The NYT should ask what US has done for Sri Lanka

By Su Tan Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/2 22:38:01

The Sri Lanka handover of its strategic Hambantota Port to China on a 99-year lease in December of last year triggered concerns worldwide. The worry, which lasts till today, was conspicuously portrayed by a New York Times report published last week. The article accuses China of using a debt trap for vulnerable countries, which therefore fuels corruption and autocratic behavior in these "struggling democracies."

Yet the report has drawn rebuttal from Sri Lankan politicians. The country's former Central Bank governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal said the reporter used none of his views but rather the piece was a veiled attempt at using Sri Lanka to target China. Sri Lanka's former president Mahinda Rajapaksa refuted The New York Times report in a detailed statement. When the report called the Hambantota Port a failure because it drew only 34 ships in 2012, it selectively didn't mention that the number increased to 335 in 2014 and the port made an operating profit of Rs. 900 million ($5.69 million) in 2014 and Rs. 1,200 million in 2015, said Rajapaksa.

Sri Lanka, which ended its 26-year civil war in 2009, is in desperate need for infrastructure construction to boost economic development and improve people's living standards. But its request for assistance was turned down by others except China. The large amount of Chinese concessional loans and investment helped Sri Lanka start a slew of major infrastructure projects including a coal-fired power station, shipping container terminals, an airport highway and the Hambantota Port. These have brought huge economic and social benefits to Sri Lanka and its people.

In the meantime, what have Western countries done? They play up the human rights issue to pressure the South Asian country that was plundered heavily by Portuguese, Dutch and British colonists during its nearly 450 years' colonization. Last year the Trump administration even proposed to slash its aid to Sri Lanka by 92 percent, which was blocked by the US Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, citing the country's "geostrategic importance."

As the world witnesses seriously imbalanced development, what is needed most now is not the blame game or a hands-off approach, but authentic investment and aid as well as cooperation. Unfortunately, when China offers such help, these countries do nothing but chime in quickly through biased lenses.

China has been exploring ways to better help other developing countries, such as the Belt and Road initiative. It is always open and welcome to the participation of developed countries toward common development. In this complicated process there are unavoidable problems. Simply exaggerating the problems while suspecting China's intentions is counterproductive. Instead of the New York Times demonizing China's efforts, isn't it better if it explores how the US can participate in aiding impoverished countries?

Posted in: OBSERVER

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