Prime Minister’s visit to China takes cooperation to a new high | Sunday Observer
China - Sri Lanka ‘Solidarity and Coordination for Common Development’

Prime Minister’s visit to China takes cooperation to a new high

20 August, 2023

The 7th China-South Asia Expo, themed “Solidarity and Coordination for Common Development”, kicked off in Kunming, Yunnan province on Wednesday (August 16) with Sri Lanka getting the prime place as Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena was the Guest of Honour. While Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who is a senior member of the powerful Central Committee Politburo of the Communist Party of China, top leaders of Yunnan Provincial Government, Wang Ning CPC Secretary of the province and Wang Yubo Governor of the Yunnan Province were also present. Vice Presidents of Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar and ministers from several other Asian countries were among the special invitees at the Asia’s biggest trade exhibition.

“I take this opportunity to convey warm best wishes to our friends in China, especially in Yunnan Province for the success of China - South Asia Exposition, brining a larger segment of Asian countries in participation,” the Prime Minister said. “This proudly speaks achievements in the backdrop of the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative.”

“Last year too, I was invited by Yunnan Government to electronically address the South Asia Expo,” Prime Minister Gunawardena said. “It was the time when China was opening after the post-covid era for economic recovery. And I wish to recall how scientifically advanced Miracle Rice variety was introduced at that platform.”

Over the years, Yunnan Expo has evolved into a vital platform fostering economic and trade cooperation between China, South Asia and Southeast Asian countries.

The five-day Yunnan Expo set up 15 exhibition halls including a biomedicine and healthcare pavilion, a resource economy pavilion, and a regional cooperation pavilion. The expo, with a total area of 150,000 square meters, has attracted 30,000 exhibitors participating both online and offline in the first two days.

China, a decisive global leader

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that China is a true decisive global leader, especially with its leadership and assistance in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and towards prosperity of All Nations.

The China-South Asia Exposition has become a platform to advance the Global Development Initiative, proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, and promote shared growth.

In his congratulatory letter to the China-South Asia Exposition, President Xi noted that in recent years, China and the South Asian countries have deepened practical cooperation in all aspects, and that the trade and economic exchanges have maintained a sound momentum, bringing benefits to people of all countries.

China is willing to work with all countries, with the China-South Asia Exposition being a platform, to foster consensus on enhancing solidarity and cooperation and pursuing development, create more growth drivers in cooperation, advance the high-quality development of the Belt and Road cooperation and implement the Global Development Initiative, so as to build a more prosperous and brighter future together, Xi said.

In the Expo, large trade orders were contracted for investment projects worth over 600 billion yuan ($84.27 billion). In the 6 years since the first China-South Asia Exposition in 2013, 3,331 projects have been inked, with a total value of over 4.3 trillion yuan, according to official data. The event has become an increasingly influential platform for economic and trade cooperation and people-to-people exchanges between China and South Asian countries.

Over the past decade, the trade volume between China and South Asian countries has almost doubled to reach $187.5 billion last year.

“I am sure international events such as this expo will offer us a bigger platform and more opportunities,” State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya said.

Companies from nine countries - Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and South Korea - are participating in the first Yunnan Expo. Chen Fei, a manager at the Kunming International Convention and Exhibition Center, said the foreign participants exhibit ethnic handicrafts with focus on ethnic and folk handicrafts. They include jewelry, painting on silk with embroidery, wood carvings and Buddhist handicrafts.

The Expo will also feature an exhibition of jade carvings and an auction that will include a jade carving created by Hong Fushou, a sculptor from Taiwan. Hong is one of the most admired sculptors of crystal carvings related to Tibetan Buddhism, and one of his carvings is displayed at the Musée Guimet in Paris.

Diverse culture

The Yunnan Cultural Industries Expo will integrate various events - including the Kunming Pan-Asia International Ethnic Folk Arts and Crafts Expo, Yunnan Jade Carving Master Works Exhibition and Yunnan Cultural Innovation Week – in a single event.

Li Jiming, Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh told media that the bilateral trade between China and Bangladesh rebounded to $21.4 billion from January to September, up 21.2 percent year-on-year, noted “As China’s zero-tariff treatment to 98 percent of taxable items from Bangladesh took effect in September, Bangladesh is expected to expand exports to China and Chinese people can even taste the flavour of delicacies such as hilsa, which is Bangladesh’s national fish,” Li said.

Anura Fernando, a tea merchant from Sri Lanka, attended every session of the China-South Asia Exposition. “This expo will offer us a bigger platform and more opportunities and I am confident that orders worth several millions of yuan could be obtained,” he said.

On the sideline of EXPO, the Prime Minister Gunawardena held bilateral discussions with Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The Chinese Minister assured that China will help Sri Lanka effectively address the challenges of financial debt.

“China will help Sri Lanka improve its capacity for independent development, accelerate its industrialisation process and agricultural modernisation,” the Chinese Ministry of Affairs stated, quoting the minister.

China also firmly supports Sri Lanka in safeguarding its sovereign independence and national dignity, and is willing to strengthen exchanges of experience in governance as well as cooperation in various fields with Sri Lanka.

Overcoming difficulties

Minister Wang Yi expressed belief that Sri Lanka will overcome its temporary difficulties, find a development path in line with its national conditions, and realise revitalisation and prosperity.

Prime Minister, winding up his speech at Expo, said, “In conclusion, I wish to emphasize that in Buddhism the importance of cultivating Kalyana Mitras is taught. Kalyana Mitra is the best of friendships that sees through times of good and through times of difficulty.

Sri Lanka sees the friendship cultivated with China to be one of the true best Kalayana Mitras, amidst times of good and difficulty, China stood by Sri Lanka.”