President Sirisena Premier Keqiang Liu Weibing/ZumaPress

Sri Lanka’s Chinese Election

In their country's parliamentary election this month, Sri Lankan voters will effectively decide whether their country should kowtow to China’s regional ambitions or shape its own destiny by promoting an independent foreign policy and an open economy. One hopes that they choose the latter option.

NEW DELHI – Sri Lanka’s parliamentary election this month promises to shape not only the country’s political future, but also geopolitics in the wider Indian Ocean region, a global center of trade and energy flows that accounts for half of the world’s container traffic and 70% of its petroleum shipments. The country’s strategic importance has not been lost on China, which has, to the dismay of India and the United States, been working hard to strengthen its presence in the Indian Ocean.

A leading contender in Sri Lanka’s upcoming election is former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose nine-year tenure, which ended in January with a shock defeat in the presidential election, was characterized by rising authoritarianism, nepotism, and corruption. To be sure, Rajapaksa brought an end to the 26-year Tamil insurgency in 2009, causing many in the country’s dominant Sinhalese community to view him as a hero. But it was a ruthless effort, during which Rajapaksa allegedly presided over war crimes, including the killing of up to 40,000 civilians in the final offensive against the Tamil rebels.

During Rajapaksa’s presidency, Sri Lanka’s relationship with India deteriorated, owing partly to his government’s failure to reconcile with the Tamil minority. (India has a sizeable Tamil population.) But the country’s relationship with China improved markedly, with Chinese firms winning a series of lucrative construction contracts that would secure Sri Lanka’s position as a key stop on China’s “maritime Silk Road” connecting Asia to Africa and the Middle East.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/nV7x0fg;

Handpicked to read next

  1. Patrick Kovarik/Getty Images

    The Summit of Climate Hopes

    Presidents, prime ministers, and policymakers gather in Paris today for the One Planet Summit. But with no senior US representative attending, is the 2015 Paris climate agreement still viable?

  2. Trump greets his supporters The Washington Post/Getty Images

    Populist Plutocracy and the Future of America

    • In the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump has consistently sold out the blue-collar, socially conservative whites who brought him to power, while pursuing policies to enrich his fellow plutocrats. 

    • Sooner or later, Trump's core supporters will wake up to this fact, so it is worth asking how far he might go to keep them on his side.
  3. Agents are bidding on at the auction of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

    The Man Who Didn’t Save the World

    A Saudi prince has been revealed to be the buyer of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," for which he spent $450.3 million. Had he given the money to the poor, as the subject of the painting instructed another rich man, he could have restored eyesight to nine million people, or enabled 13 million families to grow 50% more food.

  4.  An inside view of the 'AknRobotics' Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Two Myths About Automation

    While many people believe that technological progress and job destruction are accelerating dramatically, there is no evidence of either trend. In reality, total factor productivity, the best summary measure of the pace of technical change, has been stagnating since 2005 in the US and across the advanced-country world.

  5. A student shows a combo pictures of three dictators, Austrian born Hitler, Castro and Stalin with Viktor Orban Attila Kisbenedek/Getty Images

    The Hungarian Government’s Failed Campaign of Lies

    The Hungarian government has released the results of its "national consultation" on what it calls the "Soros Plan" to flood the country with Muslim migrants and refugees. But no such plan exists, only a taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign to help a corrupt administration deflect attention from its failure to fulfill Hungarians’ aspirations.

  6. Project Syndicate

    DEBATE: Should the Eurozone Impose Fiscal Union?

    French President Emmanuel Macron wants European leaders to appoint a eurozone finance minister as a way to ensure the single currency's long-term viability. But would it work, and, more fundamentally, is it necessary?

  7. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now