Thai PM's Visit to China a Sign of Beijing's Rising Influence

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, right, shows the way to Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra as during a welcome ceremony for her at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, April 17, 2012.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, right, shows the way to Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra as during a welcome ceremony for her at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, April 17, 2012.

Thailand and China want to boost annual bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2015, a goal set during this week's vist to Beijing by Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Shinawatra and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao held talks on boosting cooperation in finance, tourism, agriculture, and transportation. A planned regional high-speed railway network that could link southern China to Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore was also discussed.

Yingluck's visit consolidates China’s place at the forefront of ties in South East Asia, said Chulalongkorn University political scientist Thitinan Ponsudhirak. The talks also help strengthen ties developed during the term in office of Yingluck’s brother, former leader, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted over corruption allegations in a 2006 coup.

“China has substantial influence in Myanmar [Burma], Laos, Cambodia, