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“Like China 30 years ago” Chinese Discourses of Development in Northern Laos

Thursday, April 29, 2021 at 12:30pm

Virtual Event

***Formerly titled "South of the Clouds, North of the Nagas: Yunnan's Changing Role in the Mekong Region." The title and abstract of this talk have changed slightly.***

Part of the Ronald and Janette Gatty Lecture series

Dr. Juliet Lu, Atkinson Center for Sustainability Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Development Sociology, Cornell University 

Since the late 1990s, Chinese investment in Laos has grown exponentially and is transforming  many areas of the country. Chinese actors involved in driving this expansion, from traders to agribusiness firms to state officials, tend to insist that these investments are not just business endeavours but drivers of development. They often compare Laos to China 30 years ago in terms of its degree of economic development, articulating a narrative that China’s model of development can be exported and applied in other countries. In this talk, I present multiple perspectives on how ideals of development translate from China into the Lao context. I use the stories of three groups of actors engaged in the cross-border agribusiness investments and trade to show how narratives of development are rooted in personal histories and ties to China. These experiences often differ and the narratives of development that individual actors tell are motivated by their own strategic interests. Still, they demonstrate the tendency to compare the two countries as a way of understanding the rapid transformation of Laos through Chinese investment, and of considering broader implications for the future. 

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Lecture, Webinar


Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, Sociology, East Asia Program, Southeast Asia Program, Sustainability, Asian & Asian American Center, China and Asia-Pacific Studies, Cornell China Center





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James Nagy

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Juliet Lu

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Cornell University

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