FEATURE: Working together for a community with a shared future and strategic significance
VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - China and Laos are friendly socialist neighbours with shared ideals, the same social systems and similar paths of development
Over the past half a century since the establishment of diplomatic ties, the relations between the two parties and the two countries have withstood the test of time and the changing global environment, leaving behind many touching stories. Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Kaysone Phomvihane, and other leaders of the older generation forged among them a deep friendship based on a genuine meeting of minds, and laid down a solid foundation for lasting friendship between the two countries. The descendants of Quinim Pholsena studied for ten years in China. They spent their youth in China, and became witnesses, supporters and members of new advocates for China-Laos traditional friendship. In the 1960s and 1970s, Chinese soldiers and civilians actively supported the national independence and liberation movement of Laos. Over 200 of them laid down their lives on this land, forging an indelible monument of China-Laos friendship with their flesh and blood.
In recent years, China-Laos friendship has been further cemented and is showing fresh vitality. The comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries has been expanding. Frequent high-level contacts and deepening inter-party exchanges have solidified our political mutual trust. The Chinese people believe that friends are those who follow the same cause and are inspired by the same vision. This is a vivid characterisation of the China-Laos relationship. As good neighbours, good friends, good comrades and good partners with the same vision, China and Laos have always treated each other as equals and supported each other in exploring innovation in socialist theories and practice, in fully advancing economic, political, cultural and social development, and in accelerating modernisation. The China-Laos relationship sets an example of good neighbourliness and all-round cooperation between China and its neighbours.
China and Laos have worked expeditiously to align their development strategies.
Thanks to our similar visions for development, there is a high degree of complementarity between China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the strategy of Laos to transform itself from a landlocked to a land-linked country, and between China’s 13th Five-Year Plan and the 8th Five-Year National Socio-economic Development Plan of Laos. Last year, all-round construction started on the China-Laos railway, a flagship project of our practical cooperation. The transportation artillery that will drive the development of Laos is a dream coming true. Good progress was made in the Mohan-Boten Economic Cooperation Zone and the Saysettha Development Zone, which have already seen a number of companies and institutions move in. This will help Laos upgrade its industries, attract FDI, create jobs and boost the growth of its SMEs.
China-Laos practical cooperation has entered a period of fast development.
China has become the largest investor and second largest trading partner of Laos. Bilateral trade reached US$2.1 billion in the first nine months of this year, up by 25.1 percent. China’s total direct investment in Laos exceeded US$6.1 billion, facilitating the development of hydroelectricity, mining, services, trade and other sectors of the local economy. China has been actively involved in delivering a number of assistance projects relating to people’s livelihoods, including hospitals, roads and schools, contributing to higher living standards and more convenience for the Lao people. The Nam Lik hydropower station undertaken by Chinese companies is operating well, and playing an important role in the economic and social development of Laos. Exports from Laos to China also expanded, and Lao agricultural products including rice, coffee, bananas and watermelons are increasingly popular among Chinese consumers.
China-Laos people-to-people and cultural exchanges have become more dynamic.
400,000 Chinese tourists travelled to Laos in the first half of the year. More and more people from Laos are travelling to China for business or as tourists. The number of Lao nationals studying in China under Chinese government scholarship tops all Asean countries. Chinese medical services initiatives including the Peace Train and Mekong Bright Action were widely acclaimed by the Lao people. Nearly 100 young volunteers from Shanghai went to Laos to teach Internet technology and sports, and one of them became the head coach of the Lao national men’s basketball team. The Story of Times, a documentary co-produced by China and Laos, was viewed several million times on the Internet, and deeply touched the hearts of our two peoples. The pop music video “Yi Dai Yi Lu” (Belt and Road), written and performed by a Lao musician, went viral on the Internet in China and received a huge number of likes and comments.
China and Laos are friends and comrades who have a shared mission in advancing the great cause of building socialism with our respective characteristics. Last month, the Communist Party of China successfully convened its 19th National Congress and set forth general principles and guidelines for the future development of the Party and the country. The Party Congress laid out the blueprint for China’s development all through to the middle of the century: we will complete the building of a moderately prosperous society by 2020, basically realise socialist modernisation by 2035, and build China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful by the middle of this century. We have the ability and confidence to rally the Chinese people toward the realisation of the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.
Under the leadership of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, Laos enjoys social harmony and economic prosperity. It is making fast progress and steadily advancing comprehensive reforms in line with the goals set at the 10th Congress of the Party. Like the Lancang-Mekong River that runs through our two countries, the common mission and ideals that bind us together have forged a common destiny for us.
We need to strengthen strategic communication and build a community of shared future based on mutual respect and mutual trust.
The two sides should take forward our traditional friendship, keep bilateral relations on the right track, and deepen political mutual trust. We should learn from each other’s experience, including theories and practices of reform and socialist construction, and increase exchanges between our political parties, governments, legislatures, and provinces/cities to broaden and deepen our comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership. We should continue to support each other on issues involving each other’s core interests and major concerns, and make foreign policy decisions based on the merits of matters to jointly uphold the rights and interests of developing countries.
We need to enhance the complementarity of our development strategies and build a community of shared future through mutual assistance.
China supports Laos in leveraging its geographical position to achieve green and sustainable development. As an important part of the Trans-Asian Railway network, the China-Laos railway is of major strategic and practical importance to Laos. The two sides should increase coordination and work for early completion and operation of the project to connect Laos with its neighbours and the world. We must advance construction and operation of major projects, such as economic cooperation zones, satellite, and hydropower stations to bring more benefits to the Lao people as soon as possible.
We need to expand practical cooperation and build a community of shared future for mutual benefit.
China and Laos are close neighbours with economic complementarity. Laos enjoys good natural endowments and fast economic development. The country is at a crucial stage of industrialisation and modernisation. China has rich experience and strength in capital, technology and equipment. The two sides should tap cooperation potential and explore new ways of cooperation. We could expand practical cooperation in electricity connectivity, finance and energy, promote the development of Lao infrastructure for agriculture, water conservancy, transport and telecommunications, and bring real benefits to the two peoples.
We need to increase people-to-people exchanges and build a community of shared future featuring mutual learning. We should strengthen exchanges and cooperation in the fields of culture, science and technology and youth and subnational interactions to take China-Laos friendship from generation to generation. We welcome more Lao people to China to study, tour or work and to serve as envoys for the traditional friendship between our two countries. China will support Laos in hosting the 2018 Tourism Year, encourage more Chinese tourists to visit Laos and experience the unique charm of Lao history and culture.
China and Laos are important members of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) framework. The LMC has achieved fruitful results since its inception in 2016. It has demonstrated a Lancang-Mekong speed and efficiency, and fostered a Lancang-Mekong culture of equality, sincerity, mutual assistance and affinity. Laos will be the LMC Co-Chair next year. China will work with Laos to facilitate more cooperation outcomes, implement the early-harvest projects proposed by Laos, promote sub-regional development, and bring more benefits to countries and peoples in the region.
As a Lao saying goes, one piece of firewood does not make high flames, and a single stick of wood does not make a fence. The Chinese believe that people, if united, are as strong as a fortress, and flames go high if everyone adds wood. I am convinced that as long as our two countries trust each other and work together, we will create an even better future for our bilateral relations.