Liu Shinan

Seeing the other side of the coin

By Liu Shinan (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-04-20 07:55
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Water splashes and flows. The adults are laughing and smiling, while the children scream and shriek with excitement.

Everybody was soaked. Locals, tourists and visitors from neighboring Myanmar and Thailand, it didn't matter, as strangers sprayed or sprinkled water on each other unexpectedly.

The streets and squares in Mangshi, capital city of Dehong prefecture, Yunnan province, were full of such carnival scenes last week during the Dehong International Water-Splashing Festival.

At this time, people completely relinquish their usual suspicions toward a stranger because they know the water-sprayer means well. They are more moved than surprised. The water conveys a blessing and the friendly feelings are mutual.

Amidst such an atmosphere, a forum for "developing Dehong into a southwestern bridgehead" was held in Mangshi. Scholars and officials who spoke at the forum all emphasized the importance of treating neighboring countries with sincerity and eliminating suspicion in the prefecture's efforts to develop border trade and cooperation with these countries.

The Bridgehead Project was launched by Yunnan province in 2009 in response to President Hu Jintao's instruction that Yunnan become "a major bridgehead" in China's communication and co-operation with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Mekong valley area.

"Yunnan's advantages as an important land route of China reaching Southeast Asia and South Asia should be fully tapped," the president said when he made an inspection tour of the province in July 2009.

The Bridgehead project has been a hot topic among local government officials and experts in Yunnan province since the strategy was launched nearly two years ago.

He Fan, deputy director of the World Economy and Politics Research Institute of the China Academy of Social Sciences, said that in its effort to build itself into such a bridgehead, Yunnan should give up the old practice of regarding neighboring countries as export markets only. Instead, it "should help them develop their economies, import their products and thus benefit both sides."

Speaking of Yunnan's economic links with Myanmar, he urged Dehong to invest in Myanmar's agriculture and use Chinese technologies to help Myanmar's farmers promote grain production and increase the variety of products exported to China.

His point of view was echoed by Xie Dapeng, a leading official of the Party school of the Dehong prefectural committee of the Party. Xie said sincere and substantial moves should be taken to help Myanmar develop its economy.

Professor Li Chenyang from Yunnan University also urged Chinese investors to "try their best to avoid causing damage to Myanmar's environment and to properly handle conflicts in bilateral relations".

Lin Rucheng, vice-director of the Dehong prefectural government's policy research office, said Myanmar people and local governments should be involved in Dehong's Bridgehead Project and benefit from it.

He quoted a leading official of Yunnan province as saying: "If we can earn one yuan, we must let our Myanmar brothers earn at least several jiao." (Ten jiao make one yuan).

Lin pointed out that neighboring countries, especially Myanmar, had adopted a wait-and-see attitude when they heard of China's new strategy. He said sufficient consideration should be given to the Myanmar side's interests when building big enterprises in the border regions, "which," he said, "may have an impact on Myanmar's enterprises and lead to mass unemployment,"

It is reassuring that most of those at the forum have given considerable attention to the flip side of the issue and now understand the importance of win-win initiatives.

The author is assistant editor-in-chief of China Daily. E-mail:

(China Daily 04/20/2011 page8)