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China-Laos Railway opens path to prosperity

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-12-05 10:41
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Photo taken on Dec 4, 2021 shows an international freight train bound for Laos running near the China-Laos border. [Photo/Xinhua]

The China-Laos Railway, which starts operations on Friday, is another example of the friendly cooperation between China and other countries under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and is bound to become a path to prosperity, facilitating communication and exchanges between the two countries.

The 1,035-km cross-border railway links southwest China's Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province, with the Laotian capital of Vientiane, cutting the travel time between the two cities to about 10 hours.

Moreover, it turns the landlocked Southeast Asian country into a land-linked hub, opens it up to greater economic opportunities, and greatly boosts its connectivity with other parts of the region.

As two friendly neighbors, China and Laos have maintained mutual understanding and enjoyed sincere exchanges since the two sides established diplomatic relationship 60 years ago.

Honoring the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, China has been expanding the scope of cooperation with Laos under the BRI over the years.

In 2017, the two countries inked several documents on cooperation projects such as infrastructure development and the construction of China-Laos Economic Corridor. The railway has thus become a signature project of the two countries' joint efforts in building the Belt and Road.

Souphanh Keomixay, former Laotian minister of planning and investment, praised the BRI and the China-Laos Railway for providing new ideas and opportunities for Laos' development.

This is certainly true for Laos. Before the construction of the China-Laos Railway, Laos has only a 3.5-km railroad to Thailand.

A 2020 World Bank report has projected that, with the completion of the railway, a total of 3.7 million tonnes of freight between China and Laos could be transported on trains by 2030, as against the land-based bilateral trade volume of 1.2 million tonnes registered in 2016.

Along with the broader BRI network, the railway can also potentially expand land-based trade between China and ASEAN significantly, according to the report.

It also noted that the railway has the potential to increase Laos' aggregate income by up to 21 percent in the long term.

"The Lao people are proud of and excited by the railway," said Daovone Phachanthavong, the vice executive president of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The railway promises bright prospects for Laos. When the railway comes into full service, it will drastically cut the cost of transportation in the country, boost trade and investment, and attract more visitors. The price of imported goods is expected to fall as a result.

Finishing the construction phase of a project is never the end of the story. As Chinese ambassador to Laos Jiang Zaidong has said, both China and Laos will "continue to bring more visible and tangible benefits to the people, to demonstrate the spirit of the China-Laos community with a shared future, with practical activities" in the follow-up operation and development of the railway.

As for the environmental impact of the railways' construction, the engineers have ensured that it is kept to the minimum by improving construction methods. After construction of every section, revegetation follows, and the construction team never spare any effort to return the trackside to its original condition.

Through cooperation projects like the China-Laos Railway, China demonstrates to the world that it honors its commitment to building the Belt and Road of high quality amid its pursuit of building a community with a shared future for humanity.

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