Speech at the Third Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting
H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
Beijing, 24 August 2020
Your Excellency Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith,
I am delighted to meet you via video link for the third Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) Leaders’ Meeting. I wish to thank our co-chair the Lao PDR and Prime Minister Thongloun for the tremendous efforts made for the meeting.
We meet today under the theme of “Enhancing Partnership for Shared Prosperity”. President Xi Jinping recently called for making global governance more inclusive, multilateral frameworks more effective and regional cooperation more active. Drinking water from the same river, we, the LMC countries, are close as one family living in a community with a shared future. Enhancing mutually beneficial cooperation is both conducive to our own interests and contributing to others’ success, as it will boost our economic and social development and people’s well-being, and cement the foundation for regional prosperity and stability.
The Chinese believe that the supreme good is like water; water nurtures all living things without competing with them. The launch of the LMC has been motivated by a river, which is both an important part of our cooperation and an inspiration for the LMC spirit of friendship and mutual benefit.
Over the past four years, the LMC has grown rapidly and entered a period of all-round development, in which notable progress has been made in institution building, strategic planning, financial support and practical cooperation. The LMC has become a new fountain of strength for regional development and delivered real benefits to people of our countries.
We have brought the cooperation mechanisms on water resources onto a fast track. We held the first Ministerial Meeting on Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation and the first Water Resources Cooperation Forum. China directly provided flood-season hydrological data of the Lancang River to the Mekong countries and offered timely updates on upstream flow changes. Despite its own difficulties, China increased outbound water flow in the drought season to help downstream countries mitigate droughts. Solid cooperation has also been carried out under the Water Resources Cooperation Center, the Environmental Cooperation Center and the Global Center for Mekong River Studies.
We have strengthened economic cooperation and trade ties, which gave a strong boost to our economic growth. Drawing from the special credit line for industrial capacity and equipment manufacturing cooperation, the concessional loans for foreign aid and preferential export buyers’ credit, China has supported over 40 major projects including the Siem Reap New International Airport, the Kyaukpyu deep-water port and the Vinh Tan Coal-fired Power Plant. Chinese companies are actively involved in building the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone, the Rayong Industrial Zone and the Saysettha Development Zone, generating tax revenues and jobs for host countries and achieving mutual benefit.
We have put people first in the LMC and increased their well-being. The LMC Special Fund is heavily invested in improving people’s lives and has sponsored over 400 programs in health, education, poverty reduction and women’s welfare. The Fund has supported 40,000-plus training opportunities for people in the Mekong countries, bringing out the region’s potential of human resources.
Faced with COVID-19 since early this year, we have pulled together and supported each other in combating the virus and reviving regional growth. In the first half of this year, China’s trade with and investment in the Mekong countries grew by 8.7% and 33.5% respectively, bucking the trend of global slowdown. Mekong countries saw their agricultural exports to China rise by 21.2% over the same period last year. Tracks are being laid along the China-Laos Railway at a pace of one kilometer per day. Construction of the expressway linking Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville and other key projects has been resumed. The above progress has helped regional countries get their economic and social development back to normal.
In the context of a fluid and complex international situation and severe shocks to the global and regional economies, we face the common task of sustaining the good momentum of our cooperation to help tackle risks and challenges and achieve shared progress. To this end, China wishes to propose the following:
– We need to take our cooperation in water resources to a new high. The legitimate rights and interests of all countries in developing and utilizing their water resources as appropriate should be fully respected. Meanwhile, we need to accommodate each other’s interests and concerns, and advance cooperation by building consensus.
China is ready to provide more help to the best of its ability for the Mekong countries to make better use of water resources. Starting from this year, China will share Lancang River’s hydrological data for the whole year with the Mekong countries. China will work with your countries to establish a Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Information Sharing Platform to help us better tackle climate change and natural disasters such as floods and droughts.
We need to hold the Ministerial Meeting of Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation and the Water Resources Cooperation Forum on a regular basis, fully implement the Five-Year Action Plan on Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation (2018-2022) and deliver the cooperation projects on dam safety and flood early warning to enhance our capacity for integrated river basin management and water resources management.
– We need to expand trade ties and connectivity cooperation. China is ready to further synergize the Belt and Road Initiative with your development strategies for deeper cooperation among us.
The New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor runs through western China and connects Southeast Asia with the Eurasian continent. By harnessing the transportation routes over both land and sea, the Corridor is exerting a positive impact on the interconnected development across different regions. Greater synergy between the LMC and the New Trade Corridor will make trade routes more convenient and enable the leveraging of more resources from western and southwestern China and other ASEAN countries, and thus channel more inputs to the Mekong countries. This will help optimize the allocation of resources, keep industrial and supply chains stable, and spur coordinated development.
