IAG December 2014 - page 7

Cover Story
“The government wants to convert Sri Lanka into a maritime
center,” he explains. “We can give some competition to Singapore
andDubai, which are runningout of capacity.”
As part of the deal China will gain ownership of one-third of the
reclamation area.
At the unveiling, Mr Wickrama diplomatically underplayed the
threat to India’s ports, asserting that Indian exporters could in fact
benefit from theproject.
“Earlier, Indians along the east coast had to send their cargo
to Singapore if they wanted to catch amega-ship goingWest. Now
these mega-ships will be going through Colombo and picking up
Indian cargo,” he said. “That saves time and a lot ofmoney.”
For 26 years, the Sri Lankan government was largely consumed
with putting down an armed rebellion by ethnicHindu Tamils in the
northof the country. It was a time “whenmany other countrieswere
reluctant to invest,” as DeputyMinister for Economic Development
Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene recalls. But China not only continued
pouring money into the country, it insured its investment in the
regime by supplying it arms and aid to eventually prevail against the
insurgents, which it finally did in the springof 2009.
China’snewSilkRoad isaboon to
Sri Lanka’s tourismand casinodevelopment
In2013, ChinesePresidentXi Jinping
outlined his “Silk
Road” initiativesaimedat promotingeconomicconnectivitybetween
East andWest and securing access for China to Central Asia’s rich
energy resources.
President Xi proposed the first pillar of that effort, the Silk Road
EconomicBelt, onavisit toCentralAsia inSeptember2013.Hecalled
for the construction of a transport corridor connecting the Pacific
Ocean to the Baltic Sea and linking East Asia to South Asia and the
Middle East to serve a combined market of some 3 billion people.
On that triphe oversaw the signing of deals inKazakhstan valued at
US$30billion, includingoil andgasprojects, andagreed topump$3
billion into loans and infrastructure inKyrgyzstan
During a trip to Indonesia the following month he put forward
another pillar, a maritime trade corridor he called the 21st-Century
Maritime Silk Road. This entails building or expanding ports and
industrial parks across Southeast Asia, and in nations including Sri
Lanka, Kenya andGreece, alongwith the goal of expanding bilateral
trade with Southeast Asia to $1 trillion by 2020—more than double
its level last year.
TheSilkRoad initiativeshold thepromiseofbillions in investment
in the nations concerned, but there’s an unmistakable agenda to
positionBeijing at the center of a newAsian order. From Sri Lanka’s
point of view, though, it’s been an undeniable boon to the country’s
development, and the new infrastructurewill providemajor support
to thenew casino resorts set toopen inColombo.
There’s no indication relations between China and Sri Lanka
could sour anytime soon, so Beijing’s continued financial support
seems assured. If anything, Sri Lanka stands to experience a
further investment windfall as India attempts to vie with China
to re-establish its influence over the island neighbor skirting its
southeastern coast.
Nosuch luck for thePhilippines,whichhasprovokedChina’s ireby
asking aUnitedNations arbitrationpanel inTheHague to ruleon the
legality of China’s “nine-dash line” thatmarks its claim to almost the
entireSouthChinaSea. The line loopsdown likea lollingcow’s tongue
from theChinese coast all theway to Indonesia. Along theway, it cuts
through thePhilippines’ exclusive economic zone asmandatedunder
theUnitedNationsConventionon theLawof theSea.
Notably, noother countryhas joined thePhilippines’ legal action,
even though Chinese territorial claims in the area also conflict with
those of Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. For a while, the
Philippines had hoped Vietnam might come on board, but that
prospectnow looks remoteasChinaandVietnampatchup relations.
Thesedays, opposingmightyBeijingon foreignpolicymatters is
often adecidedly solitary undertaking.
TheColomboPortCity isbeingbuiltnext to the
$500millionColombo InternationalContainer
Terminal, opened inAugust2013and85%
ownedby state-runChinaMerchantHoldings
International.CICT isSouthAsia’sfirstmega-
port, able tohandle container shipswith
capacityofmore than8,00020-footequivalent
units. It canevenhandle the largestmega-
container ships currently inoperationwith
1,2,3,4,5,6 8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,...48
Powered by FlippingBook