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About the team

Avishka Ashok

Avishka Ashok is a Research Assistant with the Science Diplomacy Programme in the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. In the Science Diplomacy Programme.

Dincy Adlakha

Keerthana Nambiar

Juan Mary Joseph

Juan Mary Joseph is currently a Research Intern at the School of Conflict and Security Studies, National Institute of Advanced Studies. Her areas of interest include China and East Asian studies. She has completed her Masters in International Studies from Christ (Deemed to be) University and was previously working at Reuters. She completed her undergraduate degree in Economics from Stella Marist College, Chennai.

CR Daily Briefs

14 January 2022, Friday | China Reader Evening Brief | Vol.1, No. 88

Chinese Foreign Minister on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka; a push for stronger ties

Sri Lanka seeks help from Beijing in the looming debt crisis. The Brief explores the new developments during Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to Colombo.

Photo : CGTN


IN FOCUS
By Sukanya Bali

Chinese Foreign Minister on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka; a push for stronger ties 

On 8 January, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Colombo on a two-day visit as part of a five-country trip. During the visit, Wang met Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris. The two countries marked the 65th anniversary of diplomatic ties and the 70th anniversary of the Rubber-Rice Pact. The Pact demonstrates their national spirit in the fight against hegemony and isolation imposed by the West. CGTN reported, Wang said: “China and Sri Lanka are good brothers supporting each other.” He also said: “The spirit of the pact characterized by independence, self-reliance, unity and mutual support is deeply rooted in the hearts of the two peoples, and such spirit should be carried forward." 

On 9 January, Rajapaksa requested Beijing to aid in “restructuring Sri Lanka’s debt repayments as a solution to the economic crisis that has arisen in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic." Xinhua reported, the Chinese Foreign Minister said: “development of both countries serves the fundamental interest” of peoples. He described the relationship, “does not target any third party and should not be interfered with by any third party. The all-around cooperation and strategic mutual trust between the two countries have injected positive energy into regional peace and stability.”

Key Developments during the visit 
First, taping opportunities of RCEP.
Chinese Foreign Minister urged to “tap the opportunities of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement and China’s vast market.” He emphasized restarting bilateral talks on the free-trade agreements “to send more positive signals to the world and contribute to Sri Lanka’s economic recovery and development.” Wang considered the Colombo Port City and Hambantota Port projects to act as the engines to push forward bilateral cooperation.

Second, the forum of development of the Indian Ocean Island.
Beijing proposed a “forum on the development of Indian Ocean Island countries to build consensus and synergy and promote common development and strengthen.” 

Third, aid to restructure the economy.
Beijing has given a loan of over USD 5 billion for the development of highways, ports, airports, and coal power plants. Presently, Sri Lanka has to repay USD 4.5 billion in debt in 2022, including USD 500 million international sovereign bonds which will mature on 18 January. Colombo’s foreign reserves are down to USD 1.6 billion, enough for a few weeks of imports. The country is also facing high inflation and an acute shortage of essential commodities. Rating agencies have downgraded the country due to the increased possibility of credit default. 

Reuters reported: “Rajapaksa also requested China to provide concessional terms for its exports to Sri Lanka, which amounted to about USD 3.5 billion in 2020.” Sri Lanka’s central bank governor has said that talks with China over a new loan were at an “advanced stage”, and a new agreement would service existing debt to Beijing

Fourth, opening borders.
Colombo offered to allow Chinese tourists to return and adhere to strict Covid-19 regulations. The country has been facing challenges amid the disruption in its tourism industry due to the pandemic. In 2019, Sri Lanka recorded over 1.9 million tourists and approximately 570,000 tourists in 2020. 

Beijing-Colombo relation: 2021
Sri Lanka is an important recipient of Chinese BRI projects, but the relationship went through a rough patch in 2021. In a diplomatic row in October, Sri Lanka experts rejected a shipment of organic fertilizer from China, claiming them to be contaminated. Scientists questioned the quality of fertilizer saying, “instead of helping, it could prove harmful to the crops.” Further, a court blocked payments to the Chinese fertilizer company. In response, China black-listed Sri Lanka’s state bank for not honoring payments. However, before Wang's visit, Sri Lanka Peoples Bank released USD 6.9 million to the company. In December, China suspended its project to install a hybrid energy plant in the islands of Sri Lanka citing “security concerns” from “third party,” amid opposition from India. 

References: 
Chinese FM Wang Yi meets Sri Lanka PM Rajapaksa; discusses promoting investments, tourism,” The Hindu, 09 January 2022
No ‘third party’ should interfere in China’s Sri Lanka ties: Wang Yi,” The Hindu, 10 January 2022
China, Sri Lanka to restart FTA talks using RCEP and double engines of Colombo Port City and Hambantota Port projects: Chinese FM,” Global Times, 10 January 2022
Sri Lanka’s president asks China to restructure debt repayments,” Reuters, 10 January 2022
China, Sri Lanka promise to boost ties, carrying forward the spirit of Rubber-Rice Pact,” CGTN, 10 January 2022


