The President of Peoples’ Republic of China and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, arrived in Sri Lanka a short while ago, marking the first visit by a Chinese President to the island nation in 28 years.
The two-day official visit is the third stop of a nine-day, four-nation tour that began with Tajikistan and the Maldives and will end with India.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa and First Lady Shiranthi Wickremasinghe Rajapaksa welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping and First Lady Peng Liyuan.
Today, President Xi will join President Rajapaksa for extended bilateral discussions at the Presidential Secretariat and commission the last phase of the Norochcholai Lakvijaya Power Plant.
The two leaders are also expected to join their delegations to sign more than 20 bilateral agreements to enhance cooperation between the two countries.
In the evening, President Rajapaksa and the First Lady will host a banquet in honour of the Chinese President and First Lady, and the Chinese delegation at Temple Trees.
Tomorrow (Sept. 17), President Rajapaksa and President Xi will visit the Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) to launch the construction of the Colombo Port City.
Prime Minsiter D.M. Jayaratne, External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris and a host of other ministers were present to greet President Jinping and his delegation.
The Chinese President is expected to sign more than 20 bilateral agreements during his two-day visit to forge closer cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and social spheres.
It has also been revealed that the main focus of Xi Jinping’s visit would be on the final agreement on proposed Sri Lanka-China free trade agreement.
Both countries have completed the feasibility studies on the signing of this agreement and it has received approval from the Chinese government.
The Chinese Minister of Commerce is to sign a memorandum of understanding with Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa this evening to begin bilateral discussions tomorrow on the implementation of this free trade agreement.
Wu Jianghao, China’s ambassador to Sri Lanka, said Saturday that the visit will set up a guideline and a blueprint for the future of bilateral ties between the two countries, which have “a history of friendly relations” and “high mutual trust in the world political arena.”
One of the major projects to be finalized is the construction of the Colombo port city, a proposed offshore district in Sri Lanka’s largest city. More than 276 hectares will be reclaimed from the sea by China Harbour Company Limited, which will invest more than US$1.4 billion under the first phase of the project and develop one third of the land, Wu said, adding that the total investment for the second phase will rise to US$13 billion.
Academics say Sri Lanka has welcomed Chinese investment in the country for both economic and political reasons. Last August, a US$500 million port built by Chinese investors was inaugurated in Colombo, giving China a strong foothold in one of the busiest international shipping routes in the world.