Building Bridges of Friendship and Cooperation in the Lancang-Mekong Region and Between China and Cambodia
H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
Rivers have nurtured human life and civilisations through the ages. It was along rivers that mankind has lived, multiplied and developed itself. The Lancang-Mekong River, from its source in China, stretches for nearly 5,000 kilometres, and flows through more countries than any other river in Asia, nourishing the beautiful land along the way and the diverse and splendid cultures in our region.
The river, which plays such a big part in our lives, is a gift from nature and embodies a natural bond of mutual support. It brings the six riparian countries together into a community with a shared future featuring equality, sincerity, mutual assistance and kinship. That is why the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) framework named after the river was warmly received by riparian countries when it was first proposed.
Our six countries, which are different in economic size and industrial structure, strive to advance cooperation through building consensus and turning economic complementarity into impetus for development cooperation. Centering on the three pillars of political and security issues, economic and sustainable development, and social, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, we have endeavoured to leverage our geographical proximity and tap the potential for mutually beneficial cooperation in the areas of connectivity, industrial capacity, cross-border economic interactions, water resources, agriculture and poverty reduction.
The LMC draws from our time-honoured friendship and our common aspirations for unity, cooperation and development. It is only natural for it to have produced fruitful results in a short span of time. All the 45 early harvest projects identified at the first leaders’ meeting in 2016 have been implemented as scheduled. The planned provision of a special credit line of $5 billion for industrial capacity cooperation has been overfulfilled. Financial support will also be made available through the LMC Special Fund for a total of 132 projects proposed by our six countries. With progress and results delivered daily, monthly and annually, a truly remarkable LMC speed has been created.
The LMC, originating from and thriving along the river, has grown into a sub-regional cooperation framework with great potential and vitality. In the context of rising backlash against globalisation and protectionist sentiments as well as lack of momentum in East Asian cooperation, the LMC as a basic component of regional cooperation is not only conducive to narrowing the development gap within ASEAN and advancing ASEAN integration, but also enriches South-South cooperation and efforts to foster a more open, inclusive and balanced economic globalisation that benefits all.
In the past, the Lancang-Mekong River had borne witness to both the hardships and glories of riparian countries. Going forward, the LMC will take us all to a future of fulfilled dreams and common prosperity.
As the New Year begins, everything takes on a new look. I look forward to joining my colleagues in Phnom Penh for the second LMC leaders’ meeting and to discussing with them future action plans of cooperation in water conservancy, education, culture, youth and many other areas. I am confident that these efforts will lead to even more fruitful outcomes.
President Xi Jinping paid a successful visit to Cambodia in 2016, which took China-Cambodia comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership to a new level. I look forward to renewing China-Cambodia friendship during my upcoming official visit to Cambodia at the invitation of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
This year celebrates 60 years of diplomatic ties between our countries. For the Chinese, Cambodia is a country that evokes warm feelings for many reasons. We feel drawn to Cambodia not just because of our close, neighbourly interactions dating back more than two millennia, and the irresistible charm of your splendid Khmer culture and the world-renowned Angkor Wat. More importantly, our similar historical experience and common struggles have brought our peoples firmly together. A friend in need is a friend indeed. This is our shared belief. We have given each other mutual support throughout the years when it comes to issues concerning our core interests, major concerns and principles of national dignity, sovereignty and independence.
The great friendship spanning more than half a century between King Father Norodom Sihanouk and Chinese leaders has become a legend in the history of China-Cambodia and even international exchanges. To many ordinary Chinese, the names of Cambodia and the King Father bring back an unforgettable memory of that part of history. Some have attributed this legendary friendship to the fine traditional Chinese values as well as the moral appeal of the independent foreign policy of peace China has followed since the founding of the People’s Republic. Now the world may have changed as time goes by, yet what will not change are these values we hold dear. They will be passed on and grow stronger, as China continues to treasure its traditional friendship with Cambodia. We will remain true to the spirit of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness in pursuing friendship and partnership with all neighbouring countries, persist in our goal of building a community with a shared future with our neighbours, and stay committed to a principled approach toward shared interests.
Today, the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone, named in memory of the late King Father, is seeing booming growth, attracting more than 100 companies from China and other countries and creating nearly 20,000 jobs for the local community. Like many other collaborative projects between the two countries, it stands as a symbol of renewed China-Cambodia friendship by delivering real benefits to the people. The Chinese people are heartened to see Cambodia, which had endured so much in the past, march proudly down its path of national development. There is every reason for China and Cambodia to go hand in hand on the great journey toward national rejuvenation and development. China stands ready to facilitate deep synergy of its development strategies with those of Cambodia to advance bilateral cooperation across the board. And Chinese investment, technologies, industrial capacity and tourists will continue to contribute their share to Cambodia’s economic and social progress.
The friendly cooperation between China and Cambodia and within the LMC framework is oriented to promoting economic development, particularly to bettering people’s lives. I am delighted to learn that the Chinese medical teams conducting the Mekong Brightness Action have helped more than 600 cataract patients regain their sight. They will see with their own eyes the promising future of our common development. And during my upcoming visit, Prime Minister Hun Sen and I will jointly launch a Love Heart Journey programme to provide surgery for heart disease patients. I wish all patients an early recovery. I am sure the stronger beats of their hearts will contribute fresh and lasting strength to China-Cambodia friendship.
It is estimated that China has built more bridges and more roads in Cambodia than any other country. In my view, the best bridge China has built is the bridge of friendship between our peoples, and the best road is the road leading toward common development. The very purpose of my visit is to continue building that bridge and that road.