So there's a couple things going on here that the article doesn't really get into.
1) All their example countries have been dealing with massive domestic corruption and upheaval, generally because their leaders were shady AF. Raphael Correa has an Interpol red notice out. Nawaz Sharif doesn't yet but that's probably only because his opposition is just as shady. Angola? Please. Argentina? Again.
2) Xi is a "true believer" the way Gorbachev was a true believer - Gorbachev's solution to the Soviet Union's woes was to purge the corruption and rely on communism. Xi's solutions to China's woes so far have been to add more Stalin. The Soviets were notoriously chauvinist against their client states but they didn't have 20 years of "maybe if we treat them like capitalists they'll become capitalists" to bank on.
So yeah - the world is full of crappy corrupt tofu-dregs sold to corrupt savages at loanshark prices. The Guardian is more explicit than the WSJ.
Hey let's check in on the Airport to Nowhere shall we?
During COVID 19 pandemic, The airport had been handling ship crew changes and repatriation flights, In June and July 2020, Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport had handled more than 50 flights involving 2,188 passengers.
The passenger terminal covers 10,000 m2 (110,000 sq ft) and can handle 1 million passengers per year.