The friendship between China and Laos is blossoming, according to an editorial in the Vientiane Times and quoted by Xinhua on April 22. Laos is a partner in China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the most significant project in that relationship is the construction of a high-speed railroad from the Chinese border to the Laotian capital Vientiane.
According to Xinhua, Laotian President Bounnhang Vorachit recently visited one of the many construction sites and described the railroad as a critical project that would transform Laos from being a landlocked country into a “land-linked” one.
The railroad will “boost economic growth,” the report said, and recognize business opportunities in Laos. “Several Chinese banks have expanded their operations here in Laos.”
The number of Chinese tourists in Laos is also increasing and has become a vital source of income for Laos. The country expects to receive more than a million Chinese visitors this year.
“The Belt and Road Initiative will create conditions for the landlocked country to access international markets,” according to Xinhua. More important, the railroad will provide China’s exporters easier access to Southeast Asia.
Another railroad is planned to link the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan with the central Myanmar city of Mandalay and eventually the Bay of Bengal.
That project has been the cause of some controversy because it may lead to a heavier economic dependence on China at a time when Myanmar is trying to steer a more independent foreign policy.
In Laos, a poor country with limited natural resources, there appears to be much less resistance to the Belt and Road Initiative.
According to Xinhua, “the bilateral relationship has reached new heights, and many are now describing this as ‘the golden age’ of Laos-China relations.”