BEIJING: China has greeted 'old friend' Mahinda Rajapaksa on taking over as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka following a landslide victory and assured him full support, as Beijing looks forward to advancing its strategic cooperative partnership with Colombo.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has greeted Rajapaksa, saying that the Sri Lankan leader has been long committed to promoting the friendship between the two countries.
Rajapaksa, during whose previous tenures China made billions of dollars of investments in the island nation, enjoys a close rapport with Chinese leaders for consolidating bilateral ties.
Commenting on Rajapaksa being sworn in as prime minister, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here on Monday that "China and Sri Lanka enjoy traditional friendship and we have been advancing our strategic cooperative partnership based on sincere mutual assistance and ever-lasting friendship. We have been expanding and deepening our cooperation across the board."
Significantly Rajapaksa has been greeted by the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) headed by President Xi Jinping.
The CPC's greetings were conveyed to Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party (Sri Lanka People's Front) of Rajapaksa which had emerged victorious in the elections.
Conveying the CPC message to Rajapaksa personally, the Charge d'affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka Hu Wei said Rajapaksa is an 'old friend' of Xi and has assured him to "have confidence in our support," Sri Lanka news portal Colombo Page reported.
Hu met with Rajapaksa and passed on a congratulatory letter from the CPC, expressing heartfelt congratulations to him for winning the general election, it reported.
The two sides also exchanged in-depth views on the key areas of cooperation between the two countries in the next stage, as well as the key projects of China's Belt and Road Initiative in Sri Lanka, such as the port city of Colombo and the comprehensive development of Hambantota, the report said.
Rajapaksa has requested that the work on the Port City be expedited and to consider collaborating on drinking water and irrigation projects, the report quoted a statement from the Prime Minister's Media Division.
According to official estimates, Chinese loans and investments in Sri Lanka amounted to over USD eight billion.
The huge loans sparked concerns globally after Sri Lanka handed over its Hambantota port to a state-run Chinese firm in 2017 for a 99- years lease as a debt swap amounting to USD 1.2 billion.
The Colombo Port City project also funded by China is currently being built along the city's coastline on 269 hectares of reclaimed land.
Rajapaksa in a twitter message thanked Xi; "Thank you for the well wishes from President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party. China's support for Sri Lanka's development spans decades. I'm certain that our long-standing, friendly relations will continue to improve as we enhance our cooperation."