The Mekong River, linking China and five neighboring Asian
nations, has turned out to be an important transport channel as the
booming international shipping resulted in a cargo volume of
235,000 tons in 2003.
The figure was 168,600 tons in 2001, when shipping between
China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand started.
The implementation of China-Thailand zero tax agreement on
vegetables and fruits, beginning Oct. 1 last year, was the major
contributor to the rapid growth in shipping on the river, with
shipment rising sharply by 58 percent from the previous year,
according to sources from the Navigation Administration of Yunnan,
Statistics show the Mekong has become a significant trade
passageway for nations in that area, said Qiao Xinmin, director of
the administration. Yunnan has more than 80 cargo ships sailing on
the river and plans to use first-class passenger ships to tap
the potential tourism industry.
Originating in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in western China, the
Mekong is called Lancang in the Chinese territory and runs through
Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before entering the
South China Sea. It is the only river in Asia that flows through
The Chinese government regards the river as an important trade
link with neighboring countries and started to dredge the
260-kilometer section of river in Yunnan in the 1990s, said Yang
Guangcheng, director of the provincial transport department.
Water course deepening and cleaning projects continued in the
previous two dry seasons since 2002 and the river's transport
efficiency improved significantly. The transport capacity on the
upper reaches rose by 50 percent to hit up 250 tons, costs were cut
by 30-40 percent, and the navigation season was extended to 11
months from the former six to seven months, Yang said.
Yunnan is about to carry out a project to further improve
navigation on the river.
The Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) countries, namely China,
Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, have worked together
during the past decade for closer economic ties by speeding up the
implementation of the GMS Economic Cooperation Program (GMS
Program) since it was initiated by the Asian Development Bank in
Under the GMS Program, the six participating countries have
prioritized some 100 projects in eight sectors, including
investment, trade, transport, tourism, telecommunications, energy,
the environment and human resource development, which have helped
promote the sub-regional economic integration by increasing
connectivity through infrastructure development and multilateral
The GMS has a combined land area of nearly 2.3 million square
kilometers, and a total population of some 250 million, many of
whom are dependent on fish for food. The sub-region's gross
domestic product is expected to climb to US$863 billions in 2010
from US$212 billion in 1997.
(Xinhua News Agency January 26, 2004)