Laos

Passengers arriving at Mohan Station, in Yunnan province, which is the end of the Chinese section of the Laos-China Railway. (SPH Media)

Riding the China-Laos Railway: Landlocked Laos gets connected to China and beyond

As the China-Laos Railway (CLR) celebrates its second anniversary on 3 December, academic Chen Xiangming and postgraduate student Shaun Hoang offer a fresh account of the transformative consequences of the China-built railway. They ask: what happens when a small and landlocked country with hardly any railway history launches a new passenger-freight railway as its transformative transport artery?
Indonesian President Joko Widodo passes ASEAN's hammer to Laotian Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone, during the closing ceremony of the 43rd ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 7 September 2023. (Willy Kurniawan/Reuters)

Is Laos able to make a difference in the Myanmar crisis?

ISEAS academic Joanne Lin looks at the crisis in Myanmar and recommends possible strategies for Laos to move the needle on the issue, ahead of its ASEAN chairmanship next year. Namely, Laos can make use of its strong relations with China and Russia to encourage them to work and coordinate closely with ASEAN.
A man rides a cart past chinese shops and restaurants in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 15 September 2023. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

Chinese in the crosshairs of ‘mushrooming’ transnational cybercrime

Cybercrime scams and the related kidnappings have exploded since 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn fuelled the number of such crimes, including fake online romantic ploys, bogus investment pitches and illegal gambling schemes. Scam centres were concentrated in Cambodia, but have now been found in Laos and Myanmar, and at least four other Asian countries have become human trafficking hubs.
A screen grab from a video featuring an aerial view of the China-Thailand railway, October 2022. (Internet)

Long-delayed Thailand-China high-speed train: A political game on two tracks

The beleaguered construction and murky progress of the proposed Bangkok-Nong Khai high-speed railway are emblematic of deeper problems underlying Thailand’s and China’s infrastructural ambitions.
Local residents ride past pro-Taiwan independence flags in Taipei, Taiwan, on 6 August 2022. (Sam Yeh/AFP)

The 'one China' policy of Southeast Asian countries

Academic Ngeow Chow Bing takes stock of the "one China" policy of Southeast Asian countries, noting changes in interpretations over the years and their subtle differences from China's "one China" principle and the US's "one China" policy. He warns that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has exacerbated cross-strait tensions and could further limit Taiwan's international space in Southeast Asia.
This photo taken on 4 December 2021 shows the China-Laos Railway international freight train departing from Chongqing International Logistics Hub Park. (CNS)

The China-Laos railway: How Laos can make the most of its hefty investment

The China-Laos railway linking China’s Yunnan province to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, was officially opened in December 2021. This mega project under China’s Belt and Road Initiative is expected to improve connectivity and stimulate the economy but Laos has incurred hefty external debt to achieve this, says EAI academic Yu Hong. The railway alone is also just the hardware; the Laotians will have to do more to make the best of its investment.
This photo on 26 November 2021 shows journalists gathered at a train station in Kunming to join a preview ride on the China-Laos railway, which is set to start operating in early December 2021. (CNS)

Laos hopes for economic boost with the opening of Laos-China Railway

ISEAS academic Nick Freeman says that Laos’ first major railway, inaugurated on 3 December 2021, will create a new link with the Chinese market and has the potential to be a game changer for the Lao economy. This comes at a good time, as Laos seeks post-pandemic recovery in 2022. But the opening of the railway alone does not guarantee such a prospect. While the railway might boost industries such as tourism and exports, leading to a shift away from traditional sectors such as power generation and mineral mining, Laos needs to develop economic "muscle tissue" to ensure that the potential of the railway is translated into tangible results through investing in both hard and soft infrastructure.
A view of part of the Laos-China Railway under construction in Vientiane, Laos, 5 July 2021. (CNS)

BRI projects in Cambodia and Laos roll on despite Covid-19

The pandemic has affected BRI projects, but China has swiftly taken measures to keep BRI projects going by ensuring financial flow and supply of materials, so that key BRI projects in Cambodia and Laos are not much affected. Through the BRI, China’s economic presence and influence in Southeast Asia will continue to rise, while Cambodia and Laos will continue to rely more on China for their economic development.
Workers load boxes with Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac on a truck, the first shipment vaccines against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) to arrive in the country, at Villamor Air Base in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines, 28 February 2021. (Eloisa Lopez/Reuters)

Covid-19 pandemic and China's rising soft power in mainland Southeast Asia

The Covid-19 pandemic provides a window of opportunity for China to exert its international leadership and influence. It has managed to turn the crisis into a diplomatic and strategic opportunity in mainland Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Public health diplomacy has become one of the key sources of China’s soft power projection, enhancing China’s image and influence. Cambodia and Laos have been most receptive to China’s public health diplomacy, including its vaccine diplomacy, while Thailand and Myanmar also have welcomed Chinese assistance. But Vietnam has been reluctant to endorse China’s Covid-19 assistance, including receiving Chinese vaccines.