US$11.5b support for Mekong neighbors

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A meeting between leaders of the six countries along the Lancang-Mekong River has resulted in a number of cooperative measures aimed at regional prosperity.

At Wednesday's leaders' meeting, the first under the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) mechanism, Premier Li Keqiang announced concessionary loans of 10 billion yuan (US$1.54 billion) and credit lines of up to US$10 billion to support infrastructure construction and production capacity cooperation in the Lancang-Mekong region.

Lancang is the Chinese name for the upper reaches of the Mekong River. The trunk stream stretches nearly 5,000 km through the six countries.

Despite suffering water shortages itself, China has been discharging water from the Lancang to alleviate drought in downstream countries this month.

LMC was proposed in 2014 and its first foreign ministers' meeting was held in November, with the focus on cooperation in security, development, and social and cultural fields. Communication, production capacity, trade, water resources, agriculture and poverty reduction are five priorities.

The five downstream countries will benefit from China's experience, technology, equipment and funds, in a process that will help narrow development gaps within the the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“With strength in industry, cost-effective equipment and products, China has the capacity to help the five Southeast Asian countries move a step forward in industrialization," said Premier Li.

Meanwhile, LMC will help with development of the belt and road regional trade and infrastructure network.

It will also facilitate cooperation between multilateral development institutions such as the Asian Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund, given huge financing demand for infrastructure construction.

Agreements have already been reached on 78 early-harvest projects under the LMC mechanism, while substantive achievement has been made in previous cooperation programs.

The North-South Economic Corridor began to take shape with the opening of Kunming-Bangkok Highway in 2013. China, Thailand and Laos are working on multi-billion-yuan railways to connect the region with the vast railway network in China, using Chinese technology and investment.

China has also helped construct a number of industrial parks and zones in Vietnam and Laos, and China and nations along the Mekong have conducted 43 joint law enforcement patrols since 2011.—Xinhua