China has offered more than $3 billion in loans and aid to neighbours Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos to improve infrastructure and production, and to fight poverty, state media reported.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the offer included $1 billion for infrastructure, $490 million for poverty alleviation and $1.6 billion in special loans for China’s production capacity export, Xinhua news agency said.
During a speech to the fifth summit of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation in Bangkok, Li also pledged $16.4 million to dredge waterways along the Mekong River to prevent natural disasters.
“These are important parts of our efforts to upgrade China- ASEAN cooperation … we are ready to work with the five countries to build a new framework to deepen cooperation and bring the GMS comprehensive partnership to a new level,” Li said.
He said China planned to export high-level production capacity in electricity, telecommunications, steel and cement to its neighbours on regional transportation routes, Xinhua reported.
Li is in Thailand attending a two-day summit of leaders of Mekong River region countries, the biggest international gathering in Thailand since its military seized power.
China will finance projects by offering special loans, currency swaps in cross-border transactions and by allowing a role for private enterprises, Li said.
More than $120 billion has been promised by China since May to Africa, Southeast Asia and Central Asia as Beijing tries to present a softer, more cooperative side to the world following months of tension over territorial issues and other problems.
“We’ll create new levels of industrial cooperation. China has become the most important trade partner in the sub region and our investment will increase. . . We have every reason to draw on each others’ strengths,” Li added.
China said it would build an 867-km rail network in Thailand and buy two million tonnes of its rice.
The project could be a boon for Thai trade and tourism and strengthen China’s strategic foothold in a country that has seen its traditionally strong ties with the United States cool since a military coup in May.
“China will be responsible for the construction and development of the rail network and Thailand will take part in preparing the groundwork for construction,” Thailand’s transport minister, Air Chief Marshal Prajin Junthong, told reporters.
The first line will be a 734-kilometre standard-gauge dual track railway stretching from Nong Khai on Thailand’s border with Laos, to its industrialised eastern seaboard. China has provisionally agreed with Laos to build a railway from Kunming through Laos, with the aim of connecting with Thailand.
China will also develop another, 133-kilometre rail track linking the central province of Saraburi to Bangkok, about 108 kilometres away. Construction would begin in 2016, Prajin said. Reuters