Author Archives: Brian Eyler

About Brian Eyler

Brian Eyler is Deputy Director of the Southeast Asia program at the Stimson Center in Washington, DC. Prior to moving to DC he lived and worked in China and Southeast Asia for 15 years. His research and consulting focuses on trade, infrastructure development, and transboundary environmental issues between China and Southeast Asia.

A Quick Glance at Yunnan’s 2013 GDP

Below is the translation of a recent media release on Yunnan’s GDP and breakdown by sector and source.  I’m still tracking down some explanatory data (like why imports decreased by 10%) before I provide analysis and representations, but observe that total debt is greater than 2013 GDP as well as debt/total savings ratio is approximately 77%.  Investment growth was double consumption and real estate investment grew by 40%!   Lastly, there seems to be a mistake with total fixed capital investments listed at nearly 85% of GDP. 

Yunnan Wangxun – January 17, 2014 (author: Lei Suyue): Experts at the Yunnan province Bureau of Statistics report the province’s 2013 GDP totaled 1.17 trillion RMB (193 million USD).  The province’s GDP growth rate ranked third in China at 12.1% and is demonstrating a stable and positive trend. 

The data show the agricultural sector contributing 305bn RMB and growing by 7% on the previous year.  Grain harvests were the highest in five years totaling 18.24mn tons and a YOY growth rate of 4.3% (.749mn tons).  Additionally, special agriculture industries (agro-forestry, livestock, and fisheries) from upland areas (高原特色农业) are contributing strongly to this growth in terms of improvements in quality and quantity.

Industrial output rose to 347Bn RMB and grew by 12.3%.  Light industry contributed 152.8bn RMB and grew by 7.4%.  Growth in heavy industry rose to 194.3bn RMB demonstrating a significant growth rate of 16.3%.  These industries consumed 675.2bn tons of coal (8.1% growth), and the entire province consumed 145.9bn KWH of electricity (10.9%).

Investment in fixed capital assets (not including farm investments) increased by 27.4% reaching a total of 962bn RMB (translators note: this looks too high, could be a typo).  Real estate investment totaled 248.8bn RMB (39.6% growth).  The province added a total of 182mn square meters (27.1% growth) and sales of 33mn square meters (2.2% growth) at a total value of 14.87bn RMB (9.1% growth).

Total government expenditure for 2013 was 278.5bn RMB. Total government revenues for Yunnan province totaled 161bn RMB (20.4% increase).  Tax revenue totaled 121.5bn RMB (increase 14.2%); Non-tax revenue totaled 38.56bn RMB (44.3% increase)

Provincial government expenditures (including locality expenditure) totaled 409.65bn RMB (14.7% increase)with 278.46bn RMB spent on education, social welfare and employment programs, agro-forestry and water resources, transportation shipping, and social housing programs.  This expenditure rose 34.4BN RMB from last year and totals 68% of provincial public expenditure.

Total Consumption reached 403.6bn RMB – a 14% increase over 2012. Urban consumption totaled 324bn RMB growing by 13.8%; rural consumption totaled 79.5bn RMB (growth 14.5%) 7 percentage points higher than urban consumption growth rates.

Yunnan’s international trade (exports + imports) totaled 125bn RMB (25bn USD)

Total trade rose by 22.9% in 2013 – the province’s growth rate is 15.3 points higher than the national trade growth percentage.  Among this exports totaled 15.96bn USD (59.3% growth); Imports totaled 9.87bn USD representing a decrease of 10.2%.

By the end of December, 2013, total savings of provincial financial institutions totaled 2.06 trillion RMB, an increase of 271.84bn RMB (15.2% increase); total debt of Yunnan’s financial institutions is 1.58 trillion RMB an increase of 192bn RMB (14% increase)

GDP breakdown by sector: Primary sector GDP totaled 189.5Bn RMB (6.8% growth), secondary sector GDP totaled 492.8bn RMB (13.3% growth) where industry contributed 376.7bn RMB (12% growth) and construction totaled 116bn RMB (18.4% growth);  Tertiary industry totaled 489.8bn RMB (12.4% growth).

Yunnan has made progress in navigating its development through the pressures of the complex global economic climate through the promotion of a “Stability provides progress, stability provides effectiveness, stability provides expedience” program.  Success in Yunnan has come from promoting stable growth, institutional restructuring, promoting reform.



