A CORRIDOR WEAVED IN SILK
Laos has long been described as landlocked and blocked, as the poorest country in mainland Southeast Asia, lacking infrastructure and attention from the world’s press. Today, interest around Laos has raised significantly due to China’s expansion through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). For China, resource abundant and low-income Laos is an ideal space to enhance its economic position connecting Laos to its transport networks and value chains. The two countries share borders, have similar forms of party-state rule, a past of economic interdependence and ethnic ties.
Chinese investments in Laos skyrocketed in the early 2000’s, long before the BRI, when the China’s going out campaign that incentivized Chinese entrepreneurs and companies to invest abroad coincided with the Turning Land into Capital strategy in Laos, a set of neoliberal policies aimed at attracting foreign investments. Since then, China has become Laos’ primary investor, most significant large-scale infrastructure developer, major aid provider, main holder of Lao sovereign debt, and second-largest trading partner after Thailand.
This body of work (2018 – ongoing) is a visual exploration of one infrastructural corridor in northern Laos, the Laos–China Economic Corridor (LCEC). The LCEC was proposed in 2018 within the BRI framework as a means of accumulating capital and developing various sectors of the Lao economy along the new Lao-China Railway that opened in 2021. The corridor spans for more than 600 Km, from the capital city Vientiane, on the shores of the Mekong River, to the mountainous border town of Boten, China's gateway to Southeast Asia. For both Lao and Chinese, the corridor is not merely a physical space through which goods and people travel, resources are extracted, and ideas are shared, it also encloses promises of future prosperity, connectivity and modernity.