China said the new Lancang-Mekong cooperation mechanism will help development of the five countries in the sub-region and narrow the development gap in Southeast Asia.
Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin was speaking at a press conference on the upcoming first Lancang-Mekong leaders' meeting to be held in Sanya, Hainan Province on March 23.
Premier Li Keqiang and leaders from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam will attend the meeting on cooperative initiatives and measures.
The Lancang-Mekong cooperation began in 2014 and the first foreign ministers' meeting was held last November.
The Mekong River, known as Lancang in China, rises in China's Danggula Mountains and drains through five other countries.
"The five countries are lagging behind in ASEAN, especially Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. Cooperation will help narrow the development gaps within the ASEAN, and promote prosperity in the sub-region," Liu said.
Lancang-Mekong cooperation will focus on security and development, as well as political, social and cultural fields. Communication, production capacity, trade, water resource, agriculture and poverty reduction are five priority directions for cooperation.
"These directions accommodate to the needs of the six countries along the river. China's experience, technology, equipment and funds will benefit those countries, which are backward in infrastructure and industrialization," said Chen Fengying, a senior researcher with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.
Lei Zhuning from Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, said there is tremendous potential for cooperation in agriculture and poverty reduction since China has rich experience in these fields.
Agreement has already been reached on 78 early-harvest projects, and some new projects will also be put forward during the leaders' meeting.
Liu also pledged that the mechanism will be "open and inclusive."
"It complements rather than competes with existing mechanisms such as the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) and the ASEAN-Mekong Basin Development Cooperation (AMBDC). It will also be complementary to China-ASEAN relations," Liu said.
Chen said the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation will also bring opportunities to the cooperation between multilateral development institutions such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Silk Road Fund, facing the huge financing demand for infrastructure construction in this area.