Five years after President Xi Jinping was in Laos on a state visit, Sommano Pholsena, an old schoolmate of his, is happy to see the fruit of collaboration between the two countries.
"The China-Laos railway has been opened," said Sommano, a former vice-general manager of the state corporation Electricite du Laos. "I've also heard that the first phase of a China-aided hospital in Vientiane has started to accept patients."
He was referring to the 1,035-kilometer railway that opened in December, a landmark project of high-quality Belt and Road collaboration connecting Kunming in Yunnan province with the Lao capital, Vientiane.
"Many hospitals and schools were built under pilot poverty alleviation programs," Sommano told China Daily in fluent Mandarin. "The results are obvious."
As the second son of the former Lao foreign minister Quinim Pholsena, a key figure who pushed for the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Laos in 1961, Sommano, together with his siblings, studied at Beijing Bayi School with Xi in the 1960s.
On Nov 13, 2017, Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, arrived in Laos for a two-day state visit after he attended the 25th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders' Meeting in Vietnam. It was the first visit to Laos by a Chinese head of state in 11 years.
Despite a tight schedule, Xi made time to meet his friends from the Pholsena family at the hotel where he stayed in Vientiane. Xi had also met them when he visited Laos in 2010 as vice-president.