'Don't like, don't hate': Pragmatic Laos embraces China

Laos is gaining in strategic importance for China. But unlike Cambodia, another major regional beneficiary of Chinese largesse, Laos adopts a more nuanced attitude towards its powerful northern neighbour. * Power Play is a weekly column that looks at various facets of US-China rivalry and its implications for Asia.

Passengers boarding the Laos-China Railway train at Vientiane station. China is currently Laos' biggest creditor and investor. ST PHOTO: TAN HUI YEE
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BANGKOK - In May, when US President Joe Biden launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) to reassert Washington's regional leadership, three out of Asean's 10 countries were absent from the list of initial members.

One of them was Cambodia, led by unabashedly pro-China Prime Minister Hun Sen. The second was Myanmar, a fledgling democracy upturned last year by a military junta that is increasingly legitimised by Beijing.

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