By Indika Sri Aravinda
The Colombo Port City has played down US sanctions imposed on a Chinese contractor, insisting it will not impact the project.
A spokesperson for the Colombo Port City told Colombo Gazette that the sanctions have not directly affected funding for the project.
The spokesperson said that construction work on the Colombo Port City is continuing unaffected.
The United States’ blacklisting of the Chinese contractor, China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), which is at the centre of Beijing’s island-building activity in the disputed South China Sea could have a disruptive ripple effect across Asia, diplomatic observers had said earlier, pointing to the firm’s extensive presence from Sri Lanka to the Philippines.
Malaysia’s US$10.5 billion East Coast Rail Link, the US$1.4 billion Port City Colombo in Sri Lanka and a new US$10 billion airport outside the Philippine capital of Manila are among China Communications Construction Company’s marquee overseas projects.
CCCC’s presence in Sri Lanka has in the past invoked controversy, with The New York Times reporting in 2018 that some US$7.6 million from the firm’s subsidiary China Harbour Engineering Company was dispensed to the campaign of then president Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2015’s presidential election.
Rajapaksa lost that vote, but his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa won last year’s election.
CCCC and the Rajapaksas deny The New York Times’ allegations. Apart from the Port City project, China Harbour also built a port in the Rajapaksas’ stronghold city of Hambantota.
The port heavily indebted Sri Lanka, and is seen by the belt and road strategy’s Western critics as the finest example of how the infrastructure-building programme is part of China “debt-trap diplomacy”, aimed at creating a network of pliant debtor states. Beijing has vigorously rejected such assertions.
Five CCCC subsidiaries were among 24 Chinese companies that the US Commerce Department last week added to its so-called entity list, which bans the companies from receiving US imports without a licence. (Colombo Gazette)