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“China will never forget Sri Lanka’s valuable support when China was blockaded by the West”: Vice Mi

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“As an ancient Chinese poem puts it, ‘if you give me a peach, I’ll pay back in jade,’ Chinese people will never forget that when China was blockaded by the West, it was Sri Lanka that gave valuable support to China despite the tremendous pressure,” said Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Chen Xiao Dong when he attended (on behalf of the Government of the People’s Republic of China) the 60th anniversary of China-Sri Lanka Diplomatic Relations and the 65th anniversary of the signing of the Agreement on Rice for Rubber.

The Embassy of Sri Lanka in Beijing celebrated the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations as well as the 65th anniversary of economic relations between Sri Lanka and China on 31 October in Beijing with the participation of Tilak Marapana, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chen Xiao Dong, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, and Ambassador of Sri Lanka to China Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku. The celebration was held at prestigious China World Hotel.

Welcoming the distinguished guests and appreciating Marapana’s participation at the event, Dr. Kodituwakku recalled the firm relations existed between China and Sri Lanka for the last 2,000 years. Further he stated that both countries had assisted each other whenever necessity arose and China hasdsupported to Sri Lanka not only in diplomatic and economic fields, but also in times of national security issues Sri Lanka encountered. 

Expressing his personal experience, Dr. Kodituwakku appreciated the friendly attachment of China with Sri Lanka and their awareness of Sri Lanka as a popular tourist destination, and historical relations as well as contemporary warm friendship and wished the friendship would be further strengthened. Moreover he added his sincere wishes for the success of the new global role of China and to the leadership of the CPC including core leader President Xi Jingping and other leaders. 

Addressing the gathering, Marapana stated that he was honoured to be present in China during October since it was jubilantly celebrating the 68th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China under the great leadership of Chairman Mao Tse Tung. He extended the good wishes of President Maithripala Sirisena and the Government and the people of Sri Lanka to the President, the Government and the people of the People’s Republic of China. 

Recalling the historical ties between two countries, he highlighted the recognition of the People’s Republic of China in January 1950 and the ‘Rubber-Rice Pact’ in 1952 as the milestones of flourishing relations between the two countries. Further the Minister stated that the longstanding, close and friendly relations between the two countries was built on a solid foundation of historic, economic and cultural ties based on friendship, cooperation, mutual trust and understanding and respect for the territorial integrity of the two countries. 

He identified the historical visits of former Premier Zhou En-Lai to Sri Lanka in 1957 and former Prime Minister Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike to China in 1961 and 1972 as being etched as eternal memories by the people of both countries. Paying attention to modern relations, the Minister stated that the relations had expanded vigorously into multiple areas such as political, trade, investment, economic, technical and defence cooperation, and people-to-people contact through promotion of tourism. 

The visit of President Xi Jinping to Sri Lanka in 2014, and the visits of President Sirisena to China in March 2015 and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in April and August 2016 and May 2017 were respectively highlighted as visits which added much impetus to relations between the two countries. 

Moreover the Minister said that China was the second largest source of tourist arrivals for Sri Lanka and air connectivity consolidated the strategies to further promote tourism. He also stated that the Belt and Road Initiative would provide much connectivity in the Indian Ocean which was required, especially for rapid economic and social development in Sri Lanka. 

He also extended Sri Lanka’s sincere gratitude to China for being a true and trusted friend and ally during times of need such as relief assistance to the people of Sri Lanka affected by natural disasters. Finally the Minister conveyed his best wishes to Xi Jinping, the President of People’s Republic of China, and continued prosperity and success to the people of the People’s Republic of China.

On behalf of Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of China Chen Xiao Dong extended their warmest welcome to Foreign Minister Marapana on his official visit to China, and sincere greetings and best wishes. Recalling the long history of friendly exchanges between China and Sri Lanka the Minister stated: “The tree of our friendship started to grow as early as over 2,000 years ago.” 

The visit of eminent Chinese monk Fahien to Sri Lanka to study Buddhism in the 5th century, the voyages of the Chinese navigator Zheng He to Sri Lanka during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and the famous Agreement on Rice for Rubber in the 1950s were mentioned as the icons of China-Sri Lanka relationship. Further he stated that the establishment of diplomatic ties on 7 February 1957 opened a new chapter for China-Sri Lanka relations and over the past 60 years, there had been a steady progress in the relationship and fruitful outcomes of practical cooperation, bringing concrete benefits to the two nations. 

Moreover the Minister said that the two countries forged a comprehensive cooperative partnership in 2005, which was elevated to a strategic cooperative partnership in 2013. Also the State visit of President Xi Jinping to Sri Lanka in 2014 was identified as an occasion which ushered the relationship into a new stage of development. Further, he appreciated the close communication and collaboration which had been maintained so far in international and regional mechanisms and stated that the China-Sri Lanka “friendship tree” with deep roots and luxuriant leaves was radiating with great vitality.

While recalling the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, he thanked President Sirisena for the congratulatory message sent to President Xi Jinping on his re-election as General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee. Further, he stated that General Secretary Xi had noted that socialism with Chinese characteristics had entered a new era. 

The overarching goal of major country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in the new era is to foster a new type of international relations and build a community with a shared future for mankind. Accordingly he said that China would continue to deepen relations with neighbouring countries in keeping with the principles of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness and the neighbourhood diplomacy of friendship and partnership and build an even closer community with a share future in its neighbourhood and it would bring new opportunities for and inject new impetus to enhancing cooperation between China and Sri Lanka as well as other countries. 

In order to link up the Chinese dream with the Sri Lankan dream and upgrade the China-Sri Lanka relationship of friendship and cooperation, the Minister insisted on strengthening the traditional friendship and consolidating political mutual trust, respecting each other and treating each other as equals, and providing each other with firm support on sovereignty, security, territorial integrity and other issues concerning each other’s core interests and major concerns. 

Secondly, he suggested deepening the converging interests between China and Sri Lanka. Developing the theme of jointly building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and making progress in the Port and the Industrial Park projects, focusing on production capacity cooperation, pushing forward the major infrastructure projects, investment and trade, maritime cooperation and other fields were identified. 

Thirdly, he insisted on promoting people-to-people ties and cultural exchanges which would enhance the friendship between the two nations. Fourthly, the Minister stressed on the importance of coordination and collaboration in international and regional affairs and make contributions to peace, development of the region and beyond. 

Finally, the Minister said that the Chinese people would never forget that when China was blockaded by the West, it was Sri Lanka that gave valuable support to China despite tremendous pressure. Also he mentioned that under the guidance of Xi Jinping, China would like to work hand in hand with Sri Lanka in the spirit of sincere mutual assistance and everlasting friendship to create an even better future for the China-Sri Lanka relationship.

Prominent Chinese artists, Chinese students who learn Sinhala language at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, and Sri Lankan students studying in Chinese universities associated with the Sri Lanka Army Cultural troop in the performance of the cultural program added glamour to the ceremony. Further, the presentation of appreciation awards to the sponsors and the Chinese artists arranged by the Sri Lanka Embassy was highly honoured.

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