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Tianbao–Thanh Thuy


N 22° 56′ 15′′, E 104° 49′ 25′′
490 MASL
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A stone stele inscribed with a landmine warning near Laoshan. Almost four decades after the end of the 1984 Battle of Laoshan, the legacy of war remains in the form of hundreds of thousands of landmines on both sides of the China–Vietnam border, even after the Chinese government carried out three major mine-clearance operations in 1995, 2015 and 2017.

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The Chinese (front) and Vietnamese (back) border gates along the west bank of the Panlong/Lo River. Malutang Dam, approximately 20-kilometer upstream from the border checkpoint, started generating electricity in 2004 and the China Southern Power Grid began exporting electricity to Vietnam via Tianbao Port the following year.

1796: Tianbao (literally means “naturally protected”), which is situated along the Panlong/Lo River, a tributary of the Red River, officially opened for trade with Annam. It had long been a major hub along the historic Southern Silk Road for trading goods, such as cotton and silk from China and yarn and sea salt from Vietnam via horse caravan and river-based route.


1885: The French fought for control over Tonkin and the potentially profitable trade route to Southern China during the Sino–French War (1884–1885). The Treaty of Tianjin, signed in June 1885, formally ended the war, and French Indochina was established in 1887.


1897: Over the 1890s, the Qing court and the French colonial government established several postes militaires doubles (duixun in Chinese) at important border crossings, including one at Tianbao. The French planned to establish navigation along the Panlong/Lo River. However, river expeditions proved that several sections of the river were either too narrow or with treacherous shoals.


1919: Administrative reforms were conducted after the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912. Tianbao became part of the Malipo Duixun Supervision District, which was under the direct control of the Yunnan Province.


1929: Malipo, Funing, and Guangnan, three districts in the southeastern end of Yunnan bordering Guangxi, became part of the revolutionary base of the Baise Uprising—an important battle between the Communist Party and the National Party during China’s Civil War under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping.


1940: Japan stationed troops in Northern Indochina in September to secure a base for the resolution of the Second Sino–Japanese War (1937–1945). Border trade through Tianbao was suspended.


1950: Upon the request of Ho Chi Minh, the Communist Party of China appointed General Chen Geng to lead a troop to Vietnam to support the war against the French Army via Tianbao.


1952: Trade resumed across the Sino–Vietnamese border at Tianbao.


1954: The Tianbao Port was officially established.


1958: Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture was established. It is located in the southeastern side of the Yunnan–Guizhou Plateau and occupies a strategic location at the intersection between Vietnam and three border provinces of China, namely, Yunnan, Guangxi, and Guizhou.


1959: A road connecting Malipo Town and Tianbao Port was completed.


1965: China helped North Vietnam unite the nation by fighting South Vietnam and the United States during the Vietnam War. Between 1965 and 1968, Tianbao was one of the key locations where Chinese supplies entered Vietnam.


1979: The Tianbao Port was closed due to the Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979.


1984: A series of border clashes between China and Vietnam happened after the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War, peaking in the years 1984–1985. The 1984 Laoshan Battle in Malipo was one of the deadliest battles during this time, and hundreds of thousands of landmines were laid down by both sides.


1988: About a thousand Chinese soldiers, mostly killed in the 1984 Laoshan Battle, were lied at the Malipo Martyrs Cemetery.


1991: River-based connection between Tianbao and Thanh Thuy in Vietnam temporarily resumed, and land route was opened the following year.


1992: Since 1992, China has launched three major rounds of mine-clearing operations along China’s border with Vietnam.


1993: The Tianbao Port officially reopened.


2002: The construction of Stage I of the Malutang Dam on the Panlong River began.


2005: The Malutang project started to generate electricity in late 2004. In 2005, China Southern Power Grid began exporting electricity into Vietnam via Tianbao Port. Construction on Stage II of the Malutang Dam began, which was completed in 2010.


2011: The Tianbao Port was upgraded to a national-level port.


2018: The construction of the core area of Tianbao Port’s new supporting zone began.

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