China is ready to work with the Mekong countries to fully implement the Co-Chairs’ Statement on Cooperation of Synergizing the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation and the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor adopted at the meeting, and inject new impetus into regional development.
We also need to work toward signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement within this year to raise regional economic integration to a higher level and jointly uphold free trade.
We need to ensure the success of the China-Laos and the China-Thailand railways as part of the regional transportation arteries linking the south and the north.
Industrial cooperation should be boosted, including expeditiously drafting the Five-Year Development Plan for LMC Cross-Border Economic Cooperation and intensifying Multi-Nation Multi-Park cooperation.
Financial cooperation should be deepened to provide strong, sustainable financial support for connectivity.
With COVID-19 control as a “new normal”, we need to build a network of “fast tracks” and “green lanes” across the region to facilitate the flow of people and goods, and keep industrial and supply chains stable.
The Internet economy buoyed by epidemic control needs should be further developed. We should advance innovation in digital technology and expand digital connectivity to fuel the digital transformation and upgrading of our economy and society.
– We need to deepen cooperation on sustainable development. We need to implement the Three-Year Action Plan on Agricultural Cooperation (2020-2022) at a faster pace and ensure the success of the LMC Bumper Harvest projects. We need to disseminate and share technologies on crop processing and agro-product storage, upgrade the agro-product quality and safety systems, and build agro-industrial parks to strengthen our sub-region’s competitiveness in agriculture. China welcomes more quality agro-products, livestock and by-products from Mekong countries.
We also need to expedite the implementation of the Lancang-Mekong Environmental Cooperation Strategy, and step up cooperation to tackle climate change, improve air quality, and protect biodiversity.
– We need to upgrade cooperation on public health. China will set up a special fund for public health under the framework of the LMC Special Fund, and continue to provide material and technical support to Mekong countries to the best of our ability.
Once developed and deployed in China, COVID-19 vaccines will be provided to Mekong countries on a priority basis.
We need to carry out information sharing and joint responses in major public health emergencies, and strengthen cooperation in early warning on communicable diseases. Public health projects such as the Joint Control Action for Tropical Diseases, Materia Medica and Chinese Acupuncture-Moxibustion benefiting Mekong countries will be taken forward.
International solidarity and cooperation is crucial for the global fight against COVID-19. China will work with Mekong countries to support the World Health Organization (WHO) in better playing its role.
– We need to strengthen cooperation on people’s livelihood. China will work with Mekong countries to jointly implement projects on disaster prevention and mitigation, sanitation and health in rural areas, and infant and young child nutrition and health to benefit more people and communities. The integrated development of underdeveloped communities and business start-ups in ethnic regions will be promoted through cooperation programs.
We need to revitalize tourism by holding events like the Lancang-Mekong Mayors’ Culture and Tourism Forum, exploring flexible ways such as “cloud tourism”, and fully capitalizing on our multi-ethnic culture and world heritage sites. This will foster a new format for the growth of tourism alongside regular COVID-19 response.
– We need to uphold the spirit of openness and inclusiveness. We will strengthen exchanges and mutual learning between various cooperation frameworks. The LMC’s interaction and cooperation with the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Program (GMS), the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) and the Mekong River Commission (MRC) will be facilitated, including experience sharing and joint programs. We will actively explore cooperation with Japan, the ROK, the EU and other third parties.
China supports ASEAN centrality in East Asian cooperation. By promoting Lancang-Mekong cooperation, we hope to contribute to ASEAN’s community building and deepen the China-ASEAN strategic partnership.
This year, the Chinese government has scaled up macro policy response to cushion the shock of COVID-19. While going all out to contain the virus, we lost no time in reopening the economy. Our measures to help businesses get through the tough times and reinvigorate the market are paying off.
Thanks to these efforts, we have achieved significant progress in both COVID-19 response and socio-economic development. The economy is steadily recovering. Business activities are picking up month by month. Growth in the second quarter exceeded expectations. Economic structure is improving. The digital and intelligent transformation of industries is notably speeding up. Reform and opening up are further deepening.
Given the strong resilience and latitude of the Chinese economy, and with hard work, we will be able to deliver positive growth for the whole year. China’s development will create even more cooperation opportunities for Mekong countries and the rest of the world.
Running through nearly 5,000 kilometers, the Lancang-Mekong River admits countless streams along the way and nourishes all people living on its banks. To strengthen Lancang-Mekong cooperation requires the same open and inclusive spirit and the combined efforts from all sectors in order to usher in a brighter future for people in the sub-region.
China welcomes our new co-chair Myanmar. We look forward to working with the Mekong countries to deepen and expand Lancang-Mekong cooperation, and provide stronger impetus for the development and prosperity in our sub-region and beyond.