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Monday, June 19, 2017, 17:21
Yunnan takes center stage on Belt and Road
By China Daily
Monday, June 19, 2017, 17:21 By China Daily

A Pakistani exhibitor discusses products to a visitor at the 2017 South and Southeast Asia Commodity Expo and Investment Fair (SSACEIF). (Xinhua)

Kunming – Laos and Pakistan stole the show at the 2017 South and Southeast Asia Commodity Expo and Investment Fair (SSACEIF) here as China deepened its One Belt and One Road (OBOR) initiative with the region.

Beginning on June 13, the fair ran through June 18. There were 17 exhibition halls, and 8,000 stands with special themes for Pakistan, Laos, South Asia and ASEAN. Thailand came with about 170 SMES under “Top Thai Brands” theme led by Singha Corp. But it was Yunnan’s neighbor Laos which stole the limelight as the host’s “Guest of Honor”.

Laos’ construction of the railway network, part of the OBOR, is underway. The rail lines, due to be complete in 2021, will come down from Yunnan, the Chinese province which connects Southeast Asia and South Asia by land. Its strategic designation on OBOR will add to the recently-opened oil pipeline from Myanmar and already operating rail lines to Vietnam.

Laos’ enthusiasm for the OBOR’s rail network, which is designed to link up with a Chinese-sponsored new rail route in Thailand so it can reach deep sea port at Laem Chabang, is evident. ”It’s an opportunity for Laos to transform from “land lock to land linked one”, said head of the Laotian delegation.

China and Laos, he said, are linked not by some mountains but “we are also good neighbors, comrades and partners”, he told thousands of delegates during opening of the fair.

China is the biggest foreign investor in Laos with 767 projects worth US$7 billion, 47 percent of which comes from Yunnan.

Pakistan also made a splash at the fair as the “country of honor”. Its ambitious partnership with China is known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Yunnan plays a role as China’s Southwest gateway to the South Asian nation.

Pakistan came as part of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Chamber of Commerce at the Fair. Its president,

Suraj Vaidya, the president of the chamber, said South Asia is at a turning point with potential in infrastructure, having 26 percent of the world’s youth population, and untapped business potentials.

The head of the Pakistani delegation underscored her country’s relations with China saying it “transcends the complexity of global chaos of international relations.” The economic corridor will herald new era and benefit billions of people, she said.

Liu Qi Ling, vice chairman of SSACEIF, said activities at the fair are also designed to deepen China and Yunnan’s roles in OBOR.

China announced the provision of consultant services in legal and other business matters as well as arbitration to step up the dynamic of OBOR with Southeast and South Asia.

Among those who also participated at the fair were some key Yunnan players in the region: the railway agency, energy company, investment company and Ocean University of China which is keen to tap into the Maritime Silk Road.

Visitors to the 2017 South and Southeast Asia Commodity Expo and Investment Fair (SSACEIF) take photos of the model of a development zone in Vientiane, Laos. (Xinhua)

TOURISM

Yunnan is on course to set up a big data center and an e-commerce platform to seize on cross-border tourism opportunities with Southeast Asia, said officials.

A number of initiatives were unveiled at the Cross-Border Tourism Forum which is part of the SSACEIF.

Yunnan has also stepped up links with Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar through infrastructure investment to partly also accommodate “drive tourism”, according to Yu Fan, a member of Yunnan Province Tourism Development Committee.

Yunnan will also increase number of sister city tie-up with Cambodia and other ASEAN countries including Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

“We have identity the rapid growth in tourism cooperation in the next 10 years as a diamond period,” said Lv Yuanqing, dean of Yunnan University’s Business Adm and Tourism Management School.

The three-year plan ending 2018 is also mulling the idea of “no boundary tourism areas”, free trade arrangement, capacity buildings to reduce cultural conflicts. “We are looking for market integration, joint marketing actions,” he said.

His academy is also looking into the feasibility of setting up a big data center and ecommerce. The issue has less to do with technology but how to integrate acceptable Chinese-ASEAN tourism information with mutual benefit, transparent, and workable one payment system.

Jiang Jun, General Manager of China Intelligent Travel Technology Co, said Big Data for Yunnan and South and Southeast Asia, will help to bring less known destinations to the fore. Even best restrooms can be detected for tourists to choose, he added.

Zhao Jianjun, dean of Yunnan Province Tourism Academy, said in the South Silk Road tourism area, 20 million Chinese visit South and South East Asia annually, while 5 million citizens from the later visit Yunnan. But 2 of the 5 million stay only on the border areas.

“Our products are highly complementary with the 13 South and Southeast Asian nations. We have desert, alpine, lake, culture, ethics etc.,” he said, adding that Kunming now has flights linking 28 South and Southeast Asian cities.

HIMALAYA SPORTS COMING

Yunnan plans to attract tourists with new products, including sport activities next to the Himalayas, and health tourism.

Wang Jiaxue, director of Yunnan Tourism Industry Institute, said with “top of the world” branding aside from world class cultural heritage and biodiversity, joint tourism promotions with 10 countries in the area could be developed.

The 10 include India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar alongside Yunnan, Tibet and Xinjiang provinces of China. The so called Himalayan-Ring Tourism Circle would be the best in the world.

“We can cooperate on transport and environmental protection...These are less developed nations and the initiative will lead to reduction in poverty,” said Wang.

Shen Heping, chairman of Yunnan Province e-Commerce Association, said Yunnan can become a health tourism hub to for individual tourists as the era of travelling in group tours is over.

EXEMPLARY ON INEQUALITY

The Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture, which sits in the middle of Yunnan with a population of 2.73 million, provides a good example of China’s efforts to deal with inequity and poorer areas of the country.

Chuxiong officials sell their prefecture as another economic gateway in Yunnan as well as its richness in copper, titanium, zinc and iron, and 6,000 plant species. It also houses the Myanmar-China’s oil pipeline.

The officials said budget spent on poverty reduction via a number of villages target to deal with inequality, share of income between urban and rural population, and what it expects in contribution to the prefecture’s growth because of the OBOR via South and Southeast Asia.

They declared prefecture government service reform with changes in the laws, to achieve clean governance, boost efficiency and economic level’s playing field.

They disclosed data on progress with Alibaba e-commerce to get local firms on the world’s business map.

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