Cooperation is the key, Li tells LMC leaders at meeting

China is willing to cooperate further with the five other countries working under the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism in the fields of agriculture, training and education, as well as medical and health services, Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday.

“In recent years China has benefited enormously from the peaceful and stable environment of our neighboring countries, and we are more than willing to shoulder the responsibility to lend support to them and develop hand in hand,” Li said.

Li was speaking at a joint news conference with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen after the two leaders co-chaired the second LMC Leaders’ Meeting in Phnom Penh. Also attending the meeting were the leaders of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

Li said China will continue to import agricultural products, including fruit and rice, from the five Mekong countries.

He announced at the news briefing that the first five-year action plan had been approved, from 2018 to 2022, since the cooperative arrangement kicked off in 2016. The meeting also resulted in a second set of cooperation projects, he said.

China will increase scholarships provided to students from the other five Mekong countries, including senior government officials, in areas including medical and health services, Li told reporters.

Guo Yanjun, deputy director of the Institute of Asian Studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said the declaration shows that the LMC is a framework reflecting the demands and consensus of the all six participating countries, and the training that China provides will be crucial to the next stage in the development of the LMC.

“Such training will improve competence of senior officials of the other five countries and improve their livelihoods, thus building a better foundation for LMC growth,” Guo said.

Statistics show that in 2016 more than 50,000 students from the five countries along the Mekong River received educations in China. Among those, 6,500 received scholarships from China. Since the LMC started in 2016, 332 flights between China and the five other countries have been added.

From January to October 2017, trade volume between China and the five Mekong countries reached $177.6 billion, a 15.6 percent increase from a year earlier.

On Wednesday, Li also met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.