China-Sri Lanka relations: Carry forward the spirit of the Rubber-Rice Pact

There has been much media attention and international public concern regarding the economic and humanitarian crisis that has recently developed in Sri Lanka. In this regard, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released an unusually detailed, and in our view significant, report on a June 9 meeting between their Asian Affairs Department’s Director-General Liu Jinsong and the Sri Lankan Ambassador Dr. Palitha Kohona.

Liu began by noting that this year is the 70th anniversary of the Rubber-Rice Pact. Concluded five years before the two countries established diplomatic relations, this pact is considered the root of the modern friendship between the two countries and was of particular importance as the newly independent Sri Lanka concluded the deal at a time when crippling sanctions had been imposed on China following its entry into the Korean War. Liu described it as “breaking the Western ideological barriers and sanctions”.

According to Liu, “the reasons for Sri Lanka and other developing countries to fall into debt difficulties are very complex. One of the backgrounds is that certain developed countries have long implemented quantitative easing policies, irresponsibly unleash a deluge of strong stimulus policies, and recently raised interest rates and shrunk the balance sheet abruptly, leading to drastic changes in the international financial environment, with developing countries particularly impacted. Some countries imposed unilateral sanctions and tariff barriers and built various small cliques, which have undermined the security of global supply and industrial chains, and fuelled the soaring prices of energy, food and other commodities, worsening the economic and financial situations of developing countries including Sri Lanka.”

Outlining some of China’s practical help to Sri Lanka, he added that: “China believes that the wise and tenacious Sri Lankan people will stick to the independent domestic and foreign policies and overcome difficulties together with confidence and in solidarity.”

On June 9, 2022, Director-General of the Department of Asian Affairs of the Foreign Ministry Liu Jinsong met with Ambassador of Sri Lanka to China Dr. Palitha Kohona. The two sides had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on Sri Lanka’s economic and financial debt issues.

Liu Jinsong said, 70 years ago, China and Sri Lanka upheld the spirit of independence, braved external pressure and reached the Rubber-Rice Pact on the basis of equal consultation and mutual benefits, breaking the Western ideological barriers and sanctions, opening the door to friendly exchanges and also setting an example of mutually beneficial cooperation between different types of countries. The Buddhist Sigalovada Sutta says, “True friends are the ones who stand by you when you need them.” China and Sri Lanka have always been such friends. China is ready to work with Sri Lanka to draw wisdom from the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, carry forward the spirit of the Rubber-Rice Pact characterized by “independence, self-reliance, unity and mutual support”, jointly advance high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, implement the Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative, and create a better future for the two countries and peoples.

Liu Jinsong said, the reasons for Sri Lanka and other developing countries to fall into debt difficulties are very complex. One of the backgrounds is that certain developed countries have long implemented quantitative easing policies, irresponsibly unleash a deluge of strong stimulus policies, and recently raised interest rates and shrunk the balance sheet abruptly, leading to drastic changes in the international financial environment, with developing countries particularly impacted. Some countries imposed unilateral sanctions and tariff barriers and built various small cliques, which have undermined the security of global supply and industrial chains, and fueled the soaring prices of energy, food and other commodities, worsening the economic and financial situations of developing countries including Sri Lanka.

Liu Jinsong said, China fully relates to the current difficulties faced by Sri Lanka and always provides assistance within its capacity. China immediately provided 500 million yuan of emergency humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka. The first batch of materials arrived on June 3. China’s local governments and enterprises as well as the Red Cross Society of China have all lent a helping hand to the Sri Lankan people by providing them with diversified aids in multiple batches that improve people’s lives. The Buddhist Association of China and temples in different places voluntarily raised funds for the Sri Lankan people, and teachers and students from Caihe No. 3 Primary School in Hangzhou also sent love to children from low-income families in Sri Lanka thousands of miles away. China is ready to continue to work with Sri Lanka to jointly tackle risks and challenges and help Sri Lanka overcome the current difficulties, ease the debt burden and realize sustainable development. China believes that the wise and tenacious Sri Lankan people will stick to the independent domestic and foreign policies, and overcome difficulties together with confidence and in solidarity.

Kohona said, Sri Lanka has always pursued an independent and non-aligned foreign policy and opposed power politics and bloc confrontation. China-Sri Lanka friendship enjoys a time-honored history. China has provided full support and assistance in many important periods of Sri Lanka’s national development and is a reliable strategic partner of Sri Lanka. China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Chinese-funded projects have made important contributions to Sri Lanka’s economic development. Sri Lanka thanks China for mobilizing all resources possible to provide emergency humanitarian assistance at the most difficult time in Sri Lanka, and hopes to continue to work with Chinese friends to tide over the difficulties.

After the meeting, Ambassador Kohona presented to Director-General Liu Jinsong a sample commemorative album for the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Sri Lanka and China produced by the Embassy of Sri Lanka in China.

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