Filed under China, Current Events, Economic development, SLIDER, Yunnan Province

The Kunming-Bangkok Highway’s Final Link Opens over the Mekong

The Fourth Thai-Lao Friendship bridge which connects Thailand’s Chiang Rai province to Lao PDR’s Bokeo province officially opened for business yesterday.  Although the bridge, which stretches 400 meters across the Mekong river, and surrounding customs and inspection infrastructure have been completed for a few months, the two countries set the auspicious date of December 11, 2013 or 11/12/13 as written in the international form for the bridge’s opening ceremony conducted by Thailand’s highly respected Princess Sirindhorn.


A local fisherman navigates the Mekong downstream of the new bridge (July 2012)

A local fisherman navigates the Mekong downstream of the new bridge (July 2012)

The prime benefactor from the bridge’s opening is not Thailand or Laos, but rather China as the bridge serves as the final link in the Kunming-Bangkok highway, a 1900km series of connected highways that will facilitate significant increases in container shipping trade between China and Thailand.  Six years ago overland transport between Kunming and Bangkok for container shipping was virtually impossible due to the poor quality of roads.  In China’s southwestern Yunnan province, a drive from Kunming to Jinghong, the Dai cultural capital of Sipsongpanna (Xishuangbanna) prefecture took up to 24 hours and another six hours to the Lao PDR border at Boten.   China completed its portion of the highway to in late 2007.

The Lao PDR segment of the highway connects Boten to the 4th Friendship bridge in Huayxai and cuts through 180km of the most remote parts of Laos.  In the summer rainy season of 2004 I hitched a ride on a pickup truck to travel the 180km segment which then was a single lane mud track.  We completed the tiresome 10 hour drive only after averting a serious accident and certain death when the truck spun out of control nearly pitched over a 400 meter cliffside.    China, Thailand, and the Asian Development Bank invested equal thirds in the Laos portion of the highway which opened in 2010 and dropped transportation time to three hours.

By design, the highway system links the friendship bridge to Bangkok, but despite being the strongest economy on mainland Southeast Asia, Thailand’s highway system lags behind in quality compared to China and the stretch running through northern Laos.  Improvements to Thailand’s R3 highway system which will link Chiang Rai province to all points in Thailand is ongoing but far from complete.  Thailand has promised to upgrade its national transportation and highway infrastructure but political roadblocks, corruption, and a perceived lack of momentum for regional integration at many levels of Thai government and society has discouraged those plans from synching up with China’s outwardly stretching infrastructure linkages.   When the Thai roads are finished, a container truck will be able to travel from Kunming to Bangkok in less than 18 hours.

Road widening construction on Thailand's R3 in Chiang Rai province

Road widening construction on Thailand’s R3 in Chiang Rai province

The 14 hour drive from Kunming to the friendship bridge feels like a leapfrog journey from bridge to tunnel and tunnel to bridge as the road makes its 1800 meter descent.  These two roads cut through some of the most difficult terrain on the planet and link the Chinese state to the Thai state while passing through the most ethnically diverse region in Asia.

The roads not only to build regional commercial connections between China, Thailand, and Laos through the increases of trade and investment but they also assist in expanding each of these state’s interests and systems into the once impenetrable regions of upland southeast Asia by introducing national education systems, agricultural techniques that promote mono-cropping over traditional subsistence farming, and creating avenues for ethnic and rural peoples to leave their homes and link up to national labor markets.   The opening of the bridge will increase trade in the region and will intensify and quicken the pace of social change in upland Southeast Asia and reshuffle the cultural milieu of peoples who have sought refuge from the expansionary Chinese and Thai states for centuries.

Under construction, July 2012

Under construction, July 2012

Bridge completion, December 2013

Bridge completion, December 2013

The bridge’s construction has also caused an influx of Chinese investment in Chiang Rai province mostly in real estate development, speculation on future industrial estates for manufacturing of intra-industry goods passing between China and Thailand, and the buying up of agricultural lands.  While this investment is encouraged and welcomed at the national level and by the Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce, locals are wary of the fast and growing levels of investment in the Golden Triangle Area by Chinese firms and often cite a “Chinese invasion.”  The mayor of Pak Ying Tai village, a small fishing community of 100 households located less than one kilometer south of the bridge has lamented to me on several occasions about China’s footprint in Chiang Rai as he observes year on year decreases in freshwater fish catches and sends more and more of his villagers looking for work in urban areas.

