lørdag 20. februar 2021

If Laos fell into a Chinese debt trap, would it make a noise?

Cambodia’s close ties with China have often led to criticism that the Southeast Asian country is too dependent on, and even a client state of, the world’s second largest economy. However, its next-door neighbour Laos – despite enjoying billions of dollars of Chinese funding – has seldom been viewed in the same light. Why not?

Analysts says this is due to the more adroit way in which Laos has handled relations with China and its other neighbours, most notably Vietnam. Since overtaking Japan as Cambodia’s biggest aid donor in 2010, China’s influence in the country has grown steadily through an influx of investment, workers and tourists. It now supplies about 40 per cent of Cambodia’s foreign direct investment Yet, Laos, which in recent years has also increasingly fallen under China’sorbit, has not faced the same amount of scrutiny as Cambodia. Nor has it been accused of “cozying” up to China.

The landlocked country has become more reliant on China in recent years, especially for financing the development of its infrastructure. Experts warn this could leave it beholden to Beijing, which has been accused of using its infrastructure financing elsewhere in the world as a form of “debt-trap” diplomacy.