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Laos’ Railway Opens: The West Kicks and Screams as China and Laos Move Forward Together

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The China-Laos railway, connecting the landlocked Southeast Asian nation of Laos with China, has finally begun operations. This historic moment marked a new chapter for Laos which remains one of the poorest nations in the region.

Besides the devastation wrought by US war with neighboring Vietnam last century which saw the US drop more bombs on Laos than any other nation on Earth in human history – the Laotian economy has also long suffered from isolation owed to its difficult geography. Not only is Laos landlocked, it features terrain marked with mountains, valleys, and rivers that have hampered even the most basic movement of people and goods within the country’s borders and beyond them.

This has recently changed through a series of modern highways also built by China bringing the 3 day trip from Kunming, China to Laos’ capital Vientiane down to under a day. With the high speed railway now in operation, goods and people will move even faster with the trip from Vientiane near the Thai-Laos border to Laos’ border with China taking only 3 hours.

In order to build the 422 kilometer China-Laos railway 75 tunnels and over 60 km of bridges were built, just to gain an idea of how daunting Laos’ geography is and what Chinese engineers accomplished in building the new railway.

The railway is part of a much larger regional project which will eventually connect China and Laos to Thailand and perhaps even Malaysia and Singapore. The Thai leg of the network – featuring high-speed rail – is already under construction and regular rail already exists connecting Thailand’s cities and ports to the Thai-Laos border via the Thai city of Nong Khai.

With very little effort Laos’ new railway can be connected with existing Thai rail networks before the China-Thailand high-speed railway is even completed.

Ending Laos’ Chronic Poverty

Chinese-built infrastructure has enabled Laos’ economy to rapidly grow annually. Chinese-built highways coupled with the new railway, and future projects both along the China-Laos railway and connecting to Thailand will continue expanding Laos’ economy in ways it otherwise could not.

A Bangkok Post article titled, “Calls to speed up link to Laos-China line,” would note:

The cost of shipments from Vientiane to Kunming in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan will be cut by 40-50% or US$30 per tonne, along with a 20-40% cost reduction on domestic routes, according to a World Bank report “From landlocked to land-linked: unlocking the potential of Lao-China rail connectivity”.

Exports from Laos to China were worth $1.7 billion........

© New Eastern Outlook

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