Forty years’ reform and opening-up of Yunnan and its implications for the Mekong region
As is well known, China’s initial reform and opening-up strategy under Deng Xiaoping was to experiment in four special economic zones in Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou, and Xiamen and later on coastal cities in eastern China. This tilted emphasis actually contradicts Maoist emphasis on balanced growth and bridging the developmental gaps between the coastal regions and the inner regions. As coastal cities prospered under Dengist policies, Beijing realized that the gaps between the eastern region and the western region should be narrowed and that more attention and resources should be paid to the relatively backward provinces in western China. In this way, Yunnan began to reap some benefits in advancing its development. As analyzed by Lei Zhuning and Chen Tiejun, Yunnan’s opening-up strategies were different from that of coastal areas of China. It was not until 1992 that the Chinese government decided to have border economic zones in Yunnan, promoting cooperation with Southeast Asia in terms of South-South cooperation and not so much to upgrade modernization and internationalization of the Chinese economy designed for the coastal regions. As highlighted by Lei and Chen, Yunnan’s border economy is “intended not only to promote economic development and poverty reduction, but also to strengthen and ensure border stability and security, ethnic harmony and good-neighborliness”. In this regard, the authors use Yunnan’s participation in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) cooperation, roles in the Belt and Road Initiative, and the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation to substantiate their analysis. They also presented the achievements in such regional cooperation schemes. By using a case study on cross-border activities along the China-Lao border, they noted the importance of benefit-sharing and inclusive growth in promoting border cooperation. While recognizing the important role of the government, they suggest that bilateral and regional cooperation should also take into account the role of the market and participation of the people. Looking ahead, the authors stress the necessity to combine economic development with poverty alleviation and environmental protection. The latter is no doubt of concern to the common people. In addition, the authors emphasize the importance of policy coordination, institutional construction, and people-to-people connectivity. Again, the last emphasis centers on the interactions and cooperation among the peoples. Finally, among the difficulties and challenges for border development, the authors recommend more attention be paid to solving non-traditional security problems. In the final analysis, the authors think that Yunnan is prepared to further promote regional cooperation and contribute to the improvement of the livelihood and well-being of the peoples in the Mekong region.