Hambantota, on Sri Lanka's underdeveloped southern coast, has become a key part of Chinese President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) brand.

The greenfield port in the home region of China-friendly former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, along with highway and airport projects nearby and extensive port development at Colombo, actually predates the BRI and its main Maritime Silk Road component announced in 2013.