President Xi Jinping’s state visit enhances Laos-China relations

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) warmly welcomes the state visit this week by the President of the Republic of China, Xi Jinping, and his delegation.

The Lao People’s Revolutionary Party and the Lao government and people feel honour, pride and delight in welcoming President Xi after he selected Laos as part of his first overseas trip following his recent reelection as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.

President Xi made his first stop in Vietnam where he attended the 25th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Da Nang and then paid a state visit there.

The Chinese leader arrives in Vientiane today for a two-day state visit at the invitation of his Lao counterpart Bounnhang Vorachit.

General Secretary Xi’s first overseas trip marks the opening of a new chapter of neighbourhood diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in the new era.

The Lao PDR has always highly valued its relationship with China and Lao leaders hail President Xi’s visit as a significant milestone in the history of Laos-China relations and cooperation.

Laos’ inclusion in President Xi’s first overseas trip reflects the fact that China places great importance on its relations with Laos, the Chinese Ambassador to Laos Wang Wentian said.

“The visit reflects the fact that the top leaders in the Party and state of the People’s Republic of China have attached great importance to enhancing relations and the comprehensive cooperative strategic partnership between Laos and China,” he told Lao and Chinese media at a press conference in Vientiane last week.

“General Secretary Xi Jinping’s visit to Laos fully reflects the fact that the People’s Republic of China is pleased to continue to support the Party and government of Laos.”

Over the more than five decades since the two neighbours established diplomatic ties on April 25, 1961, Laos and China have enjoyed growing relations and cooperation.

The two countries witnessed significant momentum in the development of bilateral ties in 2009 when their leaders agreed to elevate bilateral ties to a comprehensive cooperative strategic partnership.

The leaders of both countries agree that the China-Laos relationship is at its strongest point in history and acknowledge the two countries as being good neighbours, good friends, good comrades and good partners.

“Laos and China share a similar ideology and destiny. Both sides have enjoyed good cooperation in all areas,” Lao Minister of Foreign Affairs Saleumxay Kommasith told Lao and Chinese media in a press conference last week.

Politically, leaders and delegations from the two countries have maintained regular contact and exchanges of visits.

Thus, mutual trust and understanding between the leaders of the parties and states as well as the peoples of the two countries has been progressively enhanced.

Economically, both sides have witnessed an enormous increase in cooperation, and China is now Laos’ largest foreign investor.

Chinese companies have invested in almost 800 projects with a value of about US$10 billion across 14 main sectors including mining, hydropower, agriculture, and services.

Two-way trade reached US$2.34 billion in 2016, experiencing a remarkable rate of growth. Over the first six months of this year, the value of two-way trade climbed to US$1.5 billion, an increase of more than 20 percent compared to the same period last year.

Last year, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Laos increased to 700,000 people.

China is among the top providers of scholarships to Lao students and officials to help develop Laos’ human resources.

During President Xi’s visit to Laos, the first state visit by a top Chinese leader since 2006, the Chinese leader will meet with President Bounnhang Vorachit, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and President of the National Assembly Pany Yathotou, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.

The leaders of both sides will outline a strategic plan to develop bilateral relations between Laos and China in the new era, according to Ambassador Wang.

The leaders will define a future cooperation roadmap to further enhance the comprehensive cooperative strategic partnership between the two neighbours.

During President Xi’s visit, Laos and China are expected to sign 17 deals to deepen cooperation in various fields.

Although Laos and China have enjoyed good cooperation in all fields, there is untapped potential to broaden their economic cooperation.

As Laos, a small, landlocked but resource-rich country, is striving to modernise its industry and economy, China – the world’s second largest economy - has technologies and experiences in this regard that match Laos’ needs.

The leaders of both countries have already signed a number of cooperation agreements as well as the 17 documents expected to be signed in Vientiane this week.

But many of them have not yet been fully realised, which requires the relevant sectors of both sides to work together to implement the agreements in order to maximise mutual benefits.

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