Speech by Li Keqiang at the second Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting
Speech by H.E. Li Keqiang
Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
At the Second Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting
Phnom Penh, 10 January 2018
Prime Minister Hun Sen,
I’m pleased to join you in the beautiful city of Phnom Penh for the Second Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) Leaders’ Meeting. I wish to thank the Cambodian government for its thoughtful preparation and arrangements for our meeting. My thanks also go to other Mekong countries for your contribution to the LMC.
Our six countries are close neighbors enjoying a deep bond of cultural and people-to-people affinity. These natural connections have been reinforced by our sharing of the Lancang-Mekong River. In the spring of 2016, the LMC process was officially launched at the first leaders’ meeting in Sanya. Two years on, thanks to our concerted efforts, we have substantiated the LMC initiative with solid steps. Most of the early harvest projects identified at the first leaders’ meeting have been completed or have made substantial progress. We have put in place an LMC framework guided by leaders and underpinned by all-round cooperation and broad participation. With progress and results delivered daily, monthly and annually, we have created an LMC speed, and fostered an LMC culture featuring equality, sincerity, mutual assistance and kinship.
The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China held over two months ago reaffirmed China’s commitment to the path of peaceful development, to international cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative and to the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. China will continue to deepen relations with its neighbors in line with the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness and the policy of building friendship and partnership with its neighbors. We will increase assistance to other developing countries, especially the least developed ones, and do our part in reducing the North-South development gap. China’s initiation of and participation in the LMC reflects its commitment to building a community with a shared future for mankind. It is also an example of the relationship of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness that we have endeavored to develop with our neighbors.
The LMC, like a powerful locomotive, is propelling the cooperation between China and the Mekong countries into a stage of high-speed growth. Let me cite a few figures in this regard. China is now the largest trading partner to Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam and the second largest to Laos. According to preliminary statistics, China’s trade with these countries in 2017 increased by 16% to more than US$220 billion. China’s investment topped US$42 billion in cumulative terms and rose by more than 20% in 2017. 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 LMC, as one of the most vibrant and productive frameworks in the region, is bound to provide stronger support and broader platforms for regional economic and social development. China is ready to discuss and plan our future cooperation from a new starting point and on the basis of existing achievements. Let us work together to build an LMC economic development belt, and a community with a shared future of Lancang-Mekong countries to strengthen the forces for peace and development in our region.
The Lancang-Mekong Cooperation, as the first new type of sub-regional framework initiated by riparian countries, is an important platform for advancing the Belt and Road Initiative through consultation and collaboration. Over the past two years, under the “3+5 cooperation framework” set up at the first leaders’ meeting, we have put forward cooperation initiatives covering more than 200 projects. With the joint efforts of all sides, the LMC has outperformed our expectations.
Institution building has made steady progress, with a four-tiered meeting mechanism in place consisting of meetings among leaders, foreign ministers, senior officials and working groups. All the six countries have set up an LMC National Secretariat or Coordination Unit. Joint working groups have been established in all six priority areas, namely, connectivity, industrial capacity, cross-border economic cooperation, water resources, agriculture and poverty reduction. The Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Center, the Environmental Cooperation Center and the Global Center for Mekong River Studies are all up and running, providing an effective platform for policy dialogue, training, project cooperation and joint research.
Major development projects are moving forward smoothly. The financial support China has pledged is being delivered, from the concessional loans, the preferential export buyers’ credit to the special credit line for industrial capacity cooperation, supporting over 20 major infrastructure and industrialization projects in the Mekong countries. Construction has got underway at the China-Laos Railway and China-Thailand Railway. Equipment installation has started at the Vinh Tan thermal power plant in Vietnam with an investment of US$1.7 billion. The first phase of the Nam Ou River Cascade Hydropower Plant of Laos has been put into operation, and river closure has been completed for the second phase. When fully operational, the plant will supply 12% of the total electricity consumption in the country. Construction is expected to start soon for a new airport in Siam Reap with an estimated passenger volume of five million a year.
People-to-people exchanges are flourishing. With a special focus on education, health, culture, poverty alleviation and other areas bearing on people’s lives, we have carried out multiple cooperation projects to reach out to and benefit our people. Let me run through some of them. Through the China-initiated “Brightness Action” scheme, nearly 800 cataract patients in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar have had their eyesight restored. Over the last 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 University Friendship Games in the Lancang-Mekong Region, held in Yunnan last May, was a great success in fostering understanding and friendship between our young people.
In short, the LMC has made a good start, seen rapid growth and delivered extensive benefits, showing strong vitality. This is down to our cooperation philosophy of development first, equal consultation, pragmatism and efficiency, and openness and inclusiveness. Let me briefly address each of these in turn.
Development first demonstrates the high priority we place on development in promoting the LMC. Our efforts should be focused on cooperation and development and on boosting each other’s development by leveraging our economic complementarity. In this process, care should be taken to protect the broader interests of development and cooperation from any issues or challenges that may arise.
Equal consultation reflects our belief in the equality of countries regardless of their size, strength or wealth. We should always consult each other and fully accommodate each other’s comfort level in advancing cooperation, rather than attaching any political strings or imposing one’s own will upon others.
Pragmatism and efficiency underscore our results orientation. Our cooperation should be measured by how many projects we are able to undertake. We need to cut red tape and readily make special arrangements where need be. Instead of highbrow orators, we would rather be down-to-earth doers who can make a real difference for our people.
Lastly, openness and inclusiveness. We approach our cooperation with sincerity and an open door. As we have no intention to form any exclusive club, we are open to any initiative or mechanism that serves development in the region.