China’s Xi offers to help Sri Lanka; buy more of its exports

Chinese President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Xinhua / Pang Xinglei)

China is willing to offer assistance to Sri Lanka without political conditions and buy more of its exports, President Xi Jinping told his Sri Lankan counterpart on Friday in Beijing, state media said.

The assurances came a week after the crisis-hit island nation said it had reached agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China on $4.2 billion of debt, a fraction of the roughly $7 billion it owes Chinese lenders, both bilateral and commercial.

“The two sides should make every effort to promote Colombo port city and Hambantota,” Xi told Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, a summary of their meeting showed, referring to major projects China has backed in its ‘Belt and Road’ effort.

Wickremesinghe was in the Chinese capital for the Belt and Road Forum that ended on Wednesday as well as talks on restructuring debt.

“China is willing to continue to provide assistance to Sri Lanka without attaching political conditions, to help it cope with the difficulties it faces,” Xi added.

Last May Sri Lanka defaulted on its foreign debt as dollar reserves fell to a point where it was unable to pay for essential imports such as fuel and medicine.

“China is willing to expand the import of Sri Lanka’s … products and will encourage Chinese enterprises to invest,” Xi said.