A local farmer from Pak Ying Tai village discusses his worries about community impacts of economic development

A local farmer from Pak Ying Tai village discusses his worries about community impacts of economic development

In many ways the bridge and its construction serve to represent the challenges of regional cooperation between China, Thailand, and the rest of mainland Southeast Asia.  From its conception in the late 1990s to its completion yesterday, the bridge has gone through stalled and failed rounds of negotiation and has not lacked controversy.  Groundbreaking for the 1 billion Thai baht project which is equally invested by China, Laos, and Thailand did not occur until 2010 despite a scheduled start for as early as 2006. In May 2011 Thailand pulled its portion of the construction team in order to settle a land dispute with the local Thai government accusing Chinese commercial interests of illegally purchasing land on the Thai side of the bridge.

Container trucks will no longer have to wait in line for the Mekong ferry at Huayxai in Laos.

Container trucks will no longer have to wait in line for the Mekong ferry at Huayxai in Laos.

Another obstacle to regional cooperation demonstrated by the bridge is the ease of passage through customs and inspection for both container trucks and individual travelers or tourists to the region.  Chinese trucks are not permitted to drive in Thailand, nor are Thai trucks allowed to travel through China; thus the speed of transport is slowed by the need to repackage goods at one of the border crossing points. Despite efforts of the ADB in to facilitate a shared cross border trade and transport protocol to streamline logistical flows at regional border checks in China and mainland Southeast Asia, states have been slow to adopt the measures in order to protect national markets and logistics industries.  New customs and inspections facilities at the bridge are fitted to increase the speed of transport and ease of people movement and will serve as a testing ground for these promised increases in logistical efficiencies.

Looking forward to the first six months after the bridge’s opening, the verdict will be clear on whether the bridge will serve as a strategic choke point, a gateway for win-win trade and economic development between two regional powers , or a conduit that will further challenge the structure of rural livelihoods in upland Southeast Asia.

Looking upstream at the completed bridge from Pak Ying Tai village.

Looking upstream at the completed bridge from Pak Ying Tai village.

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Filed under China, Current Events, Economic development, GMS, Mekong River, Regional Relations, SLIDER, Thailand, Uncategorized, Yunnan Province

Book: The Mekong – Turbulent Past, Uncertain Future

The Mekong: Turbulent Past, Uncertain Future

Milton Osborne (Grove Press, 2000)


The Mekong, Turbulent Past, Uncertain Future, by Milton Osborne is a critical introduction to the history, geography, and a slate of current issues facing the Mekong River basin.  Despite being written in 1999, the book is a must read for those looking for a primer to the myriad issues challenging the region.  Those more familiar with the Mekong region will find interest in the anecdotal observations of locations like Luang Prabang and Phnom Penh by locals and outsiders through the centuries as well as the personal perspectives of the Milton Osborne himself, a seminal authority on the Mekong and Southeast Asia.  PLUS, any book that begins with a description of drinking Beer Lao along the Mekong must be a good one.

Weaving the 2000 year history of a river and those living in its watershed into a 300 page narrative is no small task.  As a basic approach, Osborne selects contemporary themes prevalent to the region such as violent exploitation by outside groups, biodiversity losses, the protection of local and indigenous cultures, and the establishment of independent state and regionalism.  He then searches for the roots of these themes in both the historical record and contemporary experience.  The composite product is a rich chronology that begins with the rise and fall of classic empires like Angkor Wat, transitions to the exploits of the European Colonials up the river as they search for a river road to China, and finally pits emerging Mekong states in a battle with a contemporary rising China over the Mekong’s abundant endowment of resources.  The book by no means is a local history, but rather one of an outsider looking in, a familiar and recurrent theme utilized by Osborne to connect with his English speaking audience.

Part I of the book begins with the 13th century reflections of Chou Ta-kuan who made the only written documentation of the great Khmer kingdom at Angkor.  Chou’s observations, calling the Khmer “a coarse people, ugly and deeply sunburnt,” reveal prejudices of the hegemonic Chinese empire toward lesser and classic rice cultivating states to the south.  This reminds the reader at once of similar prejudices European colonials held toward Asians as well as the prevalent chauvinism that modern day Chinese often show toward their southern neighbors.  Osborne’s description of the Khmer empire highlights the critical linkage of the seasonal ebb and flow of the Mekong watershed’s Tonle Sap lake to sustaining the life of a historically unprecedented empire.  He accurately portrays that this natural phenomena of yearly flooding along the Mekong and its tributaries serves as lifeline to the abundance of fish species that nearly 60 million people rely on for sustenance in contemporary times.

