"China is coming": Rising Chinese influence in Laos through One Belt: One Road
Phill Wilcox (Bielefeld University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper draws on ethnographic research and examines how the rise of China in Laos is impacting on the aspirations of Lao youth with respect to consumption choices and aspirations of future opportunities.
Paper long abstract:
China is arriving in Laos very literally with construction beginning on the Lao-China Railway, a major infrastructure project under One Belt: One Road which is set for completion in 2021. The Lao-China Railway has wide-reaching implications, including relocations of large numbers of people and significant changes in Lao culture and society as Laos negotiates a changing and sometimes difficult relationship with China. Many Lao articulate serious concerns about the growth of China in Laos both in terms of physical and cultural changes. However, at the same time, many Lao youth own Chinese made products, aspire to learn Chinese for better opportunities and attempt to study in China. Lao youth therefore speculate that even if not entirely desirable, China will become increasingly prominent in their own futures and the future of Laos. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, this paper argues that perceptions around China in Laos are both complex and contradictory but are having noticeable impacts on the social fabric of Laos as people make life decisions increasingly with explicit reference to rising China. Second, that the issue will become more acute as the railway becomes a reality in contemporary Laos. Finally, that despite divergent economic contexts, Lao youth show considerable agency in shaping emerging relationships with China.
The spectres, spectacle and speculation of infrastructure - tracing the moralities of movement along energy corridors.