Lancang-Mekong cooperation enriches countries along the river

Updated: 2016-03-26 17:30


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KUNMING -- A border railway station which has been in existence for more than 100 years in southwest China's Yunnan province got a new lease on life last year after having been left desolate for a decade.

The cargo train via Shanyao Station on the China-Vietnam border hit the buffers in 2013 and was suspended for a while. The service has since resumed and is now busier than ever.

A railway linking Kunming in Yunnan province and the border with Vietnam opened in December 2014 and the following year 366,400 tonnes of cargo -- iron ore, sulfur, fertilizer and so on -- flowed from China into Vietnam via Shanyao, over 100 times more than the year before. Already this year, 89,700 tonnes of goods have gone the same way.

Rising on China's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the Lancang -- known as the Mekong when it flows out of China -- meanders almost 5,000 kilometers through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the South China Sea.

Under the theme "Shared River, Shared Future," the first Lancang-Mekong Cooperation leaders' meeting was held in Sanya, Hainan Province, this week. The meeting brought forth a number of new cooperative ventures.

During the meeting, China offered concessionary loans of 10 billion yuan ($1.54 billion) and up to $10 billion in credit lines to fund improvements to infrastructure and connectivity in all six countries.

Most of these countries are in the early stages of industrialization and in dire need of better infrastructure. China can provide more than mere money. It can bring a wealth of experience and technology to the table.

Agriculture is a major industry for all countries involved. China has expertise that it is ready to share in terms of rice growing, up-to-date agricultural systems and the trade of produce. A new strain of hybrid rice developed in China was presented to the leaders, on the sidelines of the meeting.

Lancang-Mekong cooperation has already generated some tangible results. A road linking China and Thailand via Laos was completed in 2013; construction of a China-Thailand railway and a China-Laos railway got underway last year; and Yunnan Province, which shares borders with Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, is now linked with over 20 southeast and south Asian cities by air.

China has a hand in industrial parks and economic zones in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. Earlier this month China started releasing emergency water supplies from Jinghong Dam to help alleviate a drought downstream.

Efficient Lancang-Mekong cooperation will improve logistics and economies along the river, benefitting all of Southeast Asia and cementing ties between China and ASEAN.