Be wary of Chinese influence!

by Azhar Razak


Sri Lanka’s new government should be more cautious in not drifting back to Chinese state influence without counter weighing the balance of the more productive private sector investments coming from the West and India, a top economist has advocated.

Associate Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, Professor Razeen Sally told a Colombo audience last week that the government should be wary of Chinese state capitalism as it is both a concern on the economic, as well as the security fronts.

"Although it is good the government has restored its foreign relations with China after the initial tussle over the Port City project, the island drifting back to China’s influence is a worry," he said.

"It is a worry on the economic front because the Chinese practice a different kind of capitalism, at least state capitalism. The kind of Chinese capitalism we have in Sri Lanka is the capitalism of the Chinese Communist Party, states and their proxies.

"I am not against that in principle as long it is balanced by healthier investment from the West and India," Sally said.

However he noted the Chinese private sector was incredibly entrepreneurial.

"We should know what kind of rules this kind of (state) capitalism plays by. There is evidence of this in East Asia - that it is about buying up political and business elites. Do we really want to see that happen in Sri Lanka? It is already happening and it happened under the last government," Sally claimed.

He therefore urged the media to scrutinize projects with China very carefully including the Hambantota projects.

"It is a security concern as well because we need to have good friendships all around, including the Americans, Europeans and the Indians.

"Let’s not forget that Chinese are playing the long game here and it is not just for commercial reasons. Hence we should not have any illusions about that," he warned.

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