KATHMANDU, Nepal, 10 August 2016
The Chinese circus is in town, and it’s called “One Belt One Road” or OBOR for short. It is touted as the ‘Xi Jinping initiative’ supposedly to usher in an era of development and prosperity to some 60 countries falling along the historical land route ‘The Silk Road’ connecting Europe with China, as well as a Maritime Road that links China’s ports with the African coast, up through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean. Many world leaders, especially of poor and struggling economies, are lining up in Beijing with stars in their eyes, begging to be included in this grand show.
Sri Lanka has already been into this initiative for a number of years, and their experience is worth recounting to understand what this show in reality holds for the participating nations. India and the West refused financial aid to Sri Lanka because of war time crimes, but Rajapaksa the Sri Lankan president was wooed by the Chinese with the Xi initiative. During his decade-rule as president, Sri Lanka had a dream run partnering with the Chinese for military hardware, building ports, airports, shopping mall, numerous expressways, etc.
The dream however came true not for the Sri Lankans but the Chinese contractors who worked on these projects, Chinese equipment suppliers, and the Chinese finance companies who extended loans — all charging astronomical prices and raking in the riches. For the Sri Lankans the dream turned into a nightmare, with most of the infrastructures underutilized and the USD 209 million Hambantota airport used for storing grains due to lack of business.
Rajpaksa lost his third term in office for various corruption charges including those of these Chinese projects — talk abounding about USD 48 millions being paid to the Chinese for removal of a boulder, and the Sri Lankans calling the many Expressways built by the Chinese as ‘roads paved with gold’.
Sirisena defeated Rajpaksa in the elections and rode to power on the basis of these corruption allegations, and even put a halt to USD 1.4-billion Colombo Port City being built by China Communication Construction Company. It was blacklisted by the World Bank on charges of corruption. However by this time Sri Lanka was firmly caged in the Chinese debt trap of USD 8 billion and on the verge of bankruptcy, most investor rating agencies having downgraded it to negative. Sirisena was forced to approach the Chinese for resettlement of the debt, and bowing under Chinese pressure and threat had to agree to pay damage of USD 125 million to the Chinese company CCCC, supposedly for delays in the Port City Project which he had ordered stopped. China also wrested a 99-year lease over the Port City and the Chinese navy now has free movement over Lankan waters.
Sri Lanka’s sovereignty is now firmly in the grip of China and the Xi initiative swallows it more having to play the Ponzi Game, taking more Chinese loan to repay the old debts. Even unborn generations of Sri Lanka are under the yoke of Chinese debt thanks to the greed of its political elite and crafty Chinese contractors. The din, the noises, the celebrations, and the glitter of the Chinese Circus drown sane voices and the show goes on. The monster that swallowed Tibet is beginning to swallow other neighbouring countries.
About the author
Laden Tshering Samdup is a retired businessman, living in Kathmandu. He has MA (Hons) economics from Birla Institute of Technology and Science from Pilani, Rajasthan, India. He can be reached c/o Boudha Peace School, Phulbari, Kathmandu, Nepal.
More articles by Laden Tshering Samdup on Tibet Sun.