China-Laos Railway in full swing, ushering Laos into era of modern transportation amid BRI efforts

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Lane Xang EMU train crosses the Sino-Laos border inside a tunnel, Oct. 15, 2021. (Photo by Cao Anning / Xinhua)

The 1,035-kilometer China-Laos Railway, a flagship project of China’s proposed Belt and Road Initiative, officially entered service on Friday, catapulting the landlocked South Asian nation. Is in a modern Chinese-powered rail era that honors China’s promise to enable inclusive growth along BRI routes.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Laotian President Thongloun Sisoulith witnessed the opening of the railway via video link.

The opening of the China-Laos railway will fulfill Laos’ dream of becoming a land hub. China will ensure the maintenance and safety of the railway and build high-quality, durable and people-friendly economic belts along the route, President Xi told Thongloun via video link.

Xi stressed that China and Laos adhere to the leadership of the Communist Party and the socialist orientation, which is the essence of their bilateral relations. The two sides must jointly safeguard the political and institutional security of China and Laos.

Xi said serving the people is the common goal of both sides, and China-Laos relations should also emphasize the supremacy of the people to further benefit the people of both countries.

The first train of the China-Laos Railway left on Friday afternoon shortly after the cross-border railway officially entered into service. Among the cargo loaded onto the train were potash products made by a Sino-Laotian joint venture named Sino-Agri International Potash Company, according to the Xinhua news agency.

The thrill of boarding new high-speed trains in Laos, where the impression of railway dwellers had long been underestimated by a dilapidated 3.5-kilometer railway line connecting Laos’ capital Vientiane and the Laos’ border with Thailand, is seen as an effective way to silence unfounded Western criticism. on the benefits of the BRI, according to regional affairs observers and those involved in the dream come true project.

Facts about the China-Laos Railway.  Graphics: Feng Qingyin / GT

Facts about the China-Laos Railway. Graphics: Feng Qingyin / GT

New chapter in the history of Laos

The China-Laos Railway, the largest public project in Laos history, connects Kunming in southwest China’s Yunnan Province to the Laos capital Vientiane, including a 106-kilometer section of Kunming in Yuxi in Yunnan with an expected speed of 200 kilometers per hour, which had already been put into operation in December 2016.

The new 507 kilometer section connecting Yuxi and Mohan, a border town of Yunnan, with an expected speed of 160 kilometers per hour, joins another new 422 kilometer section from Mohan to Vientiane, also designed to travel 160 kilometers. per hour. China Railway said in a statement to the Global Times.

The Yuxi-Mohan section was built by China Railway Kunming Group, while the Mohan-Vientiane section, largely in Laos, was built by a China-Laos joint venture.

As the flagship project of the BRI as well as the China-Laos Friendship which fully adopts Chinese standards, the railway will provide strong support for the acceleration of the completion of the China-Laos Economic Corridor and the construction community of China-Laos destiny, read the statement from China Railway.

The China-Laos Railway is expected to directly boost freight connectivity, transforming Laos from a landlocked nation into a logistics hub in the Southeast Asia region, facilitating interconnection not only between China and the Laos, but also between Laos and ASEAN and between China and ASEAN, Gu Xiaosong, dean of the ASEAN Research Institute at Hainan Tropical Ocean University, told the Global Times.

The railroad will be a big boost to Laos’ economy, Gu said, expecting goods from Southeast Asia to be shipped to China via Yunnan before being shipped. exported to Europe via China-Europe freight trains so that there is greater connectivity between the two. continents.

Further investments are expected in Laos after the opening of the railway, as businesses will be encouraged, the expert said.

People pose for photos with the Lane Xang EMU train at the China-Laos Vientiane Railway Station in the Laotian capital Vientiane on October 16, 2021. Photo: Xinhua

People pose for photos with the Lane Xang EMU train at the China-Laos Vientiane Railway Station in the Laotian capital Vientiane on October 16, 2021. Photo: Xinhua

The operation of the China-Laos railway has raised hopes for better regional connectivity.

A source close to the development of the Thailand-China bullet train, which is currently under construction, told the Global Times on Friday that about 5% of the first leg of the railway was completed this week.

China’s national broadcaster CCTV announced in March that the 251-kilometer first stage connecting the Thai capital, Bangkok, and Nakhon Ratchasima, better known as Korat, in northeast Thailand, should be completed and open to circulation in 2026.

Work has started on eight submission segments totaling 140 kilometers, according to the source.

