New media “The Straits Times” article on December 3, original title: The rules of the game have changed and the China-Laos high-speed rail line opens. The report is as follows:
On December 3, the railway linking China and Laos with an investment of USD 6 billion was officially opened for operation. Outsiders have different opinions on the opening of this railway. On the one hand, they are worried about Laos’ debt problems, and on the other hand, they hope that it can boost the economy of this landlocked country. Analysts believe that the opening of the line can stimulate the local area, but it is necessary to consider how Laos, which has a weak infrastructure, will repay its high debts for constructing railways, and whether the local has the professional talents to run high-speed trains. The China-Laos Railway has a total length of 414 kilometers and is one of China‘s “One Belt One Road” projects, which took 5 years to complete.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Wednesday that he believes that the China-Laos Railway will help Laos realize the strategy of “turning a country into a land-locked country” and accelerate the construction of a community with a shared future between China and Laos, which will better benefit the two countries and their peoples, as well as promote regional interconnection. The interconnection and the stability of the industrial chain and supply chain have made positive contributions to the development and prosperity of the region. This line will connect the Chinese city of Kunming and the Lao capital of Vientiane, and the follow-up plan will meander through Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
Before the opening of the China-Laos railway, Laos had only 4 kilometers of railway lines. Now, this high-speed rail will travel on the new railway line at a speed of 160 kilometers per hour, passing through 75 tunnels, 167 bridges, and stopping at 10 stations. The route will be strictly controlled, and temporarily only serve passengers who have been vaccinated against the new crown.
According to World Bank data, Laos’ economy has been hit hard by the new crown pneumonia epidemic, and the economic growth rate in 2020 will drop to 0.4%, the lowest level in 30 years. As the epidemic continues in 2021, hopes for economic recovery are shattered. The country has more than 76,000 new crown cases in the past eight months, and economic blockade measures continue. The report pointed out that this railway can boost Laos’ economy, but the government needs to carry out substantial reforms, including improving its border management system.
Bangkok Bank Chief Economist Berlin Adwatana said: “I don’t think this is China‘s attempt to bankrupt Laos…This is not a Trojan horse strategy. I think it will be a win-win situation.” Lecturer at Australian National University Raymond lacks confidence in how Laos will finance its debt. He pointed out that Laos mainly regards the primary industry as the economic pillar, and the backward commercial development, how can they repay such high debts, and secondly whether they have the corresponding talents to operate such an advanced transportation system.