Sign up | Log in



Home  >>   Daily News  >>Laos>>Ties>>China's Rising Influence in Laos
NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs   4  March  2016  

China's Rising Influence in Laos

The recently signed Joint General Scheme of Mohan–Boten Economic Cooperation Zone is the first cross-border economic cooperation zone that China has established in Laos and, for that matter, in the whole of Southeast Asia. The deal hints at the Asian giant’s goal to expand its economic ties with its southern neighbors.

Boten, a remote village on the China–Laos border, is positioned at a strategic location for China to extend its influence in Southeast Asia, as it connects two important transportation lines from China to mainland Southeast Asia. One is the Kunming–Bangkok Expressway, which starts in Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan Province, passes through Boten, then over the Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge, and finally arrives in Bangkok.

The other line is the China–Lao Railway, which runs from Kunming to Vientiane, a strategic location along the East–West Corridor that connects Vietnam’s Danang with Phitsanulok in central Thailand and Mawlamyine in Myanmar. While the Kunming–Bangkok Expressway was completed in December 2013, construction of the disputed China–Lao Railway project, possibly causing severe environmental problems in northern Laos, only began in December 2015.

The Mohan–Boten Economic Cooperation Zone is not all that new. In 2007, a predecessor for the Mohan–Boren Economic Cooperation Zone — the Boten Special Economic Zone (BSEZ) — transformed Boten. The BSEZ was mostly funded by Chinese enterprises. Since the establishment of the BSEZ, fancy hotels, casinos, restaurants and shopping markets have appeared in the remote and undeveloped Boten.

Thanks to Laos’ free entry visa policy and the completion of the Kunming–Mohan Expressway — part of the Kunming–Bangkok Expressway — in late 2006, Chinese tourists and gangsters have been inundating the BSEZ. Chinese citizens are the majority of Boten’s customers and many local people have since been relocated to a nearby village to continue their traditional farming lifestyles.

But the BSEZ was closed in 2009 due to escalating criminal activities in the area. A local small shop owner said in an interview with the author in September 2014 that ‘Boten was like a ghost town because all the fancy hotels, casinos, and restaurants were completely shut down, leaving only a few small shops to survive’.

Interestingly, the tri-lingual signs — in Chinese, English and Laotian — are still there. And, while business is low in Boten at the moment, this remote village can easily be revived once the new Mohan–Boten Economic Cooperation Zone is opened.

Midway from Boten to Luang Prabang, Chinese influence is also very apparent in Muang Xay, the capital of the Oudomxay Province. Hotel Sheng Chang, established in early 2014, is the largest activity center in Muang Xay and includes a big supermarket, a casino and a restaurant. When asked about the reason for such a large investment in a mountainous city with less than 150,000 residents, the hotel manager said that he sees it as a promising business venture. This is not only because of the Kunming–Mohan Expressway, but also due to rising Chinese economic activity in Laos.

The business district in Muang Xay is only a one-kilometer stretch along the main road, but Chinese shops and advertisements fully span both sides of the road. One can find small and middle-sized Chinese auto repair shops, grocery stores, hardware stores, computer shops, guest houses, and, of course, restaurants. Khmu used to be the largest ethnic group in Muang Xay, but now new Chinese migrants dominate the local economy, marginalising the Khmu people.

Even at the Muang Xay bus station Chinese influence is visible, with destination signs written in Chinese, English and Laotian. While it is common to see Chinese characters on signs in big cities like Luang Prabang, it is surprising to see Chinese characters in small towns such as Phongsaly, Muang La, Nong Khiaw and Luang Namtha.

Given the recent Chinese developments in northern Laos, it seems that the primary aim of the Mohan–Boten Economic Cooperation Zone is not to ‘promote the proposal of One Belt One Road jointly’ nor to ‘enhance the level of the bilateral reciprocal cooperation’, as stated by Chinese officials, but, rather, to facilitate further Chinese expansion into Laos and other parts of Southeast Asia.

Reach Southeast Asia!
10- Nations, 560- Million Consumers
And $1 -Trillion Market
We are the Voice of Southeast Asia Media Kit
The only Media Dedicated to Southeast Asia Advertising Rates for Magazine
Online Ad Rates

Comment on this Article. Send them to

Letters that do not contain full contact information cannot be published.
Letters become the property of AseanAffairs and may be republished in any format.
They typically run 150 words or less and may be edited
submit your comment in the box below

Today's  Stories                           March 4, 2016 Subsribe Now !
• Foreign visitors to Viet Nam increase by 3.5% in February Subcribe: Asean Affairs Global Magazine

• Third undersea cable to plug Kingdom into data fast lane
• Insurance eyes robust growth after slow year
Research Reports
on Thailand 2007-2008

• Textiles and Garments Industry
• Coffee industry
• Leather and footwear industry
• Shrimp industry

 • China's Rising Influence in Laos
VN, Turkey hope to double trade
Asean Analysis                   March 4, 2016
• Asean Analysis March 4, 2016
Aung San Suu Kyi Is Key to Further Unlocking of U.S. Sanctions against Myanmar
Advertise Your Brand

Asean Stock Watch  March 3, 2016
• Asean Stock Watch-March 3, 2016
The Biweekly Update
• The Biweekly Update March 4, 2016

ASEAN NEWS UPDATES      Updated: 04 January 2011

 • Women Shariah scholars see gender gap closing
• Bank Indonesia may hold key rate as inflation hits 7 percent
• Bursa Malaysia to revamp business rules
• Private property prices hit new high in Singapore • Bangkok moves on mass transport
• Thai retailers are upbeat
• Rice exports likely to decline • Vietnamese PM projects 10-year socioeconomic plan


This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More






1.  Verifier

1. Verifier

For security purposes, we ask that you enter the security code that is shown in the graphic. Please enter the code exactly as it is shown in the graphic.
Your Code
Enter Code

Home | About Us | Contact Us | Special Feature | Features | News | Magazine | Events | TV | Press Release | Advertise With us

| Terms of Use | Site Map | Privacy Policy  | DISCLAIMER |

Version 5.0
Copyright © 2006-2017 TIME INTERNATIONAL MANAGEMENT ENTERPRISES CO., LTD. All rights reserved.
Bangkok, Thailand