September, 28, 2020
The Beijing Swift - By Prof. Samitha Hettige ©
A Belt and Road International Art Project Exhibition concluded on the 25th of September. The project was initiated in 2015 to promote networking among the global Belt and Road artists. Sri Lanka has been a partner of the Belt and Road long before the United States of America and Australia were added to the world map and has a historic link with Chinese art and Sculpture. The famous Yapahuwa Lion is the best example. The exhibition was held at the Zhejiang Art Museum in Hangzhou which is the capital city of Zhejiang Province in eastern China. Zhejiang is sometimes referred to as the “backbone of China” due to the historic economic power it has given from the time of the Ming dynasty and it is also believed to be the birth place of Jack Ma the founder of ‘Ali Baba’. There were nearly 100 paintings, prints and sculptures featuring various aspects of the Belt and Road partner countries. This was one part of the series of mobile exhibitions which displays creations by artists from the B&R countries (Ref. Chinese sources). The event was organized by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC).
In the pre COVID-19 years, Chinese nationals have travelled the globe more than any other. The Chinese lead in numbers even within country travel statistics. The Chinese Spring Festival generally celebrated in February each year witnesses millions of Chinese nationals travelling within the PRC making it the world’s largest people movement event. If we are to develop the tourism sector, paying more attention to attract the Chinese tourists using our historic friendship would be effective. What is important to remember is that so far the Chinese have only been tourists. It is highly unlikely that would want to occupy like the other historical tourists who came here. The Chinese have come to learn Buddhism and performed trade and gone back. We have a recorded history of tourists arriving from other places, marrying local elite, and going to the extent of establishing dynasties.
2020 World Tourism Day in Sri Lanka was celebrated under the theme “Tourism and Rural Development” from 25th to 27th September in Kandy. According to the organizers Sri Lanka this year has focused on a technology driven, sustainable industry focused on strengthening the lowest level of the social pyramid to achieve overall economic development. With this focus sector authorities will also conduct training programmes targeting rural entrepreneurs, supply chain management and students. Attracting tourists is important to drive economic growth and to alleviate poverty. It will create jobs especially for youth and most others in the society. This year according to sector sources, Sri Lanka focused on an industrial exhibition, a food festival, a cultural event and a culinary exhibition with tea heritage and spices. The British according to ancient Silk Road records got the Tea plant from the Chinese. We got it from the British and now we have to promote it as one way to keep the population out of hunger. The culinary exhibitions would promote Sri Lankan cuisine. Due to various reasons there is talk about how to make the Potato curry look yellow again. The responsibility is with us. We have to use all opportunities that come our way to develop our industries, attract all possible tourists but not forget national security.
The writer is an Academic and a Broadcaster. Views expressed are personal and may not necessarily be the views of his affiliations.