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Sri Lanka's President Loses an Election—and China Loses an Ally

Supporters of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on January 8, 2015 in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Supporters of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on January 8, 2015 in Colombo, Sri LankaPhotographer: Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

China has spared no effort to make friends with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The island nation has more than $4 billion worth of Chinese-backed investments, including a $1.4 billion project now under construction of offices, hotels, apartment buildings, and shopping centers on reclaimed land in Colombo that is the largest foreign investment in the country’s history. The leading provider of loans to Sri Lanka, China is also financing a $1.3 coal power plant and $1 billion highway.

For Chinese President Xi Jinping, who visited in September, cozying up to Rajapaksa has been a twofer. Building a Chinese presence in the country helps further Xi’s ambitions to build a “maritime Silk Road” expanding China’s reach in the Indian Ocean.