Associated Press writer Denis Gray reports from Chaleunsouk, Laos:
The rice fields that blanketed this remote mountain village for generations are gone. In their place rise neat rows of young rubber trees — their sap destined for China.
All 60 families in this dirt-poor, mud-caked village of gaunt men and hunched women are now growing rubber, like thousands of others across the rugged mountains of northern Laos. They hope in coming years to reap huge profits from the tremendous demand for rubber just across the frontier in China.
As Beijing scrambles to feed its galloping economy, it has already scoured the world for mining and logging concessions. Now it is turning to crops to feed its people and industries. Chinese enterprises are snapping up vast tracts of land abroad and forging contract farming deals.
This quest raises both hope and criticism.