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1 to 2 percent of the Laotian population
|Regions with significant populations|
|Vientiane • Phonsavan • Luang Prabang • Pakse|
|Lao • Teochew • Cantonese • Southwestern Mandarin|
|Theravada Buddhism • Mahayana Buddhism|
|Related ethnic groups|
The Laotian Chinese are an overseas Chinese community who live in Laos. At present they constitute an estimated 2% of the population. The Laotian Chinese community have a disproportionately large presence in the Laotian business sector and dominate the Laotian economy today.
Many modern Laotian Chinese have reinvented themselves to assert a more traditional Chinese identity to more easily create economic links to conduct business between Laos and Mainland China. Though assimilation into Laotian society is highly favored, the approbation of those “marks” of Chinese cultural membership which are commonly considered to be the most important while concurrently maintaining allegiance to Laos.
For example, many Sino-Laotian parents wish to have their children learn Mandarin to reaffirm their Chinese identity in the hope that they will thus be able to financially benefit from the Mainland Chinese economic boom as future entrepreneurs and investors serving as economic intermediaries between Mainland China and Laos. Many Laotian Chinese families have their children learn Chinese to reaffirm their Chinese identity as Mandarin has been increasingly the primary language of business for Overseas Chinese business communities. The rise of China's global economic prominence has prompted many Laotian Chinese business families to see Mandarin as a beneficial asset to partake economic links to conduct business between Laos and Mainland China.
Most Laotian Chinese are descendants of older generations who moved down from the Southern China provinces from the 19th century and present. Most have ancestry from the provinces of: Yunnan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Sichuan and, Guizhou. Laotian Chinese are mostly Teochew and Cantonese, but some also speak Southwestern Mandarin from the Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan. Today in Laos, many ethnic Chinese migrants have decided to reside in Laos, making the population rise by a couple of thousands. Many ethnic Chinese were also involved in constructing the 2009 Southeast Asian Games venues held in Vientiane. During the 1970s and 1980s, after the Communist Pathet Lao came into power, some Laotian Chinese fled to Thailand and other countries. The U.S. also has a significant Laotian Chinese population. Many still practice certain Chinese traditions and customs as their ancestors did. Most of the ethnic Chinese in Laos fled the country during the Communist takeover in 1975.
Like much of Southeast Asia, ethnic Chinese dominate Laotian commerce at every level of society. Entrepreneurial savvy Chinese literally taken over the country's entire economy. Laotian Chinese wield tremendous economic clout over their indigenous Laotian majority counterparts and play a critical role in maintaining the country's economic vitality and prosperity. In Laos, which has almost no indigenous commercial culture in the private sector, the 1 to 2 percent Chinese minority more or less comprise 100 percent of the country's entire business community while profiting eagerly from every grudging inch of globalization induced market opening. Many Laotian Chinese play a leading role in the Laotian economy with Laotian Chinese entrepreneurs specializing in industries such as shipping, textiles, mining, casinos, bars, nightclubs, banking, construction, airlines, real estate, tobacco manufacturing, clothing factories, health clubs, catering, hotels, cement mixing, restaurants, vehicles, electrical appliances, machinery, retail and repair shops, restaurants, and hotels. Vientiane is home to at least 2500 Chinese entrepreneurs who own a disproportionate percentage of restaurants, cinemas, hotels, repair shops, and jewellery shops across the city. In Luang Namtha in northern Laos, recent migrants dominate the local markets and have established large agricultural estates.
The present situation in Laos has led to a resurgence of the Laotian Chinese business community in the midst of a rise in incoming foreign investment and increasing trade of every sort from Mainland China as well as Overseas Chinese investors in the neighboring Southeast Asian countries. In order for the community to secure and protect their economic interests, many Laotian Chinese conduct business via the Association of Chinese, who are responsible for acclimating immigrant Chinese or fellow Sino-Laotian entrepreneurs and investors through the maze of administrative steps needed to become permanent residents and obtain the right to exercise private business activity and funnel their capital through private bamboo networks for new startup business ventures.
Laos’s lack of an indigenous Laotian commercial culture in the private sector that is dominated entirely by Laotian Chinese themselves has encouraged a plethora of Mainland Chinese foreign investment capital into the country. The modern Laotian business sector is highly dependent on ethnic Chinese companies who control virtually the country's entire economy. An influx of capital from Mainland China have led to new construction projects in northern Laos with hydraulic infrastructures, prospecting, high-yield plantations, and textile factories. Many newer Chinese immigrants relate more to the Laotian Chinese community itself and traditionally maintain only secondary links with China. These first generation immigrants tend to fully identify themselves as Chinese in order to provide market openings between Laos and China.