By Wang Fengjuan
Plans are brewing to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of China-Laos diplomatic ties in 2021, which also marks the Year of China-Laos Friendship. Chinese Ambassador to Laos Jiang Zaidong recently sat down with China Report ASEAN for an exclusive interview on topics such as bilateral cooperation and shared development between the two countries.
China Report ASEAN: China-Laos relations have reached new heights consistently over the past 60 years. What do you think has been the secret to the continued stability and improvement of relations between the two countries?
Ambassador Jiang Zaidong: The fundamental guarantee and prominent advantage of the friendly development of China-Laos relations is high-level strategic leadership. Under the guidance of the action plan for building a community with a shared future between China and Laos signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Lao counterpart, building of a China-Laos community with a shared future has entered a fast lane despite the negative impact of COVID-19.
The two countries have literally opened “fast tracks” and “green lanes” to accelerate flow of essential personnel and goods. Bilateral trade is recovering at a blistering speed, and Chinese investment in Laos has surged. The Vientiane-Vangvieng Expressway is now open. The China-Laos Railway will be completed soon. All eight China-aided projects in Laos are progressing steadily, and poverty-reduction demonstration villages are totally complete.
Both countries have lived up to their commitments as co-chairs of Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC). They worked together to accelerate the adoption of the Vientiane Declaration of the Third Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (MLC) Leaders’ Meeting and jointly issued the Co-chairs’ Statement on Cooperation of Synergizing the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation and the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor of the Third Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (MLC) Leaders’ Meeting.
The distinctive feature that makes the foundation for the development of China-Laos relations so solid is sincere mutual support. We sincerely thank the Party, government, and people of Laos for always standing shoulder to shoulder with China to fight for what is right while China continues providing assistance to Laos to improve its independent development capacity.
The China-Laos Railway is the first modern railway in Laos, and the Vientiane-Vangvieng Expressway is the first high-speed thoroughfare in the country. Laos’s first petroleum refinery, jointly funded and built by Chinese and Lao enterprises, kicked off commercial production a few months ago. China and Laos are currently discussing cooperation on backbone grid construction. The two countries are also collaborating to promote the export of Lao beef to China, and the first exports are expected by the end of this year; beef is now set to convert some of the Southeast Asian country’s natural resources into wealth.
China Report ASEAN: How have China and Laos worked together to fight COVID-19 and promote post-epidemic economic recovery?
Ambassador Jiang: At the critical stage of China’s fight against the epidemic, Lao people from all walks of life donated a fund of more than US$700,000 and shipped medical supplies to China. At the fund-raising event in Vientiane, representatives from all sectors of Laos joined the local Chinese community to raise their arms and chant, “Stay strong, China! Stay strong, Wuhan!” Laos enthusiastically responded to China’s proposal, and after a short 10 days of preparations, a Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) convened in Vientiane to consolidate the region’s voice.
Just five days after Laos announced its first confirmed cases and asked for help from China, a team of Chinese medical experts flew to Vientiane, where they assisted Lao health authorities to devise a complete set of epidemic control plans. The Chinese experts also helped Laos build a nucleic acid testing lab, which greatly enhanced Laos’ testing capacity. On February 8, 2021, a charter cargo flight from China, loaded with the first batch of a COVID-19 vaccine, landed in Vientiane. As prevention and control of COVID-19 has gradually normalized, the two countries have continued to maintain containment measures while accelerating resumption of production and economic activities.
China Report ASEAN: What development opportunities are China and Laos considering? How can the two countries promote a community with a shared future while strengthening epidemic prevention and control?
Ambassador Jiang: This year is of epoch-making significance for the development of both China and Laos, as well as the bilateral relationship. China is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and embracing a new journey to complete construction of a modern socialist country. In Laos, the 11th National Congress of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) was successfully held in January, heralding a new stage of the country’s socialist development. This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of China-Laos diplomatic ties and the Year of China-Laos Friendship, which will bring new opportunities to lift bilateral relations even higher. China is enthusiastic about seizing every opportunity to consolidate construction of a China-Laos community with a shared future and deliver benefits to people of both countries.
We need to explore together. According to the action plan agreed upon by both countries to build a community with a shared future, China and Laos are committed to exploring a new type of relations between socialist states and joining hands to develop the cause of socialism with respective characteristics. We need to work hard together. CPC and LPRP are both ruling parties that firmly uphold “people-centered” philosophy and prioritize the goal of improving the lives of the people. China is eager to advance hand-in-hand with Laos towards this goal, learn from each other, and help each other. We need to develop together. China is excited to join Laos to continue promoting alignment of the Belt and Road Initiative and Laos’ strategy of transforming “from a landlocked to a land-linked country” and accelerating construction of the China-Laos Economic Corridor.
China Report ASEAN: At the start of 2021, General Secretary Xi Jinping spoke with General Secretary Thongloun on the phone, and they jointly announced the official launch of the Year of China-Laos Friendship. So, what celebrations will be held this year?
Ambassador Jiang: On January 21, President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, held a phone conversation with newly-elected general secretary of the LPRP Central Committee Thongloun Sisoulith. During the conversation, the two leaders jointly announced the official launch of the Year of China-Laos Friendship, which will feature a series of celebrations. When Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi held a video meeting with his Lao counterpart Saleumxay Kommasith on February 3, he suggested the celebration events cover a wide range of fields and that all relevant departments and local governments collaborate to organize celebration activities to further cement bilateral relations and ensure China-Laos friendship continues to thrive in the next generation.
The Chinese Embassy in Laos is now actively coordinating with relevant departments to mobilize the Chinese Cultural Center, the Confucius Institute, Lao bureaus of Chinese media, Chinese-funded enterprises, and other Chinese agencies in Laos to participate in the celebrations. Already, both sides have jointly launched a number of activities including a Logo Design Solicitation for the Year of China-Laos Friendship, a virtual “Happy Chinese New Year” temple fair, a vlog competition, and screenings of standout Chinese and Lao films. More events in innovative forms and with diverse content will soon follow and create a festive vibe for the Friendship Year to help China-Laos friendship take deep roots in the hearts of both peoples.