The Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism, which was officially inaugurated in 2016, seeks to harness the shared political will for deeper cooperation among the countries through which the world’s 12th-longest river flows, to inject vitality into the development of this populous sub-region, which, for historical reasons, remains comparatively less developed.
The seed for this cooperation was planted in November 2014, when Premier Li Keqiang proposed that China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, establish a mechanism to leverage their geographic proximity, traditional friendship and complementary economies for shared development.
This seed has taken root and the second Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting, which was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Wednesday, reviewed the many achievements that have already been made in the first two years of this fledgling sub-regional cooperation mechanism and looked ahead to the future.
The cooperation mechanism has already realized 45 early harvest projects and six joint working groups in the key priority areas of connectivity, production capacity, cross-border economic cooperation, water resources, agriculture and poverty reduction have been established.
China has shown its commitment through practical cooperation that saw its investment in the five other countries reach $2.68 billion in the first 10 months of last year, up 22.3 percent from the same period the previous year.
And on Wednesday, Li announced a series of initiatives for water resources, production capacity, agriculture, education and health, which underpin China’s contribution to cooperation and common development.
However, hydroelectric projects and dredging, which are altering the flow of the river and raising concerns of ecological damage, are causing frictions that need to be addressed.
It is to be hoped that the open discussions about the problems can foster an effective collaborative approach to the river’s management, and the bodies that have been set up to protect the water resources and the river’s ecology can fulfill their roles.
Certainly, the outcomes of Wednesday’s meeting — deeper political trust, expanded practical cooperation, and the promoting of comprehensive regional connectivity — indicate that the six countries are willing and able to work together.
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