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My view on Laos-China diplomatic relations

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of China-Laos diplomatic relations. Laos and China established diplomatic relations on April 25, 1961. Over the past six decades, the friendship between the two countries has become stronger, especially with regard to economics, trade and investment. This is related to the fact that Laos and China have similar political systems as well as cultural similarity. And I am one of the testimonies of the strong diplomatic relations between my country Laos and China.
As part of diplomatic relations between Laos and China, China provides scholarship opportunities to Lao students. I am one of the students who had the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree in China. I went to China in 2017 to study for a master’s degree in International Trade. During my studies, I came to realise that the diplomatic relations and cooperation between my country and China are very strong. As such, I was inspired to do my master’s thesis on the economic interaction between Laos and China.

Chinese medical experts bring supplies to help Laos combat the spread of COVID-19, March 29, 2020.

According to my master’s research project, China ranks first in foreign direct investment in Laos and had more than 700 projects with a total value of US$11.451 billion between the years 2005 to 2018. In addition, in the last 10 years trade volume between Laos and China rose from US$237 million in 2005 to over US$2.7 billion in 2018. Currently, China is Laos’ second largest trade partner. This has contributed tremendously to the socio-economic development of Laos.
Over the past six decades, China has had many opportunities to invest in Laos, especially in infrastructure, which my country needs most. Thanks to Chinse investors, infrastructure in Laos has changed a lot, especially with regard to roads, schools and hospitals. The Laos-China railway, which runs for 417km from the Chinese border in Boten, Luang Namtha province, in northern Laos, to Vientiane, is considered a historic symbol of the two countries’ diplomatic relations.
This railway will turn Laos from a land-locked to a land-linked nation and increase trade between the two countries. The project not only offers huge opportunities for trade and investment, it will also bring the people of the two countries closer by reducing the cost of transport. I am so happy to see my country with a new face as it changes from being land-locked to land-linked. Once the railway is operational, I am quite sure that Lao people will have more job opportunities. In addition, it will boost Laos’ tourism industry, especially with regard to the number of tourists coming from China. In 2018, more than 800,000 tourists came from China, an increase of 26 percent compared to 2017.
China is not only the largest investor and trading partner in Laos but is also the largest aid donor to Laos. China sets a good example in its fight against poverty. In less than 50 years it was able to raise its population out of poverty. This success story in poverty alleviation not only brought a better life to the Chinese people, but also brings tangible hope to the people of developing countries. Against this backdrop, China launched a China-aided rural poverty reduction project in Laos, which aims to provide electricity, water supply systems and medical and health centres, and install digital televisions for about 400 families across the country. This is one of the examples of the strong Laos-China diplomatic relations. I believe that this type of cooperation will definitely make greater contributions to Laos in the fight against poverty that will help Laos to graduate from Least Developed Country status by 2026. Hence, I am very grateful that Lao people in remote areas will soon have access to electricity and water.
Furthermore, China recently sent COVID-19 vaccines to Laos to help protect Lao people from the virus. Now, Lao people have the chance to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and I am very grateful to China for sharing its vaccines with my country, which really touched me deeply. China was the first country to donate COVID-19 vaccines to Laos and earlier sent medical experts, along with medical materials, to help in the fight against COVID-19. Recently, I also heard that China has been providing vaccine assistance to many other countries, which is a truly noble deed.
My life as a student in China in general and at Shanghai University in particular has been very rewarding. China is a safe country with a welcoming environment, which made me feel that China was my second homeland. During my master’s studies I learnt a lot from my professors and classmates. My study life has not only been about academic excellence; there has been more to that equation. The opportunities I have had to interact with the Chinese people, in and outside school, have broadened my understanding of the Chinese people and their culture. More so, I have improved my Mandarin language. Whenever I meet Chinese people, they are always friendly and humble. 
To sum up my thoughts, I am greatly influenced by my recent experience of studying in China. More importantly, I now have a better understanding of China, which has helped me to realise that I want to pursue a doctorate degree there. I believe that doing a PhD in China will give me more knowledge and skills in the field of economics and trade which I am keen to use to promote trade and cooperation between my country Laos and China.


 

By Phetsamone Phommouny
(Latest Update April 21, 2021)


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