The coronavirus pandemic could have serious impacts on economic growth in Laos, which is already struggling due to significant debt taken on to finance a large range of Chinese-backed infrastructure projects, Nikkei reports.
Browse our analysis section for news and articles on topics such as China's Belt and Road Initiative (OBOR), the world's evolving digital infrastructure competition, and the stakes for U.S. policy.
China's Belt and Road investments are facing public criticism in Laos as Chinese-built hydropower plants disrupt the local fishing industry. Some Chinese agricultural businesses have also been accused of poor labor and environmental standards while the IMF and other organizations have flagged the risk of debt distress in the country, Nikkei reports.
Chinese-funded projects along the Mekong River are increasingly facing pushback from governments and environmentalists in the region as water levels drop due to drought and the construction of large dams. In an attempt to address these concerns, Vietnam plans to add the Mekong River to ASEAN's agenda this year, Nikkei reports.
Laos has approved 14 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) backed by Bejing as part of China's Belt and Road Initiative in a bid to boost the economy, however, many observers are concerned about the country's mounting debt to China, Nikkei reports.
Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith on Friday pushed back against warnings about his government's debt to China. The government has "its own measures to manage the debt and ensure balance in the public debt sector," Thongloun said, reports the Nikkei Asian Review.
Thailand's prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with Laos and China to accelerate the construction of a much delayed high-speed rail line between northeast Thailand and Vientiane in Laos, reports Nikkei.
Five years into China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative, the United States is trying to respond to Xi Jinping’s infrastructure-building spree. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Reconnecting Asia Director Jonathan Hillman discusses the craving for more alternatives to Chinese offers and the window of opportunity it creates for the United States.
Laos is accepting more Chinese loans to build 50 hydropower dams by 2025 and is increasing its external debt, half of which is owed to China.
The leaders of Japan and five Southeast Asian countries agreed to adopt a new policy that pushes forward more than 150 projects in the Mekong region using official development assistance from Japan.
Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam have announced the The Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) Fund. The fund aims to help Southeast Asia become more financially self-reliant and reduce its dependence on external economic and political giants, particularly China.
Read the full article [here](https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/Southeast-Asian-fund-can-complement-Chinese-investment-by
Chinese infrastructure investment throughout Southeast Asia has shifted the tide of opinion, simultaneously supporting authoritarian politics in certain states and engendering opposition to Belt and Road in others, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.
Five nations that share the Mekong River: Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam adopted a five-year master development plan during the 2018 ACMECS summit in Bangkok. The plan vowed to upgrade roads, power grids, and other pieces of infrastructure that connect and strengthen the region.
Most countries along the BRI have urgent infrastructure development needs and many are considered too high-risk for traditional investors, the result being that their governments have been highly receptive to Beijing’s offers of financing, building, and operating infrastructure projects.
A special report by Nikkei Asian Review and The Banker which leverages data from the CSIS Reconnecting Asia Project has found that China's Belt and Road initiative holds considerable promise for countries in need of infrastructure investment along its route, however, participation has been hampered by challenges ranging from a lack of participation by local workers and banks to unmanageable debt hangovers.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomes all ten ASEAN leaders to New Dehli in an attempt to strengthen trade and connectivity with the bloc.
Thai company plans to develop industrial parks in its cheaper neighboring countries along the Mekong River, where it bets manufacturing will pick up.
China’s high-speed rail ambitions are running off the tracks, the Financial Times reports in a special investigation that draws from Reconnecting Asia’s database.
Work has commenced on the 414-kilometer long China-Laos high-speed railway near Phonesai village.
A selection of the top projects we’re watching this year.