The book excels as a historical narrative as Osborne introduces the steady stream of European influence over the region starting with exploits of the Portuguese and Spanish in the 16th century and then, across a few of the books chapters, giving a detailed account of a 19th century failed French exploratory mission to find a way to navigate the river from its delta at the sea to upstream into China.  At the time of the book’s writing in 1999, Chinese engineers were blasting rapids in the upper reaches of the Mekong near the Golden Triangle to open trade river trade between China and Thailand, so the river exploration theme may have seemed more relevant then than now.  Yet even today local communities struggle to cope with the costs of foreign investment and imposed development practices.  The story of the not-so-successful Lagree-Garnier mission of the late 1850s reveals hubris of the French who discovered, at great cost of human life, that the river could not be used as a trade route to China.  Yet their meticulously recorded 15-month expedition produced the region’s first accurate topographic map, and picturesque illustrations by the expeditions’ engraver, Louis DelaPorte detail the dynamic cornucopia of human culture that was found then (and still exists) along the course of the Mekong.

In Part II, Osborne tells of the political and social upheaval of the Mekong region of the 20th century through his own experiences and those of his friends and colleagues, some of whom met a violent end in the decades of Cold War conflicts that plagued Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.  Arriving in Phnom Penh in 1959 on assignment by the Australian government, Osborn tells how he once (like many Southeast Asian leaders today) was excited about the prospects of the US’s plans to dam the Mekong.   Through first-hand, detailed accounts he portrays how the Vietnam War and the Cambodian conflict put an end to American sponsored hydropower cascades on the river.  This portion of the book also introduces readers not so familiar with the Vietnam War, the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the US’s Secret War with Laos to key events, political leaders, and suggests literature for further reading.

The irony of Part III, an exposition on future concerns toward the Mekong, is although it was written 14 years ago, so little has changed of the rhetoric and concern towards the future of the Mekong.  Much of this portion is spent discussing the details and impacts of China’s dams on the Mekong on downstream fisheries and communities – a theme that still pervades the current literature on Mekong issues.  This suggests little progress has been made on issues that were not only apparent in the mid-1990s, but in retrospect, apparent in the 1950s when the US planned to dam the Mekong.  Osborne discusses the lack of political gravitas displayed by the Mekong River Commission, the coordinating body responsible for the river’s maintenance and development made up of the four lower basin member states of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.   He introduces salinization of the Mekong Delta and the potential costs that will be burdened by local communities through increases of regional transportation infrastructure such as highways and bridges built across the Mekong for the purpose of trade facilitation.  Most Mekong scholars would agree that the circumstances surrounding these key contemporary issues have only worsened since the time of the book’s writing.

The Mekong: Turbulent Past, Troubled Future is a must read and good starting point for all students of the Mekong and its narrative is as significant now as it was in 2000 at the time of its publishing.  More importantly, the book leads the reader to more exhaustive texts like the Cambridge History of Southeast Asia and sets the reader to explore a widening pathway of issues developing in the Mekong basin.  The book also serves as an excellent travel companion for those backpacking through the region.  Travelers will be surprised to see how much the urban spaces, like Phnom Penh, Jinghong, and Dali described in the book by its various characters throughout the centers have changed and enticed by how much cultural cores, like sleepy Luang Prabang, have not.

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Filed under Current Events, Economic development, Environment and sustainability, GMS, Mekong River, Reviews

Missed Opportunity? Barack Obama Cancels Southeast Asia Trip


Earlier this week US President Barack Obama cancelled his historic visits to Malaysia and the Philippines but made good on his promise to attend regional leadership meetings in the coming days where key trade agreements and hard power deals are likely be negotiated and fortified.  However, domestic pressures over the budget crisis and government shutdown in Washington have caused the President to scrap his trip entirely.

Will Obama’s absence be a game-changer for regional relations and the US’s strategic pivot to the Asia Pacific?  Will Tea Party-infused political brinkmanship in the US offer Chinese president Xi Jinping, also attending the summits, a golden opportunity to expand China’s regional footprint?

