China Report ASEAN: Top 10 News Stories on 2023 Lancang-Mekong Cooperation

BEIJING, Feb. 5, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Linked by mountains and rivers, China and the five other Lancang-Mekong countries share cultural similarities and are as close as a big family. The year 2023 marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the 10th anniversary of the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, and the 10th anniversary of the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit, and inclusiveness in pursuing neighborhood diplomacy. The six Lancang-Mekong countries have jointly initiated and advanced the important undertaking of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC). As momentous changes of a like not seen in a century continue to unfold across the world, the six countries have deepened their unity and collaboration, and joined hands on the path towards modernization, infusing renewed vigor into the subregion’s prosperity and development. The six countries have collaborated in building a community of shared future of peace and prosperity in the subregion. They have worked hand in hand to create a demonstration zone for high-quality cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, a pioneering zone for the Global Development Initiative, an experimental zone for the Global Security Initiative, and a leading zone for the Global Civilization Initiative.

In a collaborative effort, China International Communications Group, Yunnan International Communication Center for South and Southeast Asia and other organizations have picked out the Top 10 News Stories on 2023 Lancang-Mekong Cooperation. This selection aims to highlight the fruitful outcomes of China’s involvement in Lancang-Mekong Cooperation and the strong, familial bonds that exist among the six countries.

Head-of-state diplomacy leads progress in building a community of shared future among Lancang-Mekong countries

In 2023, significant advancements were made in building a community of shared future of peace and prosperity among Lancang-Mekong countries, opening a brand-new chapter for the prosperity and development of the subregion.

The year 2023 marked the 15th anniversary of the ChinaVietnam comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership. The year 2023 marked the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Cambodia.

In October, the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation took place in Beijing, with the attendance of dignitaries from the Mekong countries. President Thongloun Sisoulith of Laos, President Vo Van Thuong of Vietnam, Prime Minister Hun Manet of Cambodia, and Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin of Thailand participated in the forum and praised the Belt and Road Initiative for its positive impact on the subregion’s development.

The head-of-state diplomacy injected valuable certainty and stability for the LMC sub-regional development, laying the foundation for a brighter future of the community of shared future among Lancang-Mekong countries.

Frequent high-level contacts among the six countries promote mutual trust and increase interaction, propelling collaboration across various areas

In 2023, the six Lancang-Mekong countries further strengthened their good-neighborly relations and pragmatic cooperation, marked by frequent high-level exchanges between their governments. In this process, all parties prioritized development, fostering friendship and mutual trust, and advancing orderly cooperation across various domains.

On December 25, Chinese Premier Li Qiang participated in the fourth Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting through a video link and co-chaired the event alongside Senior General Min Aung Hlaing of Myanmar. The meeting was also attended by Prime Minister Hun Manet of Cambodia, Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone of Laos, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin of Thailand, and Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh of Vietnam.

Li Qiang put forward a four-point proposal on strengthening Lancang-Mekong cooperation, including deepening integrated development, promoting green cooperation, strengthening security governance, and increasing people-to-people exchanges.

The attending leaders spoke highly of the significant achievements of Lancang-Mekong cooperation, recognizing it as a vital platform for improving the well-being of the region’s people, maintaining regional peace and development, and promoting regional economic integration. They reached a consensus on the importance of the six countries working together to address common opportunities and challenges, as well as collaboratively devising future plans for the advancement of Lancang-Mekong cooperation.

The meeting adopted the “Naypyidaw Declaration of the Fourth Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting,” the “Five-Year Plan of Action on Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (2023-2027),” and the “Joint Initiative on the Building of an Innovation Corridor in the Lancang-Mekong Region.”

On June 26, Chinese Premier Li Qiang held a friendly talk with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh during the latter’s official visit to China. They also witnessed the signing of a number of bilateral cooperation documents.

The frequent high-level exchanges among the governments of the six countries have further strengthened the foundation of Lancang-Mekong cooperation. Zhao Leji, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Chinese National People’s Congress, held meetings with Do Van Chien, Secretary of the CPV Central Committee and President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF) Central Committee, as well as with Saysomphone Phomvihane, President of the National Assembly of Laos, and other dignitaries in Beijing. Similarly, Wang Huning, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), met with Pham Minh Chinh, a member of the Politburo of the CPV Central Committee and Prime Minister of Vietnam, alongside other prominent figures in Beijing.

