Beijing: A wary China on Friday cautiously welcomed newly elected Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena hoping that he would "continue friendly policies" of his pro-Beijing predecessor, despite his criticism of Chinese- funded projects in the run up to the polls.
"China congratulates Sirisena on his election as the new President of Sri Lanka. We believe that he will lead the Sri Lankan government and its people to make new headways in national development," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a media briefing here today.
Answering questions relating to the criticism of the Chinese-funded projects, including the USD 1.4 billion Colombo port, by prominent Sirisena backers like UNP Leader, Ranil Wickrmasinghe, Hong said China-Lanka friendship "runs deep" and the two countries are on the "same page".
Ahead of the polls Sirisena has said that he would maintain equal ties with India and China and review the transparency of a host of Chinese-funded projects.
"We will work with Sri Lanka to build on what we have achieved and move forward our strategic partnership for cooperation," Hong said without making direct reference to the outgoing President Mahenda Rajapaksa, during whose tenure the ties between the two countries took off to new heights.
"Our friendship runs deep. Between Sri Lanka and China our cooperation projects are based on equality, mutual trust and mutual benefit," Hong said.
"We believe that the new Sri Lankan government will carry on friendly policies towards China and lend their support to relevant projects," he said.
He was also hopeful that Sirisena's government will continue to support China's most ambitious Maritime Silk Road project for which Colombo was the first to sign up last year despite India's reservations.
"As for the 'one belt one road' project, our policy is that this project needs to be consulted and built together. That means we will accommodate each other?s interests. It will be moved ahead with consensus," he said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced USD 40 billion fund for the new Silk Road and new Maritime Silk Road projects which Sri Lanka and later Maldives had supported. India is yet to convey its stand on the Maritime Silk Road amid concerns that it would provide greater access to the Chinese military in the Indian Ocean.