My recent editorial was quoted verbatim by this spokesperson for the U.S. State Department.
In Yunnan’s eternal spring, visitors navigate their way around internet controls
Strolling along the sunny, tree-lined sidewalks of Dianchi Lake Resort, in China’s Yunnan Province, I am determined to enjoy as much as possible of this part of Kunming, the provincial capital appropriately known as the City of Eternal Spring. Pursuing a slow pace of life seems a good idea in a province that (with the exception of Kunming’s unsightly urban sprawl) is so picture-postcard perfect it seems a tad unreal.
I am traveling with a party of South Asian reporters, one of whom, a Nepalese, reminds me that we need to hurry: Work awaits, and his articles have to be filed as deadlines loom. The next day, however, he appears less rushed. Work can wait, he says, adding that his Gmail account is not functioning because of the so-called Great Firewall of China, which blocks much international internet traffic.
My Nepalese friend is not alone. Other travelling journalists, having encountered China’s formidable blocks on some popular websites and social media platforms, also decide that they might as well enjoy the Chinese food and scenery, and file their articles when they get home.
A friend from Sri Lanka and I exchange telling glances. When in China, we do things the Chinese way, arriving prepared with local QQmail, which can be set up free of charge, and accounts with WeChat, a social media service. WeChat is popular in Sri Lanka, so we can easily use it to send messages to colleagues at home.
Beijing’s billion-dollar loan to Colombo for major infrastructure project is latest example of battle for influence in Southeast Asia’s Buddhist countries
For those who understand the Chinese brand of engagement in Sri Lanka, new initiatives such as the recent US$1.1 billion loan Beijing gave to the island nation to build a motorway should not come as a surprise.
This is merely the latest manifestation of “Buddhist diplomacy”, a term used by some analysts to describe efforts by China and India to embrace Buddhism as a tool in gaining influence in predominately Buddhist countries such as Sri Lanka.
The current Sri Lankan government took office in 2015, partly on an anti-China platform, with a promise to end several major Chinese initiatives in Sri Lanka that came under the “Belt and Road Initiative”, Beijing’s plan to grow global trade along a New Silk Road.
Ousted Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed blames political turmoil on a Chinese land grab and calls on India to intervene. Does even he believe this, or is it just a ploy? The neighbours appear to have made up their minds.
Despite great public discussion regarding recent political turmoil in the Maldives – where the president has this year jailed two Supreme Court justices and declared a state of emergency to investigate what he claims was a coup attempt – Sri Lankan tourists continue to flock to the tropical paradise.
“Everything from airline ticket sales to air cargo transport has seen an uptick in the past few months,” says Dino de Fonseka, senior partner of a travel firm in Colombo.
De Fonseka says it’s only natural to expect such an uptick – after all, the islands have a well-earned reputation as a sun-drenched holiday destination, he points out.
Is it better to preserve and build on historical legacy or destroy it?
When Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe invited Britain’s Prince Edward to be guest of honor at the island state’s 70th Independence Day celebrations this year, Sri Lankans took it in their stride. This was a form of progress for the premier, who was shouted down when he suggested during a previous term in office that Sri Lanka should celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Portuguese invasion with a state-sponsored tamasha, or grand celebration.