Lancang-Mekong Cooperation: After Five Fruitful Years, A New Journey Awaits— Marking the Fifth Anniversary of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation

lmcchina, March 23, 2021

Lancang-Mekong Cooperation: After Five Fruitful Years, A New Journey Awaits

— Marking the Fifth Anniversary of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation

Wang Yi

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC).

On 23 March 2016, the first LMC Leaders' Meeting was successfully held in Sanya, Hainan. In the spirit of "shared river, shared future", leaders of China, Cambodia, the Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam jointly announced the launch of the LMC, a new type of sub-regional framework, and decided to build a community of shared future of peace and prosperity among Lancang-Mekong countries.

Five years on, the LMC has gone through the phases of nurturing and rapid expanding, and has entered a new stage of comprehensive development. The LMC has become a source of dynamic development of participating countries and set an example for building a community with a shared future for mankind.


Over the past five years, we have established a sound platform and laid a solid foundation for our cooperation and deepened mutual trust. President Xi Jinping places great importance on China's relations with its neighbors. He has held dozens of meetings and talks with leaders of the Mekong countries, which charted the course for friendship and cooperation among the six countries. Premier Li Keqiang attended every LMC leaders’ meeting and worked with the leaders of the five Mekong countries to draw up plans for the LMC.

Together, the LMC countries are actively advancing a community of shared future of peace and prosperity. China has formed a community with a shared future with the Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar respectively. In the spirit of upholding our independence, relying on our own strength and pursuing extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, we have committed ourselves to fostering a peaceful, stable, united and harmonious Lancang-Mekong sub-region and worked hand in hand for the sustainable development and common prosperity of our six countries. 

We have formulated the LMC Five-Year Plan of Action (2018-2022), and actively implemented action plans on cooperation in such areas as water resources, agriculture and poverty reduction. We are working expeditiously toward finalizing the action plans on cross-border economic cooperation, production capacity and connectivity. 

The LMC National Secretariats/Coordination Units have maintained sound communication. The Joint Working Groups of the key priority areas and the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Centers on water resources, environment, agriculture, and youth exchange have been highly effective. Together, they provide the institutional underpinning for smooth practical cooperation in those fields.

Over the past five years, we have built strong cooperation momentum and achieved good progress in common development. We the LMC countries have created a "development-first, pragmatic and efficient, and project-oriented" model of cooperation, and worked to translate our economic complementarity into a driving force for development.

During the past five years, China's economic output expanded by 47.5 percent, contributing to China's historic achievement in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. The combined GDP of the five Mekong countries grew by over 30 percent. The level of their economic and social development has kept rising. In 2020, trade between China and the Mekong countries reached $322.1 billion, up by 66.3 percent from 2015. China is now the largest trading partner of Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand, and the second largest trading partner of the Laos. Vietnam has become China's fourth largest trading partner among countries.

Drawing from the concessional loans for foreign aid, preferential export buyers' credit, and the special credit line for industrial capacity and equipment manufacturing cooperation, China has supported over 40 major infrastructure projects in the Mekong countries, including the Siem Reap New International Airport, the Vientiane power grid upgrade, and the Vinh Tan Coal-fired Power Plant.

Quality agricultural products from Mekong countries, such as durians from Thailand, rice from Cambodia, watermelons from Myanmar, bananas from the Laos and basa fish from Vietnam, have come to the dining table in Chinese households. Chinese companies and their local partners in Cambodia and the Laos have established agricultural cooperation demonstration zones that serve as centers of production, processing, logistics and distribution for rice, rubber, fruits, vegetables and livestock products.

Over the past five years, we have made strong efforts to strengthen friendship between our peoples. In everything we do, we put the people front and center, and strive to ensure that our cooperation benefits the people of all LMC countries. In 2019, more than 50 million visits were made between China and the Mekong countries. There were nearly 3,000 regular flights per week. 

During the past five years, more than 20,000 students from Mekong countries studied in China on Chinese government scholarships. The Lancang-Mekong Vocational Education Base in Yunnan provided training to more than 40,000 workers from Mekong countries who found employment in China.

