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Challenging the IMF’s ‘China Card’: Why Sri Lanka Doesn’t Need to Choose Between China and the West

It is important to recognize that without China's assurance, the IMF can still offer the requested financial assistance to Sri Lanka while China continues to help the island's economic revival in its own way.

4 mins read
Prof. Shantayanan Devarajan, Nonresident Senior Fellow - Global Economy and Development [ Photo Credit: The Brookings Institution]

by Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. – Aristotle

China’s involvement in Sri Lanka’s economic development has been a contentious issue, with many alleging that China is engaging in “debt-trap diplomacy” to gain leverage over Sri Lanka. However, this allegation is baseless and is nothing but a story fabricated to defame China’s global image. Instead, China should be left alone to help Sri Lanka in its own way, without any interference or criticism.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has the ability to help Sri Lanka without China’s assistance, as other major creditors in the Western Bloc and India have already provided written assurances for debt restructuring. According to Shanta Devarajan, Professor of the Practice of International Development at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University and a top adviser to the Sri Lankan government for economic revival, Sri Lanka has already implemented all 15 demands made by the IMF. [Click here to read his interview with the Political Editor of Colombo Sunday Times published today, 25 February 2023] Prof. Devarajan told the newspaper that, the “Extended Fund Facility could be given even if China does not give financing assurance”. Therefore, it is now up to the IMF to show its generosity and sincerity in helping Sri Lanka without playing the China card.

This is a prime opportunity for the IMF to prove its neutrality and humanity, despite being accused of playing politics on behalf of the West. The IMF has been criticized for its actions in the past, with Sri Lanka having sought assistance from the organization 16 times without success. However, now is the time for the IMF to demonstrate that its actions are intended to help poor countries uplift the livelihoods of vulnerable communities, rather than benefiting cronies and corporations that plunder the assets of these countries and store them in the West.

It is important to recognize that China’s involvement in Sri Lanka’s economic development is not a one-way street. China has invested significant amounts of money in numerous developing countries, and if the West demands that China execute specific actions over Sri Lanka, it could have a ripple effect on other countries where China has lent financial assistance. This would ultimately impact China’s economic interests and global ambitions, and the West and India should be cautious not to demand too much from China.

Sri Lanka should not be used as a scapegoat to weaken China’s footholds in other countries from East Asia to Latin America. If the West and India attempt to cause a domino effect on China’s economy by using Sri Lanka, it will strongly impact the Global South, which may be the hidden truth behind the IMF’s China card. It is important to recognize that without China’s assurance, the IMF can still offer the requested financial assistance to Sri Lanka while China continues to help the island’s economic revival in its own way.

Therefore, it is crucial for the IMF and other Western creditors to be aware of the potential consequences of their actions and avoid demanding too much from China. Instead, they should focus on providing assistance to Sri Lanka in a manner that benefits the country and its people, without infringing on China’s interests. A balanced approach that takes into account the concerns and interests of all parties involved is necessary to ensure a positive outcome for Sri Lanka and the global community as a whole.

It is unfortunate that certain groups are attempting to damage China’s strong reputation by funding allocated money to specific groups of so-called “civil societies” and utilizing empty politicians to voice against China. Such actions are counterproductive and will not bring about any positive change in the island nation. It is important to recognize that China has consistently shown itself to be a country that is willing to help other nations in times of need, without any ulterior motives. Without China’s assistance in wiping out the fascist terrorists, Sri Lanka would likely still be embroiled in conflict. In fact, Sri Lanka remains indebted to China for its provision of defense hardware, including ammunition, which was critical in the fight against the Tamil Tigers and the rescue of Tamils from terroristic control. During a time when other nations attempted to exert control over Sri Lanka, it was countries such as China, Pakistan, Russia, and Ukraine that stood by Sri Lanka to help defeat terrorism.

Not only that, China has a long history of providing assistance to developing countries, and its Belt and Road Initiative is a testament to its commitment to supporting economic development and infrastructure projects around the world. What China pursued in its international relations is what exactly a Chinese proverb says, “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” In contrast, certain Western countries and neighboring nations have been accused of interfering in the internal politics of other countries, often with disastrous consequences.

Therefore, it is important to view China’s actions in a positive light and recognize its contributions to the global community. Rather than attempting to damage China’s reputation, it would be more productive to work towards building stronger relationships and partnerships that can benefit both China and other nations. This would require a shift away from outdated notions of competition and towards a more collaborative approach that seeks to address common challenges and promote mutual interests. After all, the power of balance will secure our common ambitions while respecting mutual sensitivities of each other’s.

It is time to move beyond the politics of division and focus on building a more positive and cooperative relationship with China. By working together, we can create a more prosperous and stable world that benefits everyone, regardless of nationality or political affiliation. The time has come for a new era of cooperation and partnership, based on mutual respect and understanding.

Yes, it is time to put aside baseless allegations and let China help Sri Lanka in its own way. The IMF should step forward and provide assistance to Sri Lanka without playing politics or favoring one country over another. The focus should be on uplifting the lives of the people of Sri Lanka, rather than serving the interests of a select few. This is an opportunity for the IMF to demonstrate its commitment to humanitarianism and make a positive impact on the lives of people in developing countries.

Sri Lanka Guardian

The Sri Lanka Guardian is an online web portal founded in August 2007 by a group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens including journalists, activists, academics and retired civil servants. We are independent and non-profit. Email: editor@slguardian.org

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