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Laos' tourism-driven economic recovery hinges on China

New cross-border railway brings in Chinese money, and concerns about influence

Tourists use kayaks on the river in Vang Vieng, Laos, in July 2022.   © Reuters

VIENTIANE -- Laos' economy is recovering from a pandemic slump as the opening of a passenger railway link with China helps bring back tourists, but the country risks becoming more reliant on its northern neighbor as a result.

In April, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) revised the 2023 real GDP growth rate forecast for Laos to 4%, an upgrade of 0.5 percentage point and 1.7 points higher than 2022. The growth rate had reached 4.7% in 2019, before the pandemic. The economy shrank in 2020 before expanding at the 2% range in 2021 and 2022.

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