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Presidents launch port city project

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President Xi Jinping and President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka visited and inaugurated the landmark Colombo Port City project on Wednesday.

The Colombo port, known as a crossroads of the East since ancient times, has been home to a key shipment hub planned along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, a transcontinental connectivity initiative proposed by China.

At the inauguration ceremony, young drummers lined up along the red carpet to welcome the Chinese president.

"I have seen prosperous signs in the development of Sri Lanka and feel happy for you," Xi told Rajapaksa at the inauguration ceremony.

The port city and infrastructure construction are being undertaken by China Harbour Engineering Co Ltd. Land reclamation, road and pipelines will be completed in September 2017, and the rest of the project is due for completion by 2022.

Sri Lankans celebrated the inauguration in a unique way - sounding the sirens of the ships along the beach and operating bulldozers to push sand and rocks into the sea.

As a key measure of Sri Lanka’s aim to build a relay point for the Maritime Silk Road, the Port City will eventually connect to the central business district of Colombo, expand the urban dimension of Colombo, and boost investment and employment.

"Sri Lanka enjoys unique geographical advantages, and I believe you will accelerate your development and make consistent progress in the planned direction," Xi said.

China is willing to strengthen bilateral cooperation and "provide help as its capacity allows" to Sri Lanka, he added.

Sri Lanka is dedicated to boosting development and establishing a shipping and commercial center in the Indian Ocean, Rajapaksa said.

Rajapaksa mentioned the "Mahinda Vision", a strategic initiative of Sri Lanka that envisages ambitious economic growth through the scaling-up of investment and increased productivity.

"With the help from Chinese friends, the Sri Lanka people are able to make their dream come true," he said.

The Chinese president told Chinese construction workers at the port that they are expected to finish their mission as planned with good quality.

All the efforts are expected to ensure that "the important transportation hub on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is built successfully along with the Sri Lanka side", Xi said.

Wang Fan, vice-president of China Foreign Affairs University, said Xi’s trip to South Asia aims at sending promising signals to the nations involved the Maritime Silk Road project, and South Asia is "an irreplaceable piece in China’s neighborly diplomacy blueprint".

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