Obama’s strategic “pivot” and return to the Asia Pacific, by and large, has utilized Southeast Asian states as a springboard in developing a program of political and economic laurels that open up Southeast Asian markets for foreign direct investment and international trade.  From a 1,000 foot view, the US pivot looks similar to China’s foreign policy to Southeast Asia, thus the US’s program both complements and competes with China’s regional rise.  It is important to remember that due to its proximity to Southeast Asia and its fast-tracked economic expansion, China’s investment and trade volumes with Southeast Asia will always exceed that of the United States.  However another hard reality is that US power in Southeast Asia, both soft and hard, will always eclipse that of China’s.  It will take major restructuring in the US (for the worse) and in China (for the better) to reverse this relationship.  Despite the best efforts of the Tea Party in the US and potentially of an equally challenging New Left movement down the road, the status quo in terms of the channels that express US military, economic, and cultural power in Southeast Asia are unlikely to weaken.  For China, we are uncertain of Xi Jinping’s economic reform platform likely to unfold at year’s end, but we can be assured that his platform will focus on strengthening China’s domestic economy first, with foreign policy and other considerations taking a backseat.

In terms of soft power choices between China and the US, the consistent preference of Southeast Asians is to side with the US or at the very least, against China.  Wealthy Southeast Asians, like the Chinese, send their children to top US universities for robust skilling; Southeast Asians, like Americans, go to China to learn Mandarin. Middle income consumers in Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia refuse to purchase Chinese made smart phones (and their apps and operating  systems), those who have the means to purchase cars in Laos choose Japanese Toyotas or refurbished Korean used cars, and with the Chinese mainland’s crowding out of the Hong Kong and Taiwan entertainment industries, no one in Southeast Asia listens to new music or watches new films coming out of China. Continue reading

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A Perfect Storm: Kunming’s downtown floods after record rainfall, killing two

beijing lu

48 hours of continuously hard rain pounded Kunming’s downtown area late last week dropping more than 40 cm of water and flooding the city’s north and central business districts.  Two city residents were killed and one still remains missing.  Tens of thousands of Kunmingers woke up on Friday morning to find their cars submerged, and the inventories of hundreds of downtown shops were ruined.  Four kilometers of Beijing Road, the city’s main north-south artery were shut down, crippling city traffic through Sunday.

Late Thursday night, the remnants of the easterly moving Typhoon Soulik clashed with the westerly wet seasonal monsoons directly above the city’s center and the rain did not let up until early Sunday morning.  Kunming, which has been in a state of constant dry season drought for the past five years, had unseasonably low levels of rain this summer prior to the two day storm.  The low levels likely prompted city officials to continue maintenance on the Panlong river, a canal that runs parallel to Beijing Road and serves as the city’s main drainage channel.  The maintenance project cut off more than half of the canal’s waterway in key segments and when the rains hit, the canal spilled over into the city streets.  Subway construction underneath Beijing Road likely blocked key drainage channels further exacerbating the situation.  By Saturday, the city’s main flood manager declared a total failure of Kunming’s flood prevention system. Continue reading


Filed under China, Current Events, Uncategorized, water, Yunnan Province

China needs to change its energy strategy in the Mekong region

This op-ed was first published at ChinaDialogue and on 7/16.

 Mekong bridge

At the end of this year cars and container trucks loaded with goods from China and Thailand will finally be able to drive across a multi-lane bridge spanning the Mekong River (known as the Lancang in China). The bridge will connect Chiang Rai province in Thailand to Bokeo province in Laos, effectively linking China’s highways stretching south from Beijing and Shanghai to those coming north from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.

Funded by equal investment from the Chinese and Thai government, the completion of the bridge, which took ten years of planning and two years to build, is not without controversy. For many years Thailand held back investment due to an uneven distribution of benefits between China, Laos and Thailand. Also on the Thai side, the NGO Rak Chiang Khong claim the bridge negatively impacts the local Golden Triangle economy and will ruin Mekong fisheries.

The Golden Triangle Bridge serves to highlight the challenges facing China, as the country’s new leadership attempts to balance its slowing and volatile economy and deliver domestic stability by maintaining peaceful economic relations with its neighbours.

China’s regional strategy

“In 2012 China’s growth in trade and outward investment with the five other Mekong countries of Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam surpassed its trade and investment growth in ASEANcountries,” said Xu Ningning, chairman of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Business Council. “Greater growth rates will continue with increases in regional cooperation and win-win investment opportunities.”

