A road of prosperity – China-Laos Railway promotes common development

Traversing mountainous terrains and traversing lowlands, trains are facilitating an increasing quantity of cargo and individuals on the China-Laos Railway, an efficient mode of transportation in terms of both cost and time.

Since its inception in December 2021, the 1,035 km railway connecting the Lao capital Vientiane with Kunming, the capital of southwest China’s Yunnan Province, has yielded benefits that extend beyond the local sphere.

The railway project has facilitated the connection between the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) proposed by China and Laos’ efforts to transform itself from a landlocked nation into a land-linked hub in the Indo-China Peninsula. This railway has successfully transported 19 million passengers and 24 million tonnes of freight, spanning more than 10 countries and regions. The mutual benefits derived from this project extend beyond the two countries involved.

The economic development of Laos, the sole landlocked nation in Southeast Asia, has historically been constrained by the presence of a railroad to Thailand spanning a mere distance of 3.5 kilometers.

According to observers, the China-Laos Railway has had a transformative impact on the country, as it has enhanced economic prospects, improved regional connections, and facilitated economic and trade collaboration.

Yang Shixian’s company, located in the province of Luang Prabang in northern Laos, has transitioned from utilizing road transport to the railway system, resulting in a reduction in freight expenses.

Following the implementation of the railway system, the company has opted to utilize this mode of transportation for all its shipments to China, encompassing around 3,000 tonnes of rubber products on a monthly basis. According to Yang, this practice assists in reducing expenses and facilitates the provision of increased remuneration to our workforce.

The railway system has also significantly accelerated growth in the tourism industry.

The revival of tourism in Laos has been facilitated by the introduction of the China-Laos Railway cross-border passenger train service in April of this year. This development aligns with the Lao government’s current focus on revitalizing the economy, with tourism being a key area of emphasis.

According to data provided by the Tourism Marketing Department of the Lao Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism, the country had a significant increase in the number of foreign tourists during the initial six months of the year. Specifically, the figure rose from a mere 42,197 visitors in the corresponding period of the previous year to over 1.6 million individuals in the current year.

According to the estimates provided by the Lao government, it is projected that approximately 368,000 tourists from China will visit Laos in the year 2023, reflecting a notable increase of 21 percent compared to the previous year.

According to Manila Sombandith, the consul general of Laos in Kunming, the establishment of the railway signifies a significant achievement in fostering bilateral goodwill between the two nations during a period of transition.

For several individuals, such as Silivong Phouthachack, an educator from Laos, the railway system holds a significance that extends beyond its tangible role as a means of transportation and connection. This initiative aims to enhance interpersonal connections among individuals.

Silivong, along with 39 other individuals, recently completed an 18-month educational program at Kunming Railway Vocational and Technical College. The program focused on equipping participants with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively instruct on railway-related technological subjects. The individuals in question will assume the role of inaugural educators at the newly established railway vocational and technical college in Laos, a project that has received assistance from China in its construction.

Silivong expressed his intention to disseminate the knowledge he acquires during his sojourn in China upon his return.

According to Ma Yong, the director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, the China-Laos Railway has transformed the previously established “hard link” connecting China and Laos into a more profound “heart link” that fosters a stronger bond between the two nations.

Pannaros Boonserm, a 33-year-old Thai individual, expressed admiration for the transformative impact of the China-Laos Railway on the lives of the Laotian population. In her capacity as a translator employed at the China-Thailand railway construction project, she expressed a strong desire for the expeditious completion and commencement of operations of the China-Thailand railway.

After completing a period of study at Nankai University in Tianjin Municipality, located in northern China, Pannaros had the opportunity to explore several regions within China. During this time, Pannaros observed firsthand the positive impact that the implementation of high-speed railways has had on the quality of life for local citizens.

I am anticipating the establishment of connectivity through the China-Laos-Thailand railway. According to her statement, she mentioned the possibility of embarking on a train journey originating from Bangkok and extending all the way northwards to Kunming, located in Yunnan Province, China.

Upon the completion of the China-Thailand Railway, it is anticipated that train services will be extended from Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, to Nong Khai, a border town located in the northeastern region of the nation. This railway connection will facilitate the integration of the China-Laos Railway, as a bridge that will link the southern terminus of the China-Laos Railway with Nong Khai.

According to analysts, the establishment of this connection is expected to have a dual impact: revitalizing the economy along the line and enhancing the trans-Asian railway network, so fostering regional connectivity.

According to Wirun Phichaiwongphakdee, the director of the Thailand-China Research Center of the Belt and Road Initiative, the establishment of an arterial pathway traversing the Indo-China Peninsula will have the potential to enhance economic growth, trade activities, and investment opportunities. This development will be further amplified by its integration into the China-Europe freight train network and through strengthened collaboration under the Belt and Road Initiative. Wirun Phichaiwongphakdee, who has conducted extensive research on the China-Laos Railway and has visited Laos on multiple occasions, asserts that this connectivity will contribute to the advancement of shared prosperity.

Leave a Comment