“Managing Reliance”: The Socio-Economic Context of the Chinese Footprint in Laos and Cambodia
Pang, Edgar | September 2017
Laos and Cambodia’s close embrace of China is anchored on the Chinese ability to disburse economic goodies to meet their developmental needs. In turn, they act as a strategic and “natural” geographical corridor for the flow of Chinese investment, goods and people from Yunnan to the Gulf of Thailand. Indeed, in 2011 the Chinese government designated Yunnan as a “bridgehead” (or qiaotoubo) for its economic penetration into Southeast Asia1. The latest overarching framework is the evolving Belt Road Initiative (BRI) which positions Laos and Cambodia as key nodes in the “Indochina Peninsular Corridor” with promises of more economic and developmental largesse. In Laos, the scale of BRI projects is exemplified by the High-Speed Railway (HSR) project that costs US$6.8 billion, which is about half the size of the country’s 2015 GDP of US$12.3 billion. The 417 km line from the Chinese border to Vientiane will pass 154 bridges and 76 tunnels and eventually be part of the railway spine that will run from Kunming to Singapore. Cambodia has yet to feature a flagship BRI project similar to the HSR, but the Cambodian Government has inked an Outline of Bilateral Cooperation Plan to Jointly Build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in May 2017, focussing on seven key areas of cooperation2. In the meantime, the Chinese have expressed interest in development projects worth billions for a new airport (in Siem Reap), sea-ports (Koh Kong province), expressways and hydropower stations under the BRI.
CitationPang, Edgar. 2017. “Managing Reliance”: The Socio-Economic Context of the Chinese Footprint in Laos and Cambodia. © ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute. http://hdl.handle.net/11540/7456.
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