Reminiscing Sino-Lanka ties on China’s National Day | Sunday Observer

Reminiscing Sino-Lanka ties on China’s National Day

3 October, 2021

People in China had more reason to celebrate their National Day on October 1 this year. Being the most populated country with densely populated cities, China has so far managed to become one of the few to stop the Covid-19 virus from spiralling out of control. This year, China also celebrates 100 years since the establishment of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and 72 years since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

The National Day of the People’s Republic of China is the formal proclamation of its establishment on October 1, 1949 by CPC Chairman Mao Zedong. It is the celebration of the victory of the CPC in the Chinese Civil War and the Chinese Communist Revolution which resulted in replacing the Republic of China with the People’s Republic of China. It marks the formation of a new nation after the ruling party of the Republic of China retreated to Taiwan.

Civil war

The Chinese civil war was fought between the Kuomintang troops that formed the Republic of China and the Chinese Communist People’s Liberation Army. The war lasted for about two decades with intermittent fighting from 1927 to 1949. The fighting stopped in between as China saw the invasion of the Japanese in 1931 when the Kwantung Army of Japan invaded Manchuria during World War II. The civil war resumed after the Japanese were defeated with the help from the allies of World War II and the CPC managed to defeat the Kuomintang. This is referred to as the Chinese Communist Revolution.

The leadership of the Republic of China then retreated to the island of Taiwan, which is called the Great Retreat which included about two million troops, civilians and refugees. They then started a political and military standoff with the CPC Government. It was significant that while the western world recognised the Kuomintang-led Government as the official rulers of entire China, a few countries such as Sri Lanka recognised the People’s Republic of China, laying the foundation for a long and lasting friendship between Sri Lanka and the Asian giant.

On October 1, 1949, China played a new national anthem and unveiled a new national flag at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The CPC became the sole governing political party of China.

Welcoming victory

The Chinese enjoy a week-long holiday known as the Golden Week to celebrate the victory of the CPC and reminiscence the arduous journey of their former leaders. It had been a hard life for many during the times of the civil war and a welcome victory when the CPC finally established the Government. Former Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Jiang Qinzheng, who served in Sri Lanka from 2000 – 2003, relived the times of war and his personal journey when China saw a great revival in the aftermath of its rebirth under the CPC.

“I was just a child when the People’s Republic of China was established. I saw the transformation of a nation with my own eyes over the years. I must say, with what I saw before and after the Chinese Communist Revolution, I am deeply grateful to the CPC”, he said.

The former Chinese Ambassador was born on September 26, 1941 in the rural Hunan Province. He remembers vividly the time the Japanese invaders came to his village. He had been only four years old.

Near death experience

“I hid among the trees in a hillock away from my house with my family. I saw the planes coming in to attack. In my fear, I tripped and tumbled down a cliff from where I was hiding and nearly got killed. A villager heard my screams and came to my help. After the Japanese left, we still had to face many hardships”, the former Ambassador said.

Even though he came to a school going age, he couldn’t attend school. But after the People’s Republic of China was established, their lives became better.

“Our village had our first school in 1950 and I started my education from there. The CPC carried out many reforms including land reforms. My parents received lands as agriculture was our only livelihood,” the former Ambassador said.

Many children in his village received opportunities they never had after the establishment of the People’s Republic. The former Ambassador received entrance to university too under a Government scholarship. It was then that he started learning Sinhala at Peking University.

“The Dean of the Faculty directed me to learn the language of ‘Ceylon’ and I wasn’t very enthusiastic. But I heard many stories about Ceylon from my father, who is a Buddhist and read many Buddhist scripts; about how Ceylon had a rich Buddhist culture and how it had built relations with China since ancient times.

My father also told me that ‘Sinhala’ is referred to in Chinese as Shenjayalo where Shen means ‘Sangha’. I was intrigued because of my father’s stories. Ours was the first batch that learnt Sinhalese in China. We had 16 students. Our teacher was a Sri Lankan named Pushpakumara Premaratne,” he said.

Former Ambassador Qinzheng, who turned 80 years recently, is a living example of the Sri Lanka – China bond. Known to be the Sinhala speaking Chinese Ambassadors to Sri Lanka, he had been in Sri Lanka in 1964 as well for further Sinhala studies at the Vidyalankara University. He had learnt under Ananda Jayasekara and Siripala Leelaratne at the time and closely associated members of the Buddhist clergy.

“During that time, I supported the Chinese Embassy staff in translations when they had to go on visits around the country. Later in 1976, I returned to Sri Lanka as a translator attached to the Embassy and served until late into the 80s. I was attached to the Embassy again from 1990 – 1994.”

Building ties

During the Cultural Revolution, former Ambassador Qinzheng served at the Beijing Radio Station mainly teaching Sinhala. “During that time, I met former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga who was then Land Reforms Commission Director General. Coincidentally, she was the President of Sri Lanka when I arrived in 2000 to hand over credentials as the Ambassador.”

Even after his retirement in 2003, former Ambassador Qinzheng did not forget Sri Lanka. He supported the Sri Lankan people during the tsunami and volunteered to help the Sri Lanka team during the Beijing Olympics. He had also written two books on Sri Lanka in Chinese to make the Chinese aware of Sri Lanka.

Long history

“Sri Lanka and China have a long history and both have benefited from our friendship. Sri Lanka recognised the People’s Republic of China when other countries didn’t. Sri Lanka entered the Rubber-Rice Pact in 1952 even before our diplomatic ties were established, when China had a shortage of rubber. In 1971, Sri Lanka came to our rescue again when many countries refused a permanent seat for China at the UN General Assembly. As such, at a time when China celebrates its 72nd National Day, we do not forget our friends who helped us in our arduous journey that led us to the position we’re at today.”