Kuming (China), Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena has said that China is one of Sri Lanka’s best and true friends or “Kalyana Mitras” and acknowledged “with appreciation” China’s “much-needed support in the debt restructuring process.”

”Gunawardena was speaking as the Chief Guest at the 7th China-South Asia Exhibition jointly organized by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and the Yunnan State Government on Wednesday.

Sixty countries are participating in this huge trade exhibition, including all South and Southeast Asian countries as well as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (RCEP) member countries.

The exhibition includes 15 exhibition halls, including a biomedical and healthcare pavilion, a resource economic pavilion and a regional cooperation pavilion, with a total area of 150,000 square meters. This exhibition is scheduled to be held until the 20th of August under the theme of ‘cooperation and coordination for development’.

State Ministers Taraka Balasuriya, Janaka Vakkambura, Kanaka Herath, Member of Parliament Yadamini Gunawardena, Secretary to the Prime Minister Anura Dissanayake, Foreign Ministers and businessmen are participating in this visit.

Here is the text of his speech:

“Mr Chairman of Expo, Firstly, I wish to convey my appreciation for the invitation to the beautiful city of Kunming in Yunan and for the excellent hospitality extended to my delegation from Sri Lanka. It is an honour to attend as the Chief Guest at the 7th China – South Asia Exposition and at the 27th Kunming Import and Export Fair.  This occasion will mark another historical milestone in our bilateral relations, as we come together to further strengthen centuries of warm friendship and cooperation between our two countries.”

“At the very outset let me congratulate and extend fraternal warm wishes to His Excellency President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party of China, and to the People of China for the tremendous leadership given to People across the World in delivering the impossible and achieving unprecedented landmarks in human civilization. Especially, the alleviation of hundreds of millions of Poor People out of Poverty, and showing continuous economic growth.”

“Last year too, I was invited by Yunan Government to electronically address the South Asia Expo. 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.”

“At the same time on behalf of the Government of His Excellency Ranil Wickramasinghe and the people of Sri Lanka, I take this opportunity to convey warm best wishes to our friends in China, especially in Yunnan Province for the success of the China-South Asia Exposition, brining a larger segment of Asian countries in participation. This proudly speaks of achievements in the backdrop of the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative.”

“Friends, let me recollect the warm friendship shared between China and Sri Lanka dating back to many centuries, pioneered by Buddhist Priest Fa Hien. I would also like to note that Admiral Zheng Ha, who was born in Kunming, the city where we are here today celebrating this important event, came to Sri Lanka in early 15th century, and placed an inscription marking his visit to Sri Lanka.”

“These historical relations were fostered by thriving trade exchanges along the Maritime Silk Route and far-reaching cooperation in culture and knowledge. Yapahuwa is a historical Kingdom in Sri Lanka which boasts the largest collection of Chinese coins and Chinese porcelain found in Sri Lanka.”

“Your Excellencies, the People’s Republic of China was promulgated after the long successful victory march towards the 1949 Revolution, with a long and arduous journey led by the Communist Party of China with Great Leader Mao Tse Tung along with other leaders.”

“Soon after our two countries have enjoyed 66 years of excellent diplomatic relations. Even prior to establishing formal diplomatic ties, China and Sri Lanka entered to “Rubber-Rice Pact”, which marked the 70th-anniversary last year, and marked a new chapter in international trade.”

“Since then, China and Sri Lanka regarded each other as good friends and a special relationship has existed between our two countries.”

“I wish to acknowledge with gratitude the unwavering support of the People’s Republic of China to Sri Lanka for national sovereignty and integrity and for continuing to stand by us during challenging times.”

“I would like to reiterate that Sri Lanka continues to uphold the ‘One China Policy’ in all spheres including bilateral and multilateral fora and I wish to affirm our commitment in this regard.”

“At a time when Sri Lanka was faced with difficult economic hardships, the Hon Governor of Yunnan Province visited Sri Lanka, in May 2023, and committed to multifaceted areas of cooperation.”

“During the devastating global covid pandemic and Sri Lanka’s recent economic crisis, China helped Sri Lanka through various humanitarian assistance, including RMB 500 Mn for fuel to farmers and fishermen, staple diet of rice to school students, and 70% of school uniform requirement for the year 2023.”

“We acknowledge with appreciation that China has extended much-needed support in debt restructuring process, which was essential to secure international support. We are confident that China will extend continued cooperation in the future towards Sri Lanka’s broader economic recovery.”

“The most significant recent Chinese development projects in Sri Lanka include the Hambantota Port, Hambantota Industrial Zone, Mattala Airport, and Colombo Port City project and all other major sectors.”

“Colombo Port City project is Sri Lanka’s flagship project on achieving a financial and commercial hub in the region, with the clear strategic advantage of being located at the very centre of the East-West Maritime Trade Lanes.”

“Therefore, investments from China are critical to propelling Sri Lanka’s economy, and also, I kindly request all friends present here today to encourage more Government and Private sector investment, trade, cooperation, and ventures into Sri Lanka.”

“Chinese tourist arrivals have been one of the key strengths of the Sri Lankan tourism industry. Mainly thanks to an announcement made in February this year by the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism, placing Sri Lanka among the Top 20 countries for tourism.”

“I take this opportunity to call for a joint effort between our countries to enhance tourism among us, as collectively we have much more to offer. let us not forget that This Century Belongs to Asia. This is Asia’s Century.”

“I wish to refer to the words of President Xi Jinping’s steadfast commitment to “share achievements of China towards the future betterment of mankind.”

“Continuous leadership of the CPC has guided China to emerge in the path of Socialism with Chinese characteristics as a true decisive global giant with a grand new era of development, especially in Asia, Africa, & Latin America, and towards the prosperity of all Nations.”

“Dear Friends, 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 see through times of good and through times of difficulty. Sri Lanka sees the friendship cultivated with China to be one of the true best Kalyana Mitras, amidst times of good and difficulty, China stood by Sri Lanka.”

Vice Presidents of Indonesia, Myanmar, and Nepal, Vice Prime Minister of Vietnam, minister of commerce Maldives, Sri Lanka State Ministers Tharaka Baalasooriya, Janaka Wakkumbura, Kanaka Herath, member of parliament Yadamini Gunawardena, Secretary to the Prime Minister Anura Dissanayaka, Government officials of many countries, representatives participated for this occasion.