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For firmer growth, Sri Lanka needs China's soft power

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Workers look as excavators move rubble at the construction site for a Chinese company in Colombo on Dec. 4.   © Reuters

HAMBANTOTA, Sri Lanka -- Billboards promise a futuristic paradise on the road that leads to this sleepy fishing town on Sri Lanka's southern coast. Smiling pictures of the country's president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, appear on most of them. Others include his siblings or sons -- members of the large Rajapaksa clan who hail from this region and effectively run post-conflict Sri Lanka.

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