mandag 31. mai 2021

China's Sri Lankan port grab adds a pearl to its string

On 20 May, the Sri Lankan parliament passed the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill that lays out the country’s legal framework governing the China-financed project built on land reclaimed from the Sri Lankan capital’s seafront, adjoining Colombo’s port. The bill effectively turns these 660 acres into Chinese sovereign territory.

But this should not come as a surprise. China’s shadow seems to loom dark over Sri Lanka whenever the Rajapaksa brothers—Mahinda and Gotabaya—win elections and come to power. Mahinda Rajapaksa is currently prime minister and minister for finance. He was president from 2005 to 2015, when Gotabaya served as defence minister. Today, Gotabaya is president; the Rajapaksas returned to power after the 2019 elections.

The previous Rajapaksa government had revelled in Chinese loans and projects, most famously the ambitious port built at Hambantota. Even though feasibility studies warned against it, the port was built by a Chinese state-owned enterprise with Chinese money. As expected, the port failed spectacularly. And the Chinese came to collect on their debt.