chapter  7
11 Pages

Laos and China: new opportunities test old loyalties

At a meeting with Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavan on the sidelines of the 2006 ASEAN-China Summit in Nanning, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao declared Sino-Laos ties to be at an ‘all time high’.1 Relations between China and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR) – the poor, sparsely populated and landlocked country in the heart of mainland Southeast Asia – had indeed advanced considerably since normalization in the early 1990s, propelled in the main by Beijing’s burgeoning economic interests in Laos including its desire to tap into the country’s rich natural resources, invest in its hydropower and agricultural sectors, and develop Laos’ transportation infrastructure as a bridge between Yunnan Province and Thailand. In a relatively short space of time the PRC had established itself as one of Laos’ biggest trade and investment partners, and, commensurate with its rapidly expanding economic profile, had come political influence in the LPDR.