved in assisting think tanks, media, research institutions, government agencies and the corporate sector in forging valuable partnerships, BRISL create linkages with China and rest of the world to tap emerging opportunities from developments taking place under BRI and beyond. Their portfolio includes education services, research, business tourism and promotion, event management, corporate training and business missions to create business opportunities for companies, particularly Micro, Small and Medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

Year of the Rabbit– India and China in South Asia

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2023 is the Year of the Rabbit which is seen as the gentlest animal in the Chinese Zodiac. This comes after the Year of the Tiger – fast and furious. But the Rabbit is good at adapting and can move rapidly cutting through multiple furrows of uncertainty. A Rabbit can also protect itself and indicates strong confidence and strength with resoluteness towards goals despite the obstacles.

Applied to the India China dyad despite operating on different zodiac systems 2023 denotes to be a year of continued competition cum confrontation. The confrontation of the military kind is easy to guess which may occur on the Northern borders as the Yangtze clash on December 09 indicates. Competition could be in many spheres geographic and topical.

In 2022, China was engaged in internal political consolidation for President and General Secretary Xi Jinping.

Now that the same is out of the way after the 20th Congress has established primacy of the Xi regime so to say, the pathway to regional and global domination will be resumed rapidly and at a faster pace than before.

From the Indian perspective Chinese presence in South Asia – New Delhi’s regional sphere of influence – Neighbourhood First assumes significance for that would be an area of contestation not just competition.

Yet China seems to have started at an advantage in the beginning of the New Year 2023 with a communist left party led coalition assuming power in Nepal, Pakistan continuing to be the favourable “ally,” regionally and umpteen opportunities in other states through political, diplomatic and economic influence.

Most importantly several countries in South Asia will face parliamentary or presidential elections. From the military regime ruled Myanmar to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Maldives polls are to be held this year which may provide Beijing an opportunity to swing the tide in its favour using tools fair and foul.

With success in Nepal under the belt the Chinese could perceive a higher level of confidence and advantage. That the Chinese political, diplomatic and development machinery is nimble is evident with a few projects declared for Nepal days after the CPN Maoist Centre Leader Prachanda or Pushpa Kamal Dahal was sworn in as the Prime Minister.

The aim is to give a fillip to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects which have been lying fallow for some time. An attempt could also be made to open up trade and transit including energy routes to the North with China through Tibet despite the harsh terrain and logistics challenges faced.

Afghanistan may be a challenge for China given despite almost 16 months of defacto authority of the Taliban in power in Kabul there has been a breakthrough in only one mining and energy project with China’s CAPEIC (Xinjiang Central Asia Oil and Gas Company) in the Amu Darya Basin in the North on January 05.

The highly ambitious extension of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and linking with the Belt and Road Initiative will remain poor for now.

Extra regional influence is also expected to grow as the first container ship of Chinese goods landed in the joint India Iran Chabahar port on December 31.

The port is operated by India Ports Global and has seen greater maritime traffic than neighouring Gwadar in Pakistan which despite being a CPEC project has not seen many ships unloading. Apart from lack of hinterland, there are law and order and terror challenges in this zone whereas Chabahar is secure.

How an increase in Chinese traffic at the port will be handled by India in conjunction with Iran remains to be seen?

To sum up China may have a comprehensive advantage over India in Pakistan, while the influence in countries as Afghanistan, Nepal and Myanmar may be overwhelmingly wider.

On the other hand a tough contest for influence can be envisaged in Bangladesh Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Having understood the Chinese game to some extent India may be better prepared to meet these challenges, yet there are hurdles that can be envisaged apart from constraint of resources in comparative terms to the focus on managing the Chinese military expansion on the Northern borders as well as the maritime sphere.

This may tie down the Indian leadership which will also be working towards general elections in the country which will be held in the first half of 2024.

Indeed, Beijing’s calculations may have factored in this important event and how it would shape the same is a subject for another day.

Yet there could be one critical uncertainty internally for China – the spread of COVID 19 – while numbers are unclear for now – the impact is likely to wear down the Party as well as the State authorities in Beijing.

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