Laos, an isolated, mountainous nation of 7 million people wedged between China, Vietnam and Thailand, is opening a $5.9 billion railway its leaders hope will energize its economy, but it may pile on dangerously high debt
BEIJING -- Laos, a nation of 7 million people wedged between China, Vietnam and Thailand, is opening a $5.9 billion Chinese-built railway that links China's poor southwest to foreign markets but piles on potentially risky debt.
The line through lush tropical mountains from the Laotian capital, Vientiane, to Kunming is one of hundreds of projects under Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative to expand trade by building ports, railways and other facilities across Asia, Africa and the Pacific.
The 1,035-kilometer (642-mile) line opens this week to cargo but no regular passengers due to anti-pandemic travel curbs.
Poor countries welcome China’s initiative. But the projects are financed by loans from Chinese state-owned banks that must be repaid. Some borrowers complain Chinese-built projects are too expensive and leave too much debt.