China considers Sri Lanka as one of its strategic partners and its bilateral relationship goes beyond economic cooperation, the top Chinese diplomat in the country disclosed.

Acting Chinese Ambassador Hu Wei said recently that Sri Lanka and China should not limit its bilateral relations only to economic cooperation.

He noted that the bilateral relationship is based on strategic partnership cooperation, not economic development only.

"The two countries supported each other even during the past few months in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Large stocks of urgent medical supplies including more than 73,000 testing kits, 4.5 million face masks, 54,000 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) have been donated by China after the coronavirus outbreak in Sri Lanka.

Those items were not only from the Chinese central government, but also from local governments, companies, organisations and ordinary people.

"During the past decade, in the international arena, China has always defended Sri Lanka with regard to many key issues. We should not limit our cooperation to economic relations only. It is much broader and deeper than that," he said.

Sri Lanka and China have also seen a strategic convergence on issues, including recent support by Colombo for the Hong Kong National Security Law at the United Nations. Sri Lanka also undertook a principled stance by supporting Beijing over its South China Sea dispute with the Philippines.

Official sources said that this bilateral relationship is multifaceted and goes beyond economic cooperation by equally strengthening each other in the geopolitical arena. The proliferation of Chinese soft power on the island also has the potential to blossom under the Rajapaksa's administration.

China's economic rise and international influence also makes alternate foreign policy alignments for the island to be a lesser preferred strategy. While promising for both countries, this relationship may also be subject to increased negative coverage, particularly in the United States.

The Rajapaksas have consolidated power in Sri Lanka amid the COVID-19 pandemic as well.

China's success in curbing the pandemic on its shores allows Sri Lanka to benefit from best practices and standard operating procedures, which would aid the island's ability to stem the virus internally.

Beyond COVID-19, Sri Lanka-China relations will always be defined in terms of cooperation and goodwill, which will be further strengthened with the new government in Colombo firmly in power.

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