fredag 3. desember 2021

Giant China, tiny Laos link up with launch of high-speed train

A Lao Buddhist monk splashed holy water to bless a high-speed train that a Chinese diplomat called the “railway dream of the Lao people” on Thursday, the soft opening of a long-awaited $6 billion railway connecting the two Asian neighbors. After five years of blasting 75 tunnels and building 77 bridges through the mountainous jungle terrain of northern Laos, the China-Laos Railway will start plying the 414-km (260-mile) route between the Lao capital of Vientiane and Kunming in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan on Saturday.

A centerpiece of China’s Belt and Road Initiative of state-led lending for infrastructure projects to tie countries across Asia to China, the railway offers land-locked Laos the promise of closer integration with the world’s second largest economy, but also the peril of deeper indebtedness to Beijing, analysts say. The China-Laos Railway “carries the railway dream of the Lao people,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin.

“The railway is a milestone and joyous event in the bilateral relationship,” he told a news conference Thursday.

Thursday’s soft opening of the railway was timed for the 46thanniversary of the Communist revolution in Laos and the 60thanniversary of China-Laos diplomatic ties. Friday’s formal ceremony will feature video speeches by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Lao counterpart, Thongloun Sisoulith.