(PRESS RELEASE) – Sri Lanka-China historic relations appear to be dating back way earlier than currently believed, according to revelations by a top Chinese official-and strategic frontier province in China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Route plan calls to expand trade and friendly cooperation with Sri Lanka – almost on its own.
“I believe that with the progress of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Route, Guangxi will be equipped better for greater cooperation and linking with Sri Lanka as a coastal region of South China” said a confident powerful Secretary of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region’s CPC Committee Peng Qinghua on 13 September in Nanning, China.
Secretary Qinghua, who once served as the Director of China Central Government’s liaison office in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, was in discussion with Sri Lankan Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen at his Nanning Offices on the morning of 13 September. Minister Bathiudeen is currently leading the 23 member Sri Lankan trade and business delegation to the CAEXPO 13 international expo in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Joining Minister Bathiudeen were Head of Mission of Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Guangzhou Shanika Dissanayake (who clinched the CAEXPO 13 Special Guest Country status for Sri Lanka) and Minister Bathiudeen’s senior advisor Himali Jinadasa.
“A key point of CAEXPO is not only to connect with ASEAN countries but also countries outside-including in South and East Asia” said Secretary Qinghua whose grand welcome arrangements to the Sri Lankan team at his office was unmissable, and stressed: “Therefore it’s an important window for countries outside ASEAN to enter into Chinese and Asian markets. Sri Lanka’s attendance at CAEXPO 13 has added glamour to the event. I’d like to take this opportunity to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Sri Lankan government and Your Excellency Bathiudeen. Taking advantage your attendance to CAEXPO as a special guest country, Guangxi would like to expand our cooperation with Sri Lanka which enjoys a strategic importance in our Maritime Silk Road. Guangxi is one of the ancient departure points of the historic silk route having connected to South Asia through the Route 2000 years ago.”
Secretary Qinghua, who often directly receives foreign leaders to his Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region Nanning offices and has decision making power on Guangxi Zhuang investment commitments to them, added: “We found Sri Lankan artefacts from archaeological excavations of Beihei city Emperor’s tomb in Guangxi Province and these artefacts arrived here through the silk route. I believe that with the progress of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Route, Guangxi will be equipped better for greater cooperation and linking with Sri Lanka as a coastal region of South China.”
Responding to Secretary Qinghua, Minister Bathiudeen stressed of historic Sino-Sri Lanka relations and said: “We give great importance to China’s One Belt One Road initiative and recognise the pivotal role of Guangxhi province in this initiative. Sri Lanka too is in a strategic location on maritime silk route. Guangxhi’s CAEXPO 13 generated great interest among Sri Lankan private sector and we look forward to engage bigger Lankan delegations for future CAEXPO as well as Government to Government cooperation. In this, we are pleased of your invitation to Sri Lanka to enhance relations with Guangxhi Province and government to government level -and as a starting point, we extend our invitation to a high level Guangxi delegation to Sri Lanka, with your leadership if possible, to enhance trade and investment cooperation between us and Guangxi.”
Bilateral trade between China and Sri Lanka topped $ 4 Billion in 2015, along with a steady 14% surge from 2014’s US$ 3.5 Billion.
The Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is a strategic pivot bordering Hong Kong, Macao, Vietnam, and in South, the Beibu Gulf. According to Chinese Foreign Ministry “President Xi Jinping called for Guangxi to build itself into an international passage to ASEAN, a strategic pivot for the opening-up and development of southwest, central and southern China and a crucial window connecting the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.”
Both Minister Bathiudeen and Secretary Qinghua also discussed cooperation in agri (including tea) and other sectors during their 13 September meeting.
Minister Bathiudeen was among the 15 Chinese and ASEAN high profile leaders joining the CAEXPO 13 inauguration of 11 September in Nanning, as a delegation lead of CAEXPO Special Guest Country (Sri Lanka).