Brief Historical Overview of Sri Lanka - China relations

Sri Lanka and China are traditional friendly countries with the relations dating back over  many Centuries. Relations were fostered by thriving trade exchanges along the Maritime Silk Route and far reaching cooperation in culture and knowledge.  In 410 AD, the Chinese Buddhist scholar Fa Xian had spent around  two years in Sri Lanka. While in Sri Lanka he had translated Buddhist scriptures which he brought back to China and wrote a book titled “A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms” making a substantive contribution for the enhancement of people to people contacts. The Chinese navigator Admiral Zheng He of the Ming Dynasty had sailed to Sri Lanka many times between 1405 - 1433. A stone tablet erected by Zheng He is kept in the National Museum of Sri Lanka which stands as testimony to the history and friendship between Sri Lanka and China. 

Sri Lanka extended diplomatic recognition to the People’s Republic of China in January 1950, First Country in South Asia. In April 1952, the two countries entered into the historic Rubber-Rice Pact whereby Sri Lanka supplied rubber to China under a barter arrangement, receiving rice from China in return. It was one of the first agreements that the People’s Republic of China signed with a non-communist country. The two countries established full diplomatic relations on 7th February 1957 and set up Resident Embassies in each other’s capitals. Consequent to the establishment of diplomatic relations both countries took a number of steps in the political, economic, trade and cultural fields to strengthen their bilateral relations.

Sri Lanka – China relations have thrived over the years through frequent high level visits between the two countries. Some of the Chinese leaders  who have visited Sri Lanka include: Premier Zhou Enlai (1957 and 1964), Vice-Chairperson of the Standing Committee of the NPC Deng Yingchao (1977), Vice Premier Geng Biao (1978), Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister Huang Hua (1981), State Counselor and Foreign Minister Wu Xueqian (1985), President Li Xiannian (1986), Premier Li Peng (1990), Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qin Qichen (1994), Vice-Chairperson of the Standing Committee of the NPC Chen Muhua (1997), Chairman of the CPPCC Li Ruihuan (1999), Premier Zhu Rongji (2001) and Premier Wen Jiaboa (2005), Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zheng Yue (2009), Vice Premier of China Zhang Dejiang (2010), Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the NPC Hua Jianmin (2011) and Vice-Chairperson of the National Committee of the CPPCC Zhang Meiying (2011).

Some of the Sri Lankan leaders who have visited China include: Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike (1961, 1972), Foreign Minister A.C.S. Hameed (1979), President J.R. Jayewardena (1984), Prime Minister R. Premadasa (1979, 1988), Prime Minister D.B. Wijetunga (1989), President Chandrika Kumaratunga (1996, 2005), Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (2003), Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar (2004) and  Foreign Minister Anura Bandaranaike (2005), Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama (2009), Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake (2009), Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris (2010, 2011) and Prime Minster D.M. Jayaratna (2010, 2011).

 Sri Lankan Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike                                                 Chairman Mao Zedong greeting Sri Lanka s Prime Minister        
with Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlain in Sri Lanka                                             Sirimavo Bandaranaike 

    Signing of the Sri Lanka - China Joint Statement by                                             Prime Minister Bandaranaike with Chairman Mao Zedong
   Prime Minister Bandaranaike and Prime Minister Zhou Enlai

   Sri Lankan President R. Premadasa                                                                        Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga  Bandaranaike      
   gifting a baby elephant to China                                                                              with Premier Wen Jiabo


        President J.R. Jayawardena at the Chinese built Courts Complex

His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa has visited China five times at the invitation of the Chinese Government. 


 President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Madam Rajapaksa                                 President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Guard of Honour
 being greeted by President Hu Jintao


  President Mahinda Rajapaksa hands over the baby
Elephant Migara to Beijing Zoo                                                 President Rajapaksa unveils the Samadhi Buddha statue  at Lingguang Temple



President Maithripala Sirisena also undertook a State visit to China in March 2015. The president again visited China as the guest invitee to the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations (CDAC) which was held on 15th May 2019 in Beijing.


  The current leadership of Sri Lanka and China have taken the relations of the two countries to an unprecedented height.


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