In recent years Sri Lanka's Treasury has helped expand the trade gap with China by borrowing heavily from its Exim Bank and others (exporting Sri Lanka government debt to China) for infrastructure projects which are tied to Chinese material imports and labour.
But ordinary Sri Lankan citizens also import goods from China at a lower cost than from other countries increasing their disposable incomes to purchase more consumer goods, save or invest, thereby generally bettering their lives.
Despite rising import tariffs, which promote the import of lower quality goods, analysts say Chinese sanitary wear, tiles and other building materials help homeless Sri Lankans including those employed in the Middle East to build houses at a lower cost.
Analysts say Indian imports are also playing a similar role in improving living standards of the people and serving as a first line of defence against powerful domestic production lobbies that are successfully rigging the customs regime in their favour to earn rents.
China is also becoming an important source of tourists to Sri Lanka.
"Sri Lanka wants to upgrade its mineral sector," Rishad Bathiudeen, Sri Lanka's minister for trade and commerce was quoted as saying to China's envoy to Colombo Wu Jianghao.
"There is considerable scope for partnership for Chinese firms in this sector here.Lankan produced graphite, crystals, and ilmenite are of international standards."
Sri Lanka's mineral exports to China rose to 15.14 million US dollars in 2012 from 4.47 million US dollars in 2008, the trade ministry said.
In 2012 Sri Lanka had exported 42.7 million dollars of minerals up 30 percent from a year earlier, led by mineral sands (65 percent) followed by silica and quartz (20 percent), graphite (10 percent), mica (3 percent) and other natural sands (2 percent).
Bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and China had risen 19.5 percent to 2.676 million US dollars in 2012 from a year earlier.
Sri Lanka had imported 2.56 billion dollars of goods from China and exported 108 million US dollars.
“China welcomes more export product diversity from Sri Lanka” said ambassador Wu was quoted as saying.
"The expansion to mineral sands will certainly help in this direction for quality made in China products” he said and stressed:
"China also experienced stages of economic growth in its journey and industrial development played a key role in this regard. We too want a more pragmatic trade relationship with Sri Lanka."