Thursday, August 11 2022

AAs the mass protest in Colombo made headlines around the world, the news spread on Chinese state media and social media platforms. Sri Lanka declared national bankruptcy and the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa were the most discussed topics on Chinese social media.

The hashtag “Sri Lankan President Officially Announces Resignation” was viewed more than 78 million times on Weibo. The hashtag “Sri Lanka mass protest march” was viewed 180 million times on Weibo. The Chinese search engine Baidu has created a special page to follow events in Sri Lanka. The turn? Chinese nationalists were quick to blame the United States for organizing the protests. While many blamed China’s infrastructure schemes for worsening Sri Lanka’s debt crisis, the Chinese had a different goal. Most agreed there was a “color revolution” and a “CIA-led coup” on the island.

“The protests in Sri Lanka were organized by the United States Agency for International Development, with the ghost of the CIA everywhere, and they called on Western countries not to intervene in the protests in Sri Lanka because it is a revolution! color! Sri Lanka is a major stop on the Belt and Road, and the United States is desperately trying to figure it out,” he said. huang-an, a Taiwanese singer based in Beijing. Huang has more than 6 million followers on Weibo.

Other users shared a screenshot of a tweet by a handle called “SNMilitary,” which reclaimed the protest in Sri Lanka was engineered by USAID. The Twitter handle added that the protest was a “color revolution” backed by “Western diplomats.” The account claims to be a “navy veteran” and mostly shares pro-Russian tweets.

“A CIA-backed coup in Sri Lanka is a given. Western diplomats supported them and urged them not to interfere. Things in Sri Lanka are a color revolution.” said a Weibo user while quoting an SNMilitary tweet.

The popularity of the tweet on Sina Weibo shows the influence of pro-Russian propaganda related to the Sri Lanka crisis on Chinese public opinion.


Also read:Sri Lanka to Pakistan, South Asian nations are tying fortunes to China’s infrastructure projects and failing


‘What does bankruptcy mean?’: China wants to know

In addition to blaming the United States, media commentators tried to explain the reasons behind Sri Lanka’s economic crisis and the political turmoil that followed.

On July 10, the article Sri Lanka Bankruptcy Crisis Crimes and Punishments by Guangzhou southern weekly was read 1.1 million times on Weibo. The article analyzes the internal reasons for the situation in Sri Lanka.

“Due to the epidemic, the tourism industry has been hit hard and related service industries such as aviation, hotels and catering have declined, causing the Sri Lankan economy to worsen in the last two years. years. The Sri Lankan government is eager to reform and has taken on a lot of debt, which has resulted in high debt and may become the ‘first to fall’ economy after the epidemic,” said the southern weekly article, which was originally published on April 21.

The Sri Lankan news has also left social media users wondering about the meaning of ‘declaring bankruptcy’. The hashtag “What does it mean to file for national bankruptcy?” was viewed 30 million times on Weibo.

“The financial term ‘national bankruptcy’ was proposed by the International Monetary Fund in 2002 and referred to the situation in which a country’s external assets are less than its external liabilities, that is, insolvency”, Beijing economic news explained in a video

Some users blamed the Western-led IMF for Sri Lanka’s plight.

The most experienced Chinese experts tried to examine the crisis through the framework of geopolitics.

“In this crisis in Sri Lanka, the United States, Japan, India and Australia plan to ‘form a delegation’ to establish a foreign aid consortium to collectively respond to the crisis. On the surface, the four countries are fulfilling their respective duties, but overall, they are strengthening the ‘legitimacy’ of the ‘Quad mechanism’ to deal with the crisis. In fact, the ‘quadruple mechanism’ is a small group to squeeze China and contain its influence,” wrote Xu Liping, a researcher at the Asia-Pacific and Global Strategy Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.


Also read: The people against the Rajapaksas in Sri Lanka and why it turned out that way


Unclear language, clear message

Beijing is struggling to find the right narrative for the political turmoil in Sri Lanka.

Chinese state media repeated some of the earlier talking points questioning the ‘debt trap’ argument for the Sri Lankan crisis.

“Multiple factors to blame for Sri Lanka’s problems”, said the headline of an unsigned English editorial in the Chinese Daily.

China ranks third among Sri Lanka’s creditors after Japan and the Asian Development Bank, accounting for just 10 percent of its debt. Its loans have mainly served for the infrastructure and economic development of Sri Lanka”, said The editorial.

There are multiple narratives in China about how to deal with the situation in Sri Lanka. China has not backed any faction that could replace the Rajapaksas.

“China does not lean towards one faction or the other… that is why all previous Sri Lankan governments have wanted to maintain friendly and cooperative ties with China,” he added. said Liu Zongyi, Senior Research Fellow at the Shanghai Institute of International Studies.

“As for Sri Lanka’s debts related to China, China supports relevant financial institutions to negotiate with Sri Lanka and find a proper solution. We are ready to work with relevant countries and international financial institutions to continue to play a positive role for Sri Lanka to cope with the current difficulties, alleviate the debt burden and achieve sustainable development.” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Tuesday.

We can safely say that China does not want to extend its support to the island nation crisis.

The author is a freelance columnist and journalist, currently pursuing a master’s degree in international politics with a focus on China from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He was previously a China media journalist at the BBC World Service. Tweet @aadilbrar. Views are personal.

(Edited by Neera Majumdar)

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