By Lyu Jian
Chinese Ambassador to Thailand
The Second Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) summit held January 10 in Phnom Penh has proved that the newly established cooperation scheme will help, not hurt, all members countries.
Leaders from China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam adopted the Five-Year Plan of Action (2018-2022) and issued the Phnom Penh Declaration, as well as charted the course for development over the next 10 years.
Premier Li Keqiang made a five-point proposal at the meeting. The first is to do a good job in water resource cooperation, work on a five-year plan of action for water resource cooperation, and put in place a water resource cooperation platform that all of us stand to benefit from.
The second is to enhance industrial capacity cooperation, draw up a connectivity plan, undertake hydropower plants, reservoirs, irrigation and drinking water projects in the Mekong countries, and conduct industrial capacity cooperation in transportation, communications and other infrastructure projects.
The third is to deepen cooperation with the Mekong countries on agricultural science and technology, set up a Lancang-Mekong Agriculture Cooperation Centre, and carry out downstream processing cooperation in the Mekong countries.
The fourth is to step up human resource cooperation. China proposes the setting-up of a joint working group on education. We need to encourage our universities, and vocational education institutions as well, to cooperate.
The fifth is to advance medical and health care cooperation. China is ready to put in place cross-border joint prevention and control mechanisms for combating infectious diseases, and help partner countries improve their medical and health care systems by building hospitals and public health institutions.
This year China will provide the Mekong countries with 2,000 opportunities for short-term workshops and on-the-job education with degree or diploma and 100 scholarships for four-year undergraduate study. We will invite a group of medium and senior ranking officials from the Mekong countries to China for training courses in agriculture, medical and health care, water conservancy and other areas. China will implement the “LMC targeted poverty reduction programme”, which involves 100 medical and health care projects in the Mekong countries in the next three years.
The financial support China has pledged is being delivered, covering over 20 major infrastructure and industrialisation projects in the Mekong countries. The China-Laos Railway, China-Thailand Railway, Vinh Tan thermal power plant in Vietnam, Nam Ou River Cascade Hydropower Plant of Laos, and new airport in Siam Reap are all included.
We have jointly implemented a series of people-benefit projects. Through the China-initiated “Brightness Action” scheme, nearly 800 cataract patients in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar have had their eyesight restored. Over the past two years, more than 12,000 students from the Mekong countries have received Chinese government scholarships and over 3,000 staff members have attended seminars or training sessions in China. The Lancang-Mekong Vocational Education Base was opened in Yunnan and has so far trained over 10,000 professionals for the Mekong countries.
The LMC is propelling the cooperation between China and the Mekong countries. China is now the largest trading partner to Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam and the second largest to Laos. China’s trade with these countries in 2017 increased to more than US$220 billion (Bt6.9 trillion).
China’s investment topped US$42 billion in cumulative terms. Since the first leaders’ meeting, over 330 flights were added between China and the Mekong countries. In 2017, about 30 million visits were made between us.
The Lancang-Mekong River has ample water resources to bolster economic and social development in our region. The key lies in our mutual trust, understanding and support. We need to have better upper- and down-stream coordination to take care of each other’s concerns and strike the right balance between the economy and the environment.
Over the past 15 years, China has provided without fail hydrological data of the Lancang River during the flood season. It has been proven that cascade development of hydropower in the Lancang River will not deplete the river; it can help adjust the water level in dry and rainy seasons. This would be conducive to the efforts by down-stream countries to fight floods and droughts.
A high degree of consensus on the use of water resources was reached among the six countries in the Phnom Penh Declaration, stressing the importance of top-level design and political dialogue. A series of practical measures, including to hold the Water Resources Cooperation Forum, establish the Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Center, conduct joint research on water resources, and step up emergency response to droughts and floods, have been put forward.
Through consultation and cooperation, we will be able to manage and make sustainable use of water resources.