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China get refused in Sri Lanka

To woo the island nation of Sri Lanka, China lent more than $200 million to fund a new airport built by then-President Mahinda Rajapaksa near his hometown. It wasn’t one of the Chinese government’s better investments. Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport opened in 2013, but two years later there is only one scheduled daily flight, on Flydubai. In January, just after Rajapaksa’s re-election campaign ended in an upset loss, state-owned SriLankan Airlines cancelled its flights to the airport.
To gain an edge over rival India, China’s leaders have spent years cultivating the governments of Sri Lanka and other nations in South and Southeast Asia. In Sri Lanka, located along the shipping lanes to and from the Middle East and Africa, China offered about $5 billion in loans over six years to fund such projects as a $290 million expressway and a $360 million port. In the deal with the highest profile, Rajapaksa embraced a Chinese plan to invest $1.4 billion in a new port city to be built on reclaimed land near the port of Colombo, the capital.
Two visits by Chinese submarines last year highlighted China’s success in elbowing out India. But the Sri Lanka adventure has since soured. President Maithripala Sirisena has put the new city on hold, saying the government needs to investigate whether the Chinese-backed project violated rules protecting the environment and preventing corruption. “China discounted the possibility of regime change,” says Deshal De Mel, senior economist at Hayleys, a Sri Lankan conglomerate. The airport that was so closely associated with Rajapaksa “is one example of a project they may have thought twice about financing.”
China’s rivals have rushed to capitalize on Beijing’s unpopularity with the new government. Both India and the US had a stormy relationship with Rajapaksa, who crushed a decades-long rebellion by the Tamil minority in 2009. India, which has a large Tamil population, and the US supported a campaign to have the United Nations Human Rights Council investigate alleged war crimes by the Rajapaksa regime. The Chinese offered Rajapaksa military and diplomatic assistance during the war.
Sri Lanka’s new government, which pledges to honour term limits and work closely with Parliament, has been mending ties with New Delhi and Washington.

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