The LMC Special Fund has sponsored more than 500 livelihood programs: "Mekong River Sunlight Villages" brought solar photovoltaic technologies and equipment to villages in Cambodia and Myanmar. The nuclear energy training project equipped young people in Vietnam, the Laos and other Mekong countries with expertise on nuclear power plants, nuclear medicine and other civilian technologies. "Selection for Superior Species of Camellia" introduced camellia species from Guangxi to mountainous regions in Thailand and the Laos. The project on "improvement of coffee production and coffee quality in Lancang-Mekong region" provided training to more than 11,000 coffee farmers in Myanmar and helped double the country's coffee bean output. "Materia Medica and Chinese Acupuncture-Moxibustion benefiting Mekong countries" promoted cooperation on traditional medicine. The integrated development of underdeveloped communities and the "Half the Sky Campaign for Women in Lancang-Mekong countries" contributed to poverty reduction and women empowerment in the region.

Over the past five years, we have supported each other as partners of solidarity. The LMC has established the first water resource cooperation platform with the participation of all six riparian countries. We convened the Ministerial Meeting of Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation, and conducted practical cooperation on flood prevention, disaster mitigation and technology promotion.

As an upstream country, China has been doing its utmost to ensure reasonable discharge volumes to countries downstream and provide emergency water supplement to Mekong countries as needed. As of last year, China has shared the hydrological information of the Lancang River throughout the year, and launched the online Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Information Sharing Platform to help countries downstream tackle floods and droughts. 

In February last year, facing the sudden attack of COVID-19, foreign ministers of the five Mekong countries and I met in Vientiane, the Laos as scheduled for the fifth LMC Foreign Ministers' Meeting. All the ministers expressed solidarity with China in the battle against the virus, and extended valuable support to China at a crucial moment. Our six countries have taken effective measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. Both the number of confirmed cases and prevalence remained significantly lower than other parts of the world. 

Our six countries have also worked together to fight transnational criminal activities, including terrorism, online gambling, telecom fraud, human trafficking and illegal immigration, and prevent and mitigate disasters. With these efforts, we have jointly protected the safety of our people and their property, and contributed LMC wisdom to the improvement of regional governance.


Such hard-won achievements and valuable experience must be cherished. Throughout the past five years, we have always remained true to our purpose and mission: to strengthen our cultural bond and people-to-people affinity, to pursue common development and win-win cooperation, and to deliver peace, prosperity and happiness to the people. Our cooperation has not only delivered real benefits to the people of our countries, but also offered valuable experience for strengthening cooperation in the future.

— Pursuing good neighborliness and affinity. The LMC is deeply rooted in our traditional friendship. We always believe that all countries are equal, irrespective of their size, strength or wealth, and that countries need to accommodate each other's comfort levels, firmly support each other in pursuing a development path suited to one's own national conditions, and uphold our philosophy of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

We treat each other as equals, help each other out, and maintain close consultation to reach consensus and solve problems. We adhere to principles, value friendship, promote solidarity, affinity and cooperation, and pursue peace, good neighborliness and harmony. We believe that "while achieving one's own success, one should also help others achieve success." We will always be good neighbors, good friends, good partners and good brothers.

— Meeting the shared aspirations for development and common prosperity. The Mekong sub-region, with a considerable number of people still living in poverty, inadequate infrastructure and significant capital shortage, faces a heavy task in achieving greater development and prosperity. The LMC has made it a top priority to advance development through cooperation. With a strong commitment to making a real difference on the ground, we have worked hard to unleash the development potential of each and every LMC country.

We have harnessed our geographical proximity and industrial complementarity to advance infrastructure connectivity in every possible way, actively expand trade and investment, and further empower regional industrial and supply chain networks. Through these efforts, our six countries aim to promote all-dimensional, high-quality and interconnected development, deepen economic integration, and boost the internal driving forces for cooperation. These endeavors signify our common responsibilities and create benefit for all.

— Leveraging our advantage of cultural and people-to-people affinity. The long-standing friendship and close social and people-to-people exchanges among the LMC countries enable us to interact like family and offer us unique advantages for cooperation. By following a people-centered approach, the LMC has delivered real benefits to our peoples and enhanced the sense of gain and affinity. 