On December 7, 2023, the eighth Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Foreign Ministers’ Meeting took place in Beijing. Chinese Foreign Minister, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, acknowledged the significant strides made in Lancang-Mekong cooperation, emphasizing its rapid development and extensive benefits. The continued expansion in the scope and depth of Lancang-Mekong cooperation has injected fresh vitality into the subregion’s prosperity and development, resulting in tangible advantages for the local population. During the meeting, participants reviewed the progress achieved in Lancang-Mekong cooperation, outlined key priorities for the next phase, and made preparations for the upcoming fourth Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting. Relevant documents, including the Report on the Progress of the 2022 Five-Year Plan of Action on Lancang-Mekong Cooperation and the 2023 List of Projects Funded by the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Special Fund, were shared during the gathering.

Significant progress in LMC development belt fosters sound momentum for economic recovery

In light of the challenging global economic conditions, including a sluggish world economy and high global inflation, the six Lancang-Mekong countries have collaborated closely since 2023 to pursue common aspirations of development and prosperity. They have prioritized regional connectivity, aiming to expand the scope for development, facilitate efficient exchanges of passengers, logistics, and information, and foster higher-quality cooperation in the region.

As of December 2, 2023, the China-Laos Railway has been in operation for two years, transporting more than 24.2 million passengers and 29.1 million tons of cargo. Serving as a vital thoroughfare, the railway has revitalized regional economic and social development.

Regional connectivity has yielded remarkable outcomes, fostering accelerated regional development and cooperation. As of April 2023, the China-Laos Railway commenced operating international passenger trains in both directions, linking Kunming and Vientiane. In October, the inauguration of the Siem Reap Angkor International Airport, Cambodia further bolstered seamless connectivity, promoting closer ties within the region.

As of December 10, 2023, the meter-gauge railway between China’s Kaiyuan and Vietnam’s Haiphong has witnessed the operation of over 4,260 China-Central Asia Railway Express trains. These trains have transported a cumulative total of over 1.68 million tons of cross-border cargo. The inaugural rail-water intermodal train left Guangxi for Yunnan, fully loaded with alumina that had been transferred from Dong Nai, Vietnam. The Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway in Cambodia has operated smoothly. The first all-rail express freight train connecting China, Laos, and Thailand departed from Chengdu International Railway Station, signaling greater connectivity and increased trade opportunities.

Exhibitions and matchmaking meetings have emerged as significant platforms for fostering regional win-win cooperation. At the 6th China International Import Expo, products from Mekong countries garnered substantial attention and popularity among the audience. The Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Economic and Technological Exhibition took place in Vietnam. The 4th Myanmar (Lashio)-China (Lincang) Border Economic and Trade Fair and the Myanmar (Naypyidaw)-China (Lincang) Economic and Trade Fair commenced in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. These events have created new opportunities for all participating parties.

More secure environment for development advances experimental zone for the Global Security Initiative

The six Lancang-Mekong countries share a common aspiration to establish a secure environment conducive to development. Recognizing the evolving security landscape both globally and within the subregion, these countries have come together to practice the Global Security Initiative. Through cooperative efforts, they are actively exploring new approaches to security governance, thereby ensuring the robust maintenance of regional security and stability.

In 2023, China and the five Mekong countries collaborated effectively to address non-traditional security issues, including online gambling and telecommunications fraud. Notably, China and Myanmar achieved substantial advancements through their joint operations against telecommunications fraud. Law enforcement departments in northern Myanmar handed over a total of 41,000 suspects involved in telecommunications fraud to China. In December 2023, the Nay Pyi Taw Declaration of the Fourth Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting emphasized the need to further strengthen pragmatic cooperation in law enforcement and safeguard social stability and people’s lives and property safety in the subregion.

Notable events like the second Forum on Security Cooperation in the Lancang-Mekong Basin and the Lancang-Mekong Seminar on Non-Traditional Security Cooperation have been successfully organized. These events have played a crucial role in creating a favorable environment for Lancang-Mekong cooperation and have contributed positively to the collaborative efforts of establishing an experimental zone for the Global Security Initiative.

As of December 2023, China, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand have executed 136 joint patrol and law enforcement operations on the Mekong River, which have contributed to ensuring international navigation safety in the region. Furthermore, China and Laos fishery authorities collaborated on a series of joint law enforcement and fishery resources restocking efforts. These collective endeavors signify the commitment of the six Lancang-Mekong countries to collaborate and strengthen regional law enforcement and security cooperation.

Fruitful cooperation in digital domains generates new impetus for development of Digital Silk Road

In 2023, with a strong focus on digitalization, the six Lancang-Mekong countries proactively advanced cooperation in cooperation mechanisms, infrastructure development, scientific and technological applications, and talent cultivation. These efforts led to significant improvements in digital connectivity within the region. Through collaboration in various digital domains, new momentum was created for the development of the “Digital Silk Road,” allowing the six countries to jointly reap the benefits of the digital era and drive the recovery and development of the regional economy.

