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Cablegate: Tsunami Aid and Statuary: Chinese Premier's Visit

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (SBU) Chinese premier Wen Jiabao's April 8-9 visit here
yielded some modest tsunami aid and debt relief, mutually
reinforcing public condemnations of the "evil" of separatism,
and a new bust of Chou Enlai for a Chinese-built conference
center in Colombo. For the Sri Lankans, who face a hefty
trade deficit and skyrocketing competition in the export
garment sector from the Chinese, the main "deliverables"" of
this high-level visit--including a noncommittal statement of
support for an Asian UN Secretary General and an invitation
to the President for a visit to Beijing in September--seem
primarily of symbolic significance. End summary.


2. (U) The April 8-9 official visit to Sri Lanka of Chinese
premier Wen Jiabao produced--in addition to a flowery
24-point joint communique proclaiming an "All Round
Cooperation Partnership Featuring Sincere Mutual Support and
Everlasting Friendship"--about USD 6 million in grant aid for
as-yet unidentified projects, a USD 300 million credit line
for "cooperatioin between Chinese and Sri Lankan
enterprises," and about USD 34 million in debt relief,
according to Anura Rajakaruna, Director of East Asia and
Pacific at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The two
governments signed a total of six agreements during the
visit, including a broad agreement to develop economic and
trade relations, as well as an "Exchange of Letters on the
Project of Making Sculptures of the Late Leaders" to adorn a
Chinese-built conference center here. (The first such
bust--of Chou Enlai--was unveiled during the visit.) Besides
discussions with President Chandrika Kumaratunga, the Chinese
premier, who was in Sri Lanka for less than 24 hours, met
with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, Opposition Leader
Ranil Wickeremesinghe, and made a brief trip to Panadura, a
fishing town about 25 km south of Colombo. The Premier's
visit, which was only the most recent in a steady stream of
foreign dignitaries who have visited Sri Lanka since the
December 26 tsunami, drew relatively modest press coverage.

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3. (SBU) From Rajakaruna's sparse description of the
framework Agreement on the Further Development of Bilateral
Economic and Trade Relationship signed by the two leaders, it
does not appear that addressing trade disparities between Sri
Lanka and China is an element of the "Sincere Mutual Support"
announced in the communique. Much of the economic
cooperation envisioned, not surprisingly, appears to focus on
Chinese enterprises' participation in large infrastructure
projects. During the visit an MOU for one such project--the
development of fuel bunkers for Hambantota Port in
southeastern Sri Lanka--was signed. Other possible
initiatives still under discussion include a sewerage system
for a Colombo suburb; a phosphate mining/fertilizer venture;
a coal power project; and the construction of an expressway
between the capital and the international airport. (Note: In
2004 Sri Lanka imported USD 554 million from China, while
exporting only USD 21 million. The most significant economic
threat China poses lies in its greater competitiveness in the
garment sector, Sri Lanka's largest export.) Sri Lanka is
also attempting to encourage tourism from China, Rajakaruna
noted, although so far no substantial success can be
reported. (Note: China accounted for less than 2 percent of
all tourist arrivals in 2004. Sri Lanka's national airline
is expected to begin flights to Beijing in June.)



4. (SBU) The Chinese government is committed to providing
"urgent relief work" related to the tsunami, Li Qinfeng,
Chief of the Political Section, told poloff after the visit.
Work has already begun to rehabilitate the fishing harbor in
Panadura in Kalutara District, he said; other projects will
be identified later. (According to Rajakaruna, the Chinese
had pledged approximately USD 18 million in relief for Sri
Lanka at the tsunami conference in Jakarta.) The premier was
personally touched by seeing "the common people" who were
victimized by the tsunami in Panadura, Li emphasized. (Note:
Panadura is a relatively small fishing harbor on the
outskirts of Colombo that suffered comparatively moderate
damage during the tsunami. Of the eight districts identified
as "tsunami-affected," Panadura's home district of Kalutara
accounts for only about 1 percent of the total fatalities
island-wide. Neither the MFA nor the Chinese Embassy could
give us an estimate of how much money the Chinese would spend
to rehabilitate the harbor, but our guess is that it cannot
be very much. End note.) In addition, the Chinese Red Cross
will build a China-Sri Lanka Friendship Village in an
undesignated location.


5. (SBU) The premier's visit was part of a Chinese "campaign
to define our relations with friendly countries," Li said, to
offset "some suspicions" of Chinese aims and objectives among
its neighbors. Among South Asian countries in particular,
bilateral "economic relations were relatively backward
compared to the political status of relations," Li observed.
Although the official line is that the Chinese government
regards Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) efforts toward a
negotiated settlement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) as "an internal matter," the joint communique
condemned the "evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism"
and reiterated Chinese support for Sri Lankan "sovereignty,
national unity and territorial integrity." When poloff asked
if one could infer from that statement Chinese opposition to
the Tigers' proposal for an Interim Self-Governing Authority
(ISGA), Li stonewalled, merely repeating the text of the
communique. The Tigers have made no effort to contact the
Chinese, Li said, or draw them into the debate, although the
anti-LTTE, pro-Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has.
The Embassy enjoys warm relations with the JVP, he added, and
expressed surprise when poloff told him the Indians had
sponsored a JVP delegation to visit West Bengal recently. A
separate paragraph in the communique reaffirms the GSL's
specific support for the One China policy and China's
Anti-Secession Law, along with its categorical opposition to
"Taiwan independence of whatever form." (Government media in
the run-up to the visit was effusive in its support of the
Anti-Secession Law.)

6. (U) Although Rajakaruna confirmed that GSL Peace
Secretariat Head Jayantha Dhanapala's candidacy for UN

Secretary General was raised during the visit, the GSL was

apparently able to extract little more from the Chinese than
an anodyne agreement that "the next Secretary General should
be from the Asian region." The premier also extended a
formal invitation to President Kumaratunga to make a state
visit after attending the Women's Conference in Beijing in


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