“Business leaders are optimistic that the railway will make Laos a transportation hub, including the route between Southeast Asia and Europe, given that the weather It will take to transport freight by rail will be reduced from three to just over 10 days, “according to Vientiane Times.

Prior to the availability of the new railway, many average people in Laos barely had the chance to take a train trip, with the 3.5-kilometer railway placing Laos fourth in a world ranking of 146. countries and regions for railways – according to media reports – falling short of local needs for modern rail technology.

Laos is an underdeveloped economy that relies mainly on agriculture, and the China-Laos Railway will be able to handle shipments of vegetables and fruits not only from Laos, but also from neighboring countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, to China, Li Jiye, director of the marketing and planning division of the freight transportation department of China Railway Kunming group, told the Global Times.

The railway connects Laos with “not only China, but the entire BRI network,” the World Bank said in a report in 2020. It is estimated that it will reduce transportation costs by around 30 to 50 percent. % according to the calculation method, and is expected to increase trade between China and Laos to 3.7 million tonnes by 2030 from 1.2 million tonnes in 2016, the World Bank said.

Architectural miracles in the China-Laos railway.  Graphics: Xu Zihe / GT

Architectural miracles in the China-Laos railway. Graphics: Xu Zihe / GT

BRI efforts speak louder than noise

The actual train experience is seen as an effective way to silence noises with ulterior motives that usually resort to unfounded “debt trap” claims and badly aim to smear the BIS, experts said.

Western countries do not understand the current mode of development of emerging countries, which is different from the way they developed, Xu Liping, director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, told the Global Times on Friday. at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.

Such hype was hardly a rarity in the Western media which has spared no effort for a long time to downplay the benefits of the BRI.

“Laos could be forced to repay the entire $ 3.5 billion debt of the joint venture to keep the line going if the company defaults and Chinese partners choose not to invest more money,” The Associate Press reported Thursday, citing a report for AidData, a research project at Virginia’s College of William & Mary.

This is equivalent to nearly a fifth of Laos’ economic output in 2020, according to the report.

“The enunciation of ‘debt trap’ is due to a misunderstanding on the part of Western countries. Meanwhile, the mode of operation of rail projects initiated by China is different from the ‘traditional’ Western mode,” said Xu.

China has opened industrial parks and supporting logistics parks along the rail lines, which will significantly improve the economic level of areas covered by the rail network, while western rail companies mainly earn money by selling tickets. to passengers, according to Xu.

“I don’t consider China trying to bankrupt Laos … it’s not a Trojan horse strategy. I think it will be a win-win situation,” the Bangkok Post reported on Friday, citing the Bangkok Bank Burin chief economist. Adulwattana who said the project could be an economical “game changer”.

Additionally, the China-Laos Railway has dutifully prepared for full operation in the face of the still raging COVID-19 pandemic, resounding alleviating fears that the virus situation in Laos will cast a cloud over it. land railroad operations.

Architectural miracles in the China-Laos railway.  Graphics: Xu Zihe / GT

Architectural miracles in the China-Laos railway. Graphics: Xu Zihe / GT

In terms of epidemic prevention and control, the China-Laos Railway will not guarantee any direct contact with personnel and will carry out strict disinfection and sterilization treatment on freight, according to Li of China Railway Kunming Group.

Chinese drivers and crew members will park the train in the designated area in Laos, then return to China with the locomotive, and Laos staff members will drive the train. There is no direct contact between the two sides, Li said.

“Besides the routine customs disinfection of cargoes and goods, the railway services also have corresponding advance measures and plans. We have the confidence to do a good job in preventing and controlling the epidemic,” said Li.

The fact that the railway was greeted with a thunderous welcome in Laos is also a convincing testament to the Lao people’s greed for the dream project.

“This ceremony marks a monumental and historic step in the development of modern infrastructure for Laos. It is a moment of pride for the Lao people to realize this dream,” Thongloun said, quoted by The Laotian Times.

Thongloun described the railway as a wonderful gift for the Lao people on the occasion of the Lao National Day which fell the day before.

For Vou Chanthaxay, 31, a local worker with the Yunnan Rubber Investment Company, the railroad has already made dramatic changes to himself and his hometown, according to Xinhua.

“On this special day, I vowed that I could one day travel by this railway to visit China with my family,” Vou said.

Architectural miracles in the China-Laos railway.  Graphics: Xu Zihe / GT

Architectural miracles in the China-Laos railway. Graphics: Xu Zihe / GT


Architectural miracles in the China-Laos railway.  Graphics: Xu Zihe / GT

Architectural miracles in the China-Laos railway. Graphics: Xu Zihe / GT


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