Many analysts and other concerned parties in diplomacy and international relations have started vowing war against the Chinese influence in the island nation Sri Lanka in the recent past. One of the many laughable factors of this highly motivated drama is those who clapped and appreciated China during the previous government, led by the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa who went home two years prior to the completion of his term due to attachment to power, turned into harsh critics of Chinese diplomacy with the current government.   

Chinaphobic statements by Indian, Japanese even some segments of the United States is a matter of conflict of interest, but how should Sri Lanka look at this? For Sri Lanka , as a debtor with huge amount of foreign debt, none of the parties is less important than the others, but the nation needs better articulated strategical approach to keep good relationships with all, while protecting its own fundamental rights and market value of not only the ground but also the maritime area. This will not be given priority in any agenda if the country’s economy is handled by a person who is smart in boasting nonsense, but defaces in action.       

There is, however, no doubt that the present ruling collation led by the President Maithripala Sirisena, is maintaining an “unclear policy” on China. But the situation needs to be managed without hurting each other, even though the Chinese envoy in Colombo is keeping a poker face towards the government while in public domain. At the same time, some of the interested parties were in panic and tried to portray the situation as alarming to the neighboring countries and other competitors. 

However, the influence of Chinese policies is neither new nor limited to Sri Lanka . In fact, Chinese policies in restructuring many jurisdictions are moving faster than any other nation’s on the planet. Some called it “China debt trapped policy” while others may call it “Chinese colonization”, the diplomacy of the Chinese way of the ruling power has entered a new era, in which many corrupted policymakers in low-income countries are trying to find shelters under the Chinese umbrella. This has earned nothing but addled reputation to Chinese policy. Mere investments and influencing the targeted countries, by using most of corrupted subjects around the world, may not last long and it will never win the hearts and minds of the general public – which is made up of individuals with their own beliefs.

As far as the ground reality in Sri Lanka is concerned, it would be delusional if someone urged Sri Lanka to sideline China. In fact, Chinese policies have been embedded into the local system over a long period. To China, Sri Lanka is much more than a strategic island nation in the Indian Ocean to enhance its own power balance. Both parties “desire” lying with greater degree of responsibility.

Notwithstanding all this, China is facing two major challenges in its market economy. First is the authenticity of the local production as the rights of intellectual property have been evaporated.  Second, the most corrupted “policymakers” in many low income countries become trustworthy allies of China when it comes to investments. These major obstacles are producing bad taste in the system, resulting in diminishing public trust.

But, China is taking “necessary steps” to sharpen its production and strengthen its reputation, even though annulment of  labour rights and environmental issues such as air pollution, which Slavoj Žižek, a Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst termed as “airpocalypse”, are on high ground under the Communist Party rule. Those fundamental issues are creating havoc. Those bottom lines are no longer isolated problems.

However, Chinaphobia is not the panacea to the many problems in the country. But it could give a chance to reengineer the diplomacy in bilateral and multilateral relationships. China is the one on top of the list. Sri Lanka needs China, but how much do we need and what Sri Lanka can achieve in long term is the most important question. 

You decide!