For the past three years China’s GMS provinces of Yunnan and Guangxi have posted growth rates of 12-15%, the highest of China’s localities, and arguably China’s economic rise has also helped deliver high growth rates among Mekong countries.

The end of the Cold War in the 1990s created a favourable environment for China to develop its economic cooperation strategies toward the Mekong region. The blurring and opening of once inviolable borders encouraged traders on both sides of the China-Southeast Asia frontier to appeal to local and national governments for better conditions for trade and migration. The Chinese government responded with twenty years of state-led trade liberalisation and investment policies to promote regional cooperation in state and private sectors.

China’s economic cooperation strategies towards its four Mekong neighbours has dovetailed nicely into a strategy that fits China’s current development needs. Liu Jinxin, a policy analyst and logistics expert says, “Unlike the US which leads the world in finance and IT, both high-value service-oriented industries, China is the world’s factory, producing goods to drive the growth of its growing middle class and serving export markets around the world. To survive, the Chinese ‘factory’ needs inputs like energy and raw materials.” Continue reading

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Filed under ASEAN, China, Current Events, Economic development, Energy, Environment and sustainability, Food, Foreign policy, GMS, Governance, Laos, Mekong River, Myanmar/Burma, Sustainability and Resource Management, Thailand, Vietnam, water

Nowhere to Kowtow in Barren Fields

ExSE Commentary: Below is a translated feature from the Thursday, June 13  Southern Weekend, a Chinese newspaper known for its excellence in reporting and pushing the envelope on key social and political issues in China. 

The article calls for the need to officially memorialize and add to the historical record the sacrifice of 100,000 fallen soldiers of the Chinese Expeditionary Force (CEF), one of two Chinese military excursions outside of sovereign Chinese territory sent to repel Japanese forces occupying Burma during World War II. But this is not a simple task for the PRC government who currently proclaims its military forces have never operated across borders; the fact that the CEF troops were later identified with the Nationalist army and persecuted during the Cultural Revolution only complicates the cause. The author cites the lack of Chinese government participation in recognizing its own history and respecting China’s war veterans through a comparison of Britain and Japan’s official treatment of soldiers killed in action and veterans still living.

 In addition, the article stokes nationalist sentiments, by reminding the reader of China’s history of crushing Japanese aggression abroad (although the victory at the Battle of Myitkyina was a result of Sino-US military cooperation, a factor the article fails to mention).  Lastly, this feature, which pits China as positive and contributory force in the creation of a modern Myanmar, is interestingly published at a tenuous time for China-Myanmar relations.   

Photos, maps, and details on the CEF can be found here



“Nowhere to Kowtow in Barren Fields: Chinese Citizens Erect Monuments to China’s WWII Expeditionary Forces in Burma. ” By Zeng Ming

During the 2013 Qingming Grave Sweeping Festival, 17 Chinese citizens arrived in the border town of Myitkyina, Burma. While walking under the war-torn clouds of the capital of the Kachin state, they stopped at a plot of barren farmland and laid chrysanthemums on the ground.

This movement called “Return to the Burmese Battlefield” is the first large scale non-government organized movement of its kind to memorialize the remains of the 100,000 fallen soldiers of the China Expeditionary Force (CEF). It was here that the CEF initiated the most intense battle of World War II outside of Chinese soil and achieved the first victory of Chinese expeditionary forces since the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-1895.

However, the historical record of this battle is dim and pallid.  Standing on this desolate ground, they pay respect to too many things unknown and gauche that have sunken into the ground. They do not know for whom they cry, and they do not know the faces or names of those buried here.

In more than half a century the skeletons of 10,000 soldiers of the China expeditionary force have been brushed over by history, destroyed by human forces, and sent into oblivion in the forests of northern Burma.  With the exception of the little that has sunken into the historical record, for their entire journey, the participants of this movement are shaken by a single fact: The British and Japanese have erected grand cemeteries to their fallen soldiers.  Each of these soldiers has received the highest degree of respect, and even the names of war horses are carved in stone.

