Mon, Dec 22, 2014 - Page 4 News List

China plans to give loans, aid to Mekong neighbors

CARROT AND STICK:China has been using diplomatic and financial tactics to win over neighbors in Southeast Asia, despite setbacks with such nations over sea disputes

AFP, BEIJING

China plans to provide more than US$11.5 billion in loans and aid to neighboring Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, mostly for infrastructure and industrial capacity building, state media said on Saturday.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) pledged US$1 billion in funding for infrastructure, US$490 million in aid for poverty reduction and US$10 billion in “special loans,” Xinhua news agency said.

Li announced the loans in Bangkok at a summit of nations along the Mekong River, a day after he vowed to help construct a railway through Thailand which Xinhua said would cost US$10.6 billion.

Few details were given on projects to be funded, but Xinhua said China would export production capacity in industries such as electricity, telecommunications, steel and cement.

China also promised to invest US$16.4 million to dredge waterways along the Mekong River and prevent natural disasters, Xinhua cited Li as saying.

Beijing has previously come under fire from environmentalists for building dams along the upper-reaches of the Mekong in southwestern China, which have been blamed for flooding along the river.

Dams and hydroelectric power schemes were expected to be high on the agenda of the Greater Mekong Summit, despite mounting concerns over environmental and social impacts.

China has in recent months devoted diplomatic energy, as well as huge sums of money, to wooing Southeast Asia, where its reputation as a regional powerhouse is blighted by sea disputes and fears over its long-term intentions.

Last month, Beijing pledged US$20 billion in soft loans and infrastructure projects to the 10 members of ASEAN during a summit in Myanmar. Experts say Beijing is determined to outmaneuver the US, which has embarked on a security “pivot” toward Asia, as well as bolster its trade routes — and access to resources — as China’s rapid economic growth continues.

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