Vibes of Trust

Will Sri Lanka soon become a client state of China?

By Reema Shaukat | December 2021

The evolving relations between Sri Lanka and China over the past few years have generated discussion in the global arena. Numerous arguments are forged with a tendency to predict the future of China-Sri Lanka relations. It appears that there has been a spat between aspirants of visualizing Sri Lanka as a client state of China and others negating this outcome. The Cambridge dictionary defines client state as a country that gets support and protection from another larger or more powerful country while Webster says a client state is a country that is economically, politically and militarily dependent on another country. One can infer then that support, protection and control of a country can be effectively ensured in the realm of politics, economy and military.

China and Sri Lanka enjoy relations of cordiality and tranquillity since 1952 when the Ceylon-China Rubber-Rice pact was signed. Both the countries have been supporting each other on various issues on international forums. For instance, there have been attempts to blame Sri Lanka on human rights violations against Tamils on which China has acted as a bulwark. Likewise Sri Lanka, living up to its stated foreign policy of “Friends with all and enemies with none” has stood by China on issues confronting it.

Hailing from the same region, both have been concomitants. The growing Chinese influence in the region as well as its position around the globe mandates sufficient political support, especially from within the region. Every country in the region matters for China and Sri Lanka, being strategically located in the Indian Ocean, holds enormous value for China. The shipping through the busy Malacca Straits passes under the nose of Sri Lanka. Therefore, China has termed Sri Lanka as an important country in BRI. On the other hand, Sri Lanka has been trying to strike a balance between India and China as both are critical for her.

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The writer has interest in international politics and South Asian security dynamics. She is associated with the Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad and can be reached at

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