Presently the Burmese know more about the distant victories of colonials and invaders than they do of the CEF even though the latter made a great sacrifice for the sake of peace.  This is a competition to reveal the true events of the last century that have since fallen silently off the historical record.  This group of volunteers believes China cannot again be left out of the history of this battle.  They have decided to do something – to erect a monument to the war of their fathers’ generation. Continue reading

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Remarks: Strengthening Cooperation & Promoting Cross-border Transport Logistics

GMS workshop

NOTE: The following is the English language transcription of a speech by Yang Shiji, Vice Director of the Yunnan Provincial Government’s Research Office, presented on June 5, 2013 at a workshop on GMS (Greater Mekong Subregion) Freight Transport Association Capacity Building.  The first part contains an interesting portrayal of connectivity potentials and a brief history of transportation linkages between China and Southeast Asia.  The reader should keep in mind that the area in discussion contains some of the most difficult terrain in the world, but the speaker’s main concerns are inter-government cooperation and the harmonization of customs and trade procedures throughout the region.   The final portion of the speech provides a framework to improve connectivity and upgrade logistical services within the region. 

For reference, a map of the Greater Mekong Subregion is linked here

“Strengthening Cooperation and Promoting Cross-border Transport Logistics in the Greater Mekong Subregion”

Cross-border logistics is an emerging industry combining several composite services such as transport, warehousing, and information.  Connecting production with consumption and linking countries to the outside world, the industry is composed of tangible and intangible factors and covers the entire process from product manufacturing to commodity flow.  Therefore, giving full play to the function and role of transport and upgrading the efficiency of cross-border logistic transport will have significant impact on all aspects of the economic and social lives of the countries in the GMS.  With the maturation of China’s market economy, a professional and efficient logistic system has been an indispensible factor for upgrading the quality of its economic functions, the income of its enterprises, and an accelerator for its entire national economy.

Located at the junction of China and Southeast Asia, the South Asian Subcontinent, Yunnan borders with Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar, and shares with them a 4060 km national boundary line, about one-fifth of China’s total land border.  It has 25 frontier counties, 23 national entry ports, and over 100 trading channels for border residents.  To its east Yunnan is linked to the Zhujiang River delta and the Yangtze River delta economic circles, and to its south it has direct access from three routes, east, central, and west, to Hanoi, Bangkok, Singapore, and Rangoon via the Kunming-Bangkok highway and the Pan-Asia Railway, currently under construction.  It is the gateway to the vast western hinterland of China to its north.  To its west, it has access to the Indian Ocean via Myanmar.  In a word, the province enjoys the locational advantage in “connecting with two oceans, the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, and linking with three major markets in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia.” Continue reading

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Filed under China, DOCUMENTS, Economic development, GMS, Laos, Mekong River, Myanmar/Burma, Regional Relations, Technology, Thailand, Vietnam

What’s at Stake for the China-South Asia Expo?


The China-South Asia Expo opened without a hitch yesterday in Kunming despite online calls for a continuation of environmental protests outside of the Expo’s opening ceremony site.  It seems protesters decided to stay home due to a combination of sticks and carrots offered by local authorities.  On June 3, Kunming’s mayor announced the release of key environmental impact assessment data concerning the construction of a PetroChina oil refinery and PX chemical plant side project scheduled for construction 40 km from the city’s downtown area.  Also, the excessive presence of armed and unarmed public security officers lining the city’s streets and manning the Expo site also likely turned protesters away.

What is the rationale behind the excessive security measures?  What’s really at stake at the 1st China-South Asia Expo?

The Expo, a combination trade fair and high level forum for investment and trade promotion discussions between China, Southeast Asia, and now South Asia, is part of China’s Bridgehead Construction strategy to establish Kunming and Yunnan province as a gateway between China and its neighbors to the south and west.  A smoothly running Expo not only will seal multilateral agreements and high-value business deals that will streamline regional trade and investment, but it will also guarantee the continuation of soft-budget infrastructure development projects sponsored by Beijing to Kunming and Yunnan province that are part and parcel of the “Bridgehead” strategy.

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Filed under China, Current Events, Economic development, Energy, Environment and sustainability, Foreign policy, GMS, Laos, Myanmar/Burma, Vietnam

Cleaning up Kunming’s Dianchi Lake, Part 2

Zhou Dequn’s post, “Cleaning up Kunming’s Dianchi Lake” discussed the origins of and contributing factors to the lake’s pollution.  His post also briefly discussed a few of the measures used to raise the quality of Dianchi’s water in recent years. The marked improvement of Kunming’s groundwater quality was recently profiled in this New York Times video.

Dianchi south

PHOTO: Dianchi’s southern shoreline

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