In keeping with the needs of our peoples, we have taken concrete and result-oriented steps and continued to increase investment in education, health, women's cause, poverty reduction and other areas that are important to people's livelihoods. We are working to bring our peoples even closer to each other so that more people will become part of, benefit from and support the friendship and cooperation among LMC countries. These efforts are a robust safeguard for the steady and sustained development of the LMC.

— Following the historical trends of openness, connectivity and coordinated development. Despite a backlash against globalization and mounting unilateralism, our six countries have stayed on the right path of multilateralism and regional economic integration, and have worked toward becoming a fine example of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. We have helped the LMC and other cooperation mechanisms, including the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), the Greater Mekong Sub-region Economic Cooperation Program (GMS), and the Mekong River Commission (MRC), to draw on each other's strengths and reinforce each other. This is a joint effort to support ASEAN Community building and deepen the China-ASEAN strategic partnership.


The new era calls for new accomplishments. The LMC is a vivid epitome of China's diplomatic efforts to implement Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy, break new ground, and forge ahead. Facing the once-in-a-century pandemic and changes, the LMC needs to rise to the challenges, step up to its responsibilities, chart the future course of development, and deepen and substantiate cooperation in all areas to create an even better future for the people of the sub-region.

We will continue to be a pacesetter in cooperation against COVID-19. As the pandemic is far from over, containing the virus and saving lives remain our number one priority. The LMC can offer a new example for international cooperation on COVID-19 and contribute to a global community of health for all. We need to keep up the effectiveness of our containment measures, leave nothing to chance and strengthen vaccine cooperation in order to achieve a final victory against the virus. To meet future challenges, we must make public health cooperation a priority of the LMC and make good use of the LMC Special Fund for Public Health to support projects of epidemic monitoring technologies, cross-border infectious disease control, traditional medicine and other areas, and boost the public health capacity of the LMC countries.

We will forge stronger partnerships. The sub-region is our shared home. The more complex and fast-changing the international environment is, the more urgent it is to build a community of shared future of peace and prosperity among Lancang-Mekong countries. We need to maintain the momentum of high-level exchanges, deepen the sharing of governance experience, strengthen our cooperation across the board, and explore new areas of cooperation such as non-traditional security. 

Water resources are a close bond connecting the upstream and downstream countries along the Lancang-Mekong River. We need to fully respect the legitimate rights and interests of all countries in developing and utilizing their water resources as appropriate, increase mutual trust, mutual understanding and mutual support, accommodate each other's concerns, and jointly enhance our capacity for integrated river basin management and water resources management, so as to deepen the solidarity and cooperation among upstream and downstream countries.

We will continue to promote common development. Advancing regional economic integration and promoting infrastructure connectivity and unimpeded trade is of major significance for the industrial development and economic growth of the sub-region. We need to work for the early entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), improve trade, investment and connectivity cooperation, expedite major projects including the China-Laos railway and the China-Thailand railway, and identify specific pathways to synergize the LMC with the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor. We need to deepen cooperation in border trade, cross-border e-commerce and industrial parks, and jointly build the Lancang-Mekong Economic Development Belt. We need to adapt to changes proactively, deepen structural reform, and foster new driving forces for development through technological innovation and digital transformation.

We will firmly safeguard people's happiness. We need to deepen cooperation on improving people's livelihood. We need to ensure the success of agricultural and poverty reduction projects that are crucial to people's lives, speed up the implementation of the Lancang-Mekong Environmental Cooperation Strategy, and carry out cooperation on air quality improvement and biodiversity conservation. We need to expand cooperation in areas such as education and tourism and among the youth, support local/regional government cooperation, mobilize associations, businesses and non-governmental actors, and strengthen the development of industry alliances, so as to enhance the internal impetus for cooperation.

Connected by mountains and rivers, we the LMC countries are close neighbors and friends committed to our shared well-being. This year marks the centenary of the Communist Party of China (CPC). In March, the 13th National People's Congress of China adopted at its fourth session the Outline for the 14th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development and Long-Range Objectives through the Year 2035. As China embarks on a new journey toward fully building a modern socialist country, we are fostering a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other. This is a new development stage for China, and offers new opportunities for the LMC. We will work with the Mekong countries for more progress in the LMC, strive for a safer, more stable and more prosperous Lancang-Mekong region where our people live happier lives, and make new contributions to building a community with a shared future for mankind.