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"We want to be here ... for the long term," say the new Chinese-Sri Lankan joint-venture operators of Hambantota Port. (Photo courtesy of Hambantota International Port Group)
The Big Story

Sri Lanka's 'debt trap' port thriving, Chinese owners claim

Seen as an emblem of Beijing's expansionist goals, business is picking up in Hambantota

MARWAAN MACAN-MARKAR, Asia regional correspondent | Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan

HAMBANTOTA, Sri Lanka -- Sri Lanka's growing dependence on China to support its maritime economy keeps Ray Ren on edge in Hambantota, where a $1.5 billion port built with Chinese loans sits along the Indian Ocean island's southern coast. The Chinese executive of the port operator has to fend off criticism that the port is to become a "Chinese colony."

"This is not a port where we will only welcome Chinese investors," Ren, the chief executive officer of the Hambantota International Port Group, told the Nikkei Asian Review. "We want to be here and be part of the development of the country for the long term, that's why we've invested billions [of dollars] in Sri Lanka; we are not looking at short-term business."

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