People-First CPC: Interview with former Lao Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad

“The history of the Communist Party of China [CPC] is the story of how the Chinese people, guided by the Party, navigated storms to complete notable achievements in economic and social development,” said former Lao Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad in a recent interview. “Under the leadership of the CPC, China has blazed a trail in developing socialism with Chinese characteristics suited to its national conditions.”

Somsavat Lengsavad

Somsavat, also former member of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) Central Committee, called China becoming the world’s second largest economy just four decades after the country introduced reform and opening-up “a remarkable accomplishment for a nation with a huge population of 1.4 billion.”

Now in his seventies, Somsavat has participated in friendly exchanges between Laos and China since the 1960s. He served under former Lao party and state leader Kaysone Phomvihane and as the foreign minister of Laos and the head of the LPRP Central Committee’s commission for external relations before becoming Lao deputy prime minister.

“The CPC’s decisive role in the founding of the People’s Republic of China is indisputable,” stated the former prime minister of Laos. “Since the birth of New China in 1949, the country’s development has made aweinspiring achievements. The key to China’s success has been the strong leadership of the CPC.” He also noted that since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core has been upholding the Party’s fine tradition, promoting comprehensive and deep reform with tremendous political courage and wisdom, and ushering in a new era of the socialism with Chinese characteristics, contributing greatly to the nation’s continued economic progress.

A Chinese medical team poses for a group photo at a COVID-19 sampling site in Vientiane, capital of Laos, on May 7, 2021. (NONG LICHUN)

When Xi Jinping, then Secretary of the CPC Zhejiang Provincial Committee, visited Laos as the head of a CPC delegation in 2005, he was received by Somsavat, who was serving as the head of the LPRP Central Committee’s commission for external relations at the time.

Ten years later, then General Secretary of the LPRP and Lao President Choummaly Sayasone paid a visit to China accompanied by Somsavat, who had become the deputy prime minister of Laos. Somsavat recalled that the Lao delegation was surprised and touched by President Xi when he recognized Sounthone Xayachack, head of the LPRP Central Committee’s commission for external relations who accompanied him on a visit to Luang Prabang during his 2005 trip to Laos, at a welcome banquet.

“President Xi is erudite, sincere and cordial,” Somsavat said. “I respect his personal charisma, down-to-earth style of work, and love for the people.”

According to Somsavat, the LPRP attaches great importance to learning from China’s governing experience. He cited a report on the CPC’s anticorruption campaign he delivered at a politburo meeting of the LPRP. In the report, he explained the Chinese political slang “hunting tigers and swatting flies,” which means both high and low-level officials were to be severely punished if they violated Party discipline or national laws.

“The LPRP recognizes the CPC’s people-centered governance philosophy and shares similar political values in practice,” said Somsavat. A frequent visitor to China for occasions such as the China- ASEAN Expo, the theory seminar between the CPC and the LPRP, and exchange events, he expressed gratitude for China’s sharing of its experience with Laos.

From the first expressway in Laos to the Lao Sat-1 satellite and the China-Laos Railway designed to transform Laos from landlocked to land-linked, Somsavat has witnessed how friendly relations and close cooperation between Laos and China have delivered tangible benefits to the two peoples. He cited the Nam Theun 2 tailrace outlet No. 3 irrigation project as a pristine example of pragmatic cooperation between the two countries. Funded by China’s preferential buyer’s credit and completed in 2015, the project provides a stable source of irrigation water for 2,800 hectares of farmland. It has helped increase food production, reduce flood damage, and greatly improve the living conditions of the people in the irrigated areas. At the project completion ceremony, then Deputy Prime Minister of Laos Somsavat struck a gong for 12 times, symbolizing a steady supply of water in all 12 months of a year and a good harvest every year.

In August 2015, Somsavat signed the Joint General Scheme of Mohan- Boten Economic Cooperation Zone in Beijing on behalf of the government of Laos. The Mohan-Boten Economic Cooperation Zone is the second of its kind established by China and a neighboring country after the Horgos International Border Cooperation Center striding the China-Kazakhstan border. It marked an innovative approach to China-Laos cooperation and an important step to further open up to each other. The building of a Laos-China community with a shared future has injected tremendous impetus into the economic and social development of Laos, Somsavat opined.

Somsavat said he was impressed by China’s successful implementation of epidemic prevention and control measures amid the ongoing global health crisis. After the pandemic first broke out in the city of Wuhan, local citizens consciously responded to the call of virus control and chose to stay home instead of celebrating the Chinese New Year with family and friends, which evidenced the people’s wholehearted support for the CPC leadership, added Somsavat.

As the world struggled with the COIVID-19 pandemic, China was the first to contain the virus and restore economic growth. Somsavat attributed such success to the CPC’s commitment to putting its people’s safety and health first. “The CPC and Chinese government showed strong leadership during the country’s fight against the virus, and the institutional advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics played an important role,” he said. “Through working with China on epidemic control, Laos gained a profound understanding of the CPC’s governance philosophy and the strength of the socialist system. My country now has greater determination to continue our pursuit of socialism.”

“The Belt and Road Initiative and the concept of building a community with a shared future for mankind have brought countries around the world closer while providing new ideas and solutions for promoting world peace and development as well as winwin cooperation,” Somsavat stressed, adding that the Lao side appreciates China’s efforts to safeguard multilateralism, accelerate global governance reform, and facilitate progress of human civilization. He called China’s practices in line with the common aspirations of people all over the world.

Somsavat predicted that under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core, China will definitely achieve its development goals. Guided by the philosophy of building a community with a shared future for mankind, the world will be made a better place by concerted efforts from the international community, he added. 

By Qu Song

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