The six Lancang-Mekong countries have made active efforts to establish a comprehensive and diverse digital exchange and cooperation mechanism. During the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, China, along with Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, released the “Beijing Initiative on the Belt and Road International Digital Economy Cooperation.” This initiative presented 20 consensus items, including the emphasis on “enhancing digital connectivity and building the digital Silk Road.” Furthermore, the six countries put forth the “Joint Initiative on the Building of an Innovation Corridor in the Lancang-Mekong Region,” highlighting the significance of science and technology innovation in Lancang-Mekong cooperation and aiming to enhance exchanges and alignment of scientific and technological innovation policies among the countries. The Lancang-Mekong Cloud Computing Innovation Center, a platform dedicated to implementing China’s cloud computing technology and services in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and other Mekong countries, has gradually expanded its data service capacity to cover all six countries, making significant contributions to regional digital economy cooperation.

In the realm of digital talent training, representatives from colleges and universities across the six countries reached a series of agreements at the Forum for Economic Cooperation of National Resources and Joint Training of Digital Talents among the Countries in the Lancang-Mekong Region held in Pu’er City, southwest Yunnan Province, on October 26. They signed the “Initiative of the International Digital Talent Education Alliance in the Lancang-Mekong Region” to foster the rapid advancement of digital education. Additionally, a Chinese vocational technical institute conducted an education management training program in Phnom Penh to enhance the digital competencies of educators in Cambodia. Also, the Cambodia Academy of Digital Technology (CADT) organized a digital transformation training program with the participation of more than one hundred managers from micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

Vibrant people-to-people exchanges cultivate closer bonds among six countries

Friendship, which derives from close contact between the people, holds the key to sound state-to-state relations. In 2023, the six countries further strengthened their people-to-people cooperation. This led to the development of more specialized cooperation projects in the fields of education, culture, tourism, sports, and media. Consequently, a strong sense of community was forged within the Lancang-Mekong region.

The exchange and cooperation in cultural and tourism endeavors has laid the foundation for the recovery and high-quality development of the regional cultural and tourism industry. The China-Laos Railway has significantly increased the influx of tourists to Laos from neighboring countries. Thailand introduced a five-month visa-free policy for Chinese tourists in September 2023.

In 2023, the Hangzhou Asian Games ignited a fresh wave of sports exchanges between China and the five Mekong countries. The 2023 LMC China Sepaktakraw Open held in west Yunnan’s Mangshi city, creating a platform for people-to-people exchanges and fostering closer bonds in the region.

Media exchanges are instrumental in deepening mutual trust and cooperation among nations. In 2023, the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Media Summit served as a platform to explore fresh opportunities for media collaboration within the region. Other events like the 2023 China Video & Photography Week and the China-Laos Joint Interviews on High-Quality Development of the Belt and Road Initiative played a vital role in promoting mutual understanding, affinity, and connection among the people of the six countries.

Practical advancements were made in the cooperation related to Chinese language education and vocational education. The past year saw the successful organization of many events such as the Lancang-Mekong Open Education Cooperation and Exchange Forum.

The inaugural Lancang-Mekong Traditional Medicine Forum established a platform for the six countries to collaboratively enhance the development of traditional medicine and promote its prosperity. Alongside this significant event, the China-Laos Border Residents Gala and the “Colorful China — China-Cambodia Friendship Year” artistic performances showcased heartwarming stories of people-to-people exchanges.

Eco-conservation promotes sustainable development within the region

The people of the six countries are interconnected as they rely on the same river and aspire to a shared future. Guided by the “Lancang-Mekong Environmental Cooperation Strategy and Action Framework (2023-2027),” these nations have embraced a collective vision of green, low-carbon, and sustainable development. They have collaborated on a range of projects aimed at environmental protection and ecological conservation.

The six countries have continuously strengthened their practical collaboration on water resources. The third Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Forum took place in Beijing to further enhance water resources cooperation within the region. Notably, the “Demonstration of Integrated Management of Typical Small River Basin in Lancang-Mekong Countries (Phase III)” project was handed over to Cambodia, which has contributed to successful instance for water resources cooperation in the Lancang-Mekong countries.

China and Vietnam have strengthened their practical cooperation in key areas such as climate change response, environmental management, and plastic pollution control by signing a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in green development, climate change response, and environmental protection.

 

Collaboration on livelihood projects improves people’s well-being, paving way to common development and prosperity

The Lancang-Mekong Cooperation is rooted in people and aims to benefit them in return. During 2023, China and the five Mekong countries made ongoing efforts to implement sustainable, high-quality, and “small yet smart” programs that put people at the center. As a result, the people in the region experienced the positive outcomes of cooperation, leading to improvement in their well-being.

The Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Special Fund continued to provide support for the five Mekong countries in implementing projects aimed at improving the lives of their people. Additional “LMC Bumper Harvest” projects were initiated, contributing to the modernization of agriculture and rural areas in the region. The Lancang-Mekong Sweet Spring Action Plan was implemented to promote technical assimilation and demonstrations in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, and projects such as Vietnam’s project to improve the clean water supply system for agriculture in Khanh Binh Dong Commune, Tran Van Thoi District, Ca Mau Province, have been put into operation, effectively addressing the issue of safe drinking water for local villagers. The Lancang-Mekong Water Conservation and People Benefiting Program undertook over ten projects in the five Mekong countries, including the demonstration of water supply in rural areas, management of small river basins, and screening for risks associated with reservoirs and dams. An initial summary seminar on “developing community forestry to promote agroforestry practices and improve people’s livelihoods” was conducted in Myanmar, highlighting the positive ecological and economic outcomes brought about by the project for the people in the country. Furthermore, the bakery and pastry training program played a significant role in nurturing talent for Myanmar’s tourism and service industries, thereby increasing the economic earnings of local youths and women and injecting new vitality into the socio-economic development of Myanmar.

In 2023, a team of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) experts was sent to Cambodia to offer complimentary healthcare services and promote health awareness among the local population. Moreover, they conducted professional training sessions for local medical professionals, furthering the development of the Cambodia-China Traditional Chinese Medicine Center.

Agricultural collaboration contributes to food diversity among the six countries

Agriculture, holding a crucial position in the economies of the six countries, is considered a priority area within the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation framework. In 2023, significant progress was made in agricultural cooperation among these nations, with notable advancements in terms of cultivation areas, scale, and accomplishments.

The agriculture departments of the six countries adopted The Five-Year Plan of Action on Lancang-Mekong Agricultural Cooperation(2023-2027).Committed to building a six-pronged “Diamond” cooperation structure, China and Cambodia explored the building of a “Fish and Rice Corridor”. In 2023, Cambodian pepper gained permission to be exported to China. Similarly, Vietnam also saw an expansion in its agricultural trade with China, particularly in areas such as durian and other produce. These trade partnerships have allowed the six countries to leverage their agricultural strengths and share their advantages.

In 2023, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of China implemented 13 LMC Bumper Harvest projects. These projects strengthened cooperation with the six countries in the areas of food crops, tropical crops, livestock and poultry breeding, fisheries, quality and safety, and digital agriculture. In addition, the third Lancang-Mekong Fruit Festival was organized to promote and deepen cooperation in agricultural trade and investment in fruit products. The Lancang-Mekong Rice and Fishery Scholarship offers opportunities for international students from Mekong countries to study in China. Furthermore, it has trained more than 1,000 agricultural officials, technicians and farmers, cultivating human resources for the green development of the subregion’s agriculture, increasing farmers’ income and promoting rural prosperity. The Lancang-Mekong Agricultural Cooperation Development Report 2022-2023 represents a knowledge product that shares experience on agricultural and rural development in the subregion.

The consolidation of young minds and energy holds potential for a promising future of Lancang-Mekong cooperation

Young individuals embody hope and hold the power to shape the future. In 2023, China and the five Mekong countries strengthened the bonds between their youth, fostering a stronger sense of community with shared future among the Lancang-Mekong nations.

The second “Lancang-Mekong Youth Online” workshop was held, bringing together young individuals from colleges and universities in six countries. They gathered to share their perspectives on the involvement of youth in the development of the Belt and Road Initiative. Additionally, the seventh Youth Innovation Competition on Lancang-Mekong Region’s Governance and Development (YICMG) focused on agricultural development and food security. Moreover, the Lancang-Mekong Young Technopreneur Leaders Dialogue inspired young people in the six countries to pursue entrepreneurship and innovation. In 2023, the Lancang-Mekong Youths Lijiang Challenge provided an opportunity for young individuals from the six countries to explore cultural diversity.

The 2023 Training Program for Future LMC Diplomats placed a strong emphasis on cultivating young talents in various areas. These included building a community of health for all in the Lancang-Mekong region and enhancing non-traditional security cooperation among the nations involved. Additionally, the first Lao railway teachers trained in China returned to Laos, starting their own training of local talents in railway. With a commitment to achieving common development and shared growth through joint consultation, the Lancang-Mekong youths are actively participating in the high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative, and they are working together to shape a promising future.

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