lørdag 27. februar 2021

China-Laos railway may be ‘badly needed good news’ for Beijing. And the region?

In southwestern China’s Yunnan province, there is great fanfare around the
construction of a mega-railway link to neighbouring Laos, Southeast Asia’s only landlocked country and one of its least developed. “To build the Sino-Laos Railway as a symbolic project of the  Belt and Road [Initiative]and of the friendship between China and Laos,” read huge bright-red banners proclaiming the project’s significance at a construction site near Yuxi, China’s tobacco capital in central Yunnan.

The US$ 6 billion railway, expected to open in December, has been hailed by China’s state media and state-owned companies as a “strategic docking project” between China’s belt and road infrastructure programme and Laos’ potential to transform from “a landlocked country into a land-linked country”.

Comprising 522km (324 miles) in Yunnan and 414km in Laos, the line will carry freight and passenger trains from Kunming in Yunnan, one of China’s fastest growing regions, to Vientiane, the once sleepy Laotian capital.