A Chinese company will support farmers in Luang Namtha province to
grow commercial crops in order to reduce poverty and illicit opium
I found the article on a mailing list for local and foreign experts on the Lao agriculture sector. The mails topic was "Here is an example of how business interests can be disguised as development..."
This is the typical attitude of foreign (western) aid agencies. They think they are the only ones who know how to develop a country. But they are actually not. They are building dreamlands, without any reality check. They say they respect the local environment, but they usually give a shit, as long as they can get products from their home country subsidized by the government into the project and waste taxpayers money.
So China gives farmers contracts to harvest commercial crops instead of opium and this is bad? Why are farmers returned to opium in a country that was opium free declared 2005 anyway? Because the alternatives proposed by the foreign aid agencies simply did not work. It is basic knowledge of economics to understand, that you have to offer a better deal in the farmers understanding, not in yours. Growing organic potatoes might be nice for a German customer, but doesn't give the same income as opium.
Another example is a casino. People complain about casinos build in remote areas in Laos and other Asian countries. right, a casino might not be the best solution. But a casino provides more jobs, more money, higher living standards and more skills to employees than yet another a world-bank-supported beauty salon (as it was mentioned in a recent World Bank Youth Entrepreneur Contest).
So what in particular western foreign aid agencies should learn from the Chinese model is, that job are created by businesses, and so is development. If you don't like the way China grows crops, find a company in your home land that makes a better offer. Its sometimes that simple.