China grants $90M to Sri Lanka after visit by top official

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) - China announced on Sunday that it is granting a $ 90 million grant to Sri Lanka two days after the island nation's president asked a Chinese delegation to help refute the view that China-funded megaprojects are “debt traps”. ”
The Chinese Embassy in Colombo called the financial assistance a "timely grant" and said it would be used for medical care, education and water supplies in rural Sri Lanka. and that it would "contribute to the well-being of (Sri Lanka) in a post-COVID era".
The announcement follows a visit by a Chinese delegation led by Yang Jiechi, a member of the Communist Party's Politburo and former Foreign Minister, to the island nation of the Indian Ocean on Friday.
During the talks with Yang, Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa asked China to help refute the view that China-funded mega-projects are "debt traps" to influence local affairs.
China regards Sri Lanka as a critical link in its massive global infrastructure initiative "Belt and Road" and has provided billions of dollars in loans for projects in Sri Lanka over the past decade. The projects include a seaport, an airport, a port city, highways and power plants.
Critics say the projects funded by China are financially unsustainable and that Sri Lanka will struggle to repay the loans.
In 2017, Sri Lanka leased a China-built port near the busy shipping lanes to a Chinese company for 99 years to recover from the heavy burden of repaying the Chinese loan the country received for the construction.
The facility is part of Beijing's plan for a number of ports stretching from Chinese waters to the Persian Gulf. China has also agreed to provide a $ 989 million loan to Sri Lanka to build an expressway connecting its central tea-growing region to the China-run seaport.
China expanded its presence in Sri Lanka under the leadership of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the elder brother of the current leader. Mahinda Rajakapaksa, who is currently Prime Minister, held separate talks with Yang on Friday.
China's economic influence in Sri Lanka has worried its closest neighbor, India, who views the Indian Ocean region as its strategic backyard.
Yang's visit came days after top diplomats from four Indo-Pacific countries - the US, Japan, India and Australia - met in Tokyo to increase their involvement in a regional initiative called "Free and Open Indo-Pacific," China’s growing Assertiveness should counteract in the region.

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