Why the Mekong matters

The Third Pole –

The countries of the Mekong should build a “community of shared future”, said China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in December last year. The Lancang-Mekong Cooperative Framework (LMC) is “practical and highly effective”, he said. “We do not go after a high-profile ‘talk shop’, but a down-to-earth ‘bulldozer’”.

China has managed to cement its influence over the transboundary river in recent years, in a move that has important implications for the riverine environment and the people that rely on its resources. Its primary vehicle, or “bulldozer”, the LMC, will drive dam and development projects, special economic zones and trade.

It also illustrates China’s changing approaches to Southeast Asia – the central topic addressed recently in a policy forum The Third Pole and chinadialogue co-organised with the Centre for Social Development Studies (CSDS) and the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University, in Bangkok.

The Mekong is the world’s twelfth-longest river. It rises in China, on the Tibetan Plateau, before it runs down through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. According to the Mekong River Commission (MRC), it is second only to the Amazon in terms of biodiversity importance, and the most productive inland fishery in the world.

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