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China-Laos Railway, flagship Belt and Road project for regional connectivity, common development

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-12-05 06:44

Passengers who took the China-Laos high-speed train arrive at the Vientiane station in Vientiane. YANG YONGQUAN/XINHUA

Marking its second anniversary, the China-Laos Railway has promoted regional connectivity and injected vitality into economic and social development along the line, narrating a success story of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.

The 1,035-km railway, a flagship project within the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, connects China's southwestern city of Kunming with the Laotian capital of Vientiane. It started operation on Dec 3, 2021.

The railway marks a monumental and historic milestone in developing modern infrastructure for Laos, said Lao President Thongloun Sisoulith at the launching ceremony.

In the past two years, the railway has turned Laos, a land-locked country, into a land-linked hub in the Indo-China Peninsula, helping the country effectively overcome its development barriers and improving the Lao people's livelihood.

The railway has handled 24.2 million passenger trips and transported 29.1 million tons of cargo as of Saturday, according to the China State Railway Group Co., Ltd.

The monthly passenger trips handled by the railway have grown significantly from more than 600,000 at the beginning of its operation to more than 1.1 million now, the railway operator said.

As a Chinese saying goes, "If you want to be wealthy, build roads first." With an easier flow of people, logistics and capital, the China-Laos Railway has boosted regional trade, speeded up the layout and growth of industries along the line, and provided new development opportunities for both countries.

The two countries' railway authorities have strengthened cargo transport collaboration, with the number of daily cross-border freight trains rising from two in the initial operation period to 14 two years later.

Meanwhile, the types of cross-border goods expanded from about 10 to more than 2,700 currently, including electronics, photovoltaics, and automobiles.

The Lao government, which has made tourism a top priority to revitalize its economy, has witnessed a surge in visitor numbers partly attributed to the popularity of the China-Laos Railway.

More than 2.4 million foreign tourists visited Laos in the first nine months of 2023, up by 285 percent from a year ago, according to statistics from the Lao Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.

Moreover, the railway has been a boon to employment. Since its operation, the railway has employed more than 3,500 Laotian staff and created over 100,000 jobs indirectly by catalyzing progress in logistics, transportation, trade and commerce, tourism and other sectors, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said in May.

"The China-Laos Railway has been completed and is providing a sound service, and its role as a golden transport channel is becoming increasingly prominent," said a white paper titled "The Belt and Road Initiative: A Key Pillar of the Global Community of Shared Future" released by China's State Council Information Office recently.

Through the efforts of both countries, the China-Laos Railway has become a road of happiness, development and friendship. It is expected to unleash more potential for driving regional economic cooperation and development in the future.

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