IN BRIEF
By Keerthana Nambiar and Dincy Adlakha 

INTERNATIONAL
Global Times says Iran and China enjoys a “good, stable, strong relationship”
On 13 January, Global Times reported the “good, stable, strong relationship” between Iran and China. As both the countries celebrate 51st anniversary of diplomatic relations anow are now shifting to a new page of their relationships. Global Times emphasized that China is looking forward to support Iran and cooperate in various fields and for Iran’s permanent membership in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). It also stressed on Beijing and Tehran’s stance on territorial integrity criticizing the approach of superpowers on democracy, imposition of sanctions and double standards of human rights. In the coming years, China looks at Iran as a strategic partner because of the “various cultural and political commonalities between Beijing and Tehran.” (“Iran, China enjoy good, stable, strong relationship: Iranian FM,” Global Times, 13 January 2022)

Syria signs the MOU with China joining the Beijing’s BRI Initiative
On 13 January, Global Times reported the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between Syria and China regarding Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Fadi Khalil, head of Planning and International Cooperation Commission said: “the admission of Syria into the initiative revives the old role of Syria on the ancient Silk Road and will help in boosting bilateral cooperation with China and multilateral cooperation with other countries, which are desirous of cooperating with Syria.” China’s ambassador Feng Biao pointed out that Syria signing the BRI reflects the ancient history of friendship and cooperation between Beijing and Damascus. (“Syria joins China's Belt & Road Initiative” Xinhua Net, 13 January 2022: “Syria joins BRI amid extensive China-Mideast exchanges,” Global Times, 13 January 2022)

Turkish Foreign Minister visits China and held talks with Chinese Foreign Ministry Wang Yi
On 13 January, Global Times reported on the meeting between Chinese Foreign Ministry Wang Yi and his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Cavusoglu. Both the sides  exchanged their views on China-Turkey bilateral relations, cooperation in international and regional issues and agreed on strengthening China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Turkey’s ‘Middle Corridor’ initiative.“Wang said that China hopes Turkey and the majority of the Islamic countries can understand and support China's justified stance on Xinjiang,” reported Global Times. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu expressed Turkey’s support to the one-China principle and promises to never use Xinjiang-related issues as a toll against China. (“Turkey allows no terrorist activities that infringe China's sovereignty to be conducted on its territory: Turkish FM,” Global Times, 13 January 2022: “Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s Regular Press Conference on January 13, 2022,” Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America, 13 January 2022)

Chinese FM spokesperson expresses China’s distaste on the recent US State Department report
On 13 January, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin expressed China’s distaste regarding the report published by US State Department titled ‘Limits in the Seas’ and calls it as a distortion of international law. Wenbin pointed that the report “distorts international law, misleads the public, sows discord and disrupts the regional situation.” He also says that China is a contracting party of the 1982 United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) unlike the US who refused to join. Wenbin accused the US of assuming the “role of the magistrate of the convention, misinterpreting it at will for its own selfish interests, using multi-standards to politically manipulate others, and undermining the international rule of law.” (“Non-member US plays magistrate of UN convention to sow discord in South China Sea: Chinese FM,” Global Times, 13 January 2022: Danson Cheong, “Beijing says new South China Sea report by US is misleading, distorts international law,” The Strait Times, 13 January 2022)

Chinese foriegn ministry retaliates to US report on South China Sea
On 13 January, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin responded to the newly released report on South China Sea by the US saying it “distorts international law, misleads the public, sows discord and disrupts the regional situation.” He emphasized that the US has not ratified UNCLOS convention and yet declares judgments on issues relating to the same. The report released by Washington contests China’s claims in the South China Sea based on UNCLOS clauses and opposes the geographic and historic bases of China. China criticized the report and termed it misleading. (Danson Cheong, “Beijing says new South China Sea report by US is misleading, distorts international law,” The Straits Times, 13 January 2022)

INTERNAL
Hong Kong researchers claim developing 3D printing material that kills coronavirus
On 13 January, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University announced that its research team has developed an anti-virus 3D printing material which kills most common bacteria and viruses existing on the surface, including coronavirus. The major component used for developing this material is resin and other components like cationic compounds are also added to pierce the cell membrane and destroy the virus. The team announced that the material is flexible and usable in public facilities to avoid the spread of the virus and support the community. The material can eliminate all viruses and bacteria on the surface within 20 minutes. The material will be quite helpful for endemic fight in the world. (“Hong Kong researchers say they develop novel material able to kill COVID-19 virus,” Xinhua Net, 13 January 2022)

Zhuhai city undergoes massive COVID-19 testing
On 14 January, South China Morning Post reported that multiple COVID-19 cases were reported in Zhongshan. The authorities have therefore ordered the public to stay within municipal limits for effective mass testing and are currently screening for infectious cases. Approximately 2.4 million people were tested in one day as the southwest city underwent mass screening. (Phoebe Zhang, “Chinese city of Zhuhai in coronavirus mass testing mode after Zhongshan reports case,” South China Morning Post, 14 January 2022)

ECONOMY
China records highest ever trade surplus in 2021
On 14 January, Chinese authorities announced that the country recorded a global trade surplus of  676.4 billion USD which is the highest trade surplus recorded by any country in history. The exports of China jumped approximately 30 percent within a year. The country faced huge shortages of processor and semiconductor chips and yet recorded a 3.3 trillion USD export rate in 2021. Economic growth weakened for the country in the later six months of the year due to the pandemic and other domestic factors. However, trade increased with almost every country, including the United States despite the ongoing tensions. (“China’s trade surplus surges to record $676.4 billion in 2021,” The Asahi Shimbun, 14 January 2022)


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