Sri Lanka asks China for economic help

STORY: The island nation of 22 million people is suffering its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948 after running out of foreign reserves. Protesters angry about the shortages of fuel, food and medicine toppled the Rajapaksa ruling family.

Ambassador Palitha Kohona's emphasis on China as a key to Sri Lanka's economic recovery reflects Beijing's status as one of Sri Lanka's two largest foreign creditors, along with Japan. China also holds some 10% of Sri Lanka's external debt.

In an interview with Reuters at Sri Lanka's Beijing embassy, Kohona said Colombo wants China to ask its companies to buy more Sri Lankan black tea, sapphire, spices and garments and to make Chinese import rules more transparent and easier to navigate.

He said Beijing could also help by pouring further investment into vast China-backed port projects in Colombo and Hambantota. Major Chinese investment plans had not materialized because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kohona said.