Thanks to the decade-old Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) economic cooperation and the proposed China-ASEAN free trade area, a south-north "economic corridor" featuring more convenient road transportation is now looming ahead between China and the ASEAN.
Transportation cooperation between the GMS countries, which include Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, has made substantial progress as roads from Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, to Bangkok of Thailand and Rangoon of Myanmar are either being constructed or renovated, sources in Kunming have said.
Once completed, the roads, especially the one linking Kunming and Bangkok, will serve as the most important land transportation artery between China and the ASEAN, said Li Tianming, board chairman of the Haohong Circulation Group of Yunnan.
Li estimated that the Kunming-Bangkok road could witness an annual goods flow worth some 100 billion US dollars if the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area is established.
The road, which runs from Kunming to Bangkok via Laos, will be some 1,800-km-long, with 687 km in China, 247 km in Laos and 813 km in Thailand.
Sponsored by the Asian Development Bank, the three countries reached a cooperation agreement to build a high-grade road in 2000, which was designed to be connected with the road passage linking Malaysia to Singapore in the future.
The construction of the last 189-km section of the road in China, from Mengyang to Mohan port of Yunnan, began this spring. According to the transportation department of Yunnan, with a total investment of around 6.6 billion RMB yuan (800 million dollars), this section of road will open to traffic in 2008.
The three countries will each pay one third of the total spending on the rebuilding of the 247-km road section in Laos.
The 800-km-plus section in Thailand, according to an official of the General Consulate of Thailand in Kunming, has been rebuilt thoroughly to meet the standards of high-grade roads. It will take only one day to travel from Kunming to Bangkok upon the completion of the road sections in China and Laos, said the official.
Construction and renovation work of another important road in the region, connecting Kunming and northern Myanmar's Mandalay, is also progressing smoothly. The 651-km section of the road between Kunming and Ruili in Yunnan has almost been completed, with only 76 km from Baoshan to Longshanka still under construction. As to the 432 km from Ruili port to Mandalay, only a 170-km section still needs rebuilding. Government sources said that support from the Asian Development Bank has played a vital role in the construction of the south-north "economic corridor." An ADB loan of 150 million US dollars has made it possible for the construction of the expressway from Yunnan's Chuxiong to Dali, part of the road from Kunming to Rangoon, to begin five years ahead of schedule.
Moreover, another 250 million US dollars were provided by the bank for the building of the expressway from Yunnan's Yuanjiang to Mohei, which is part of the road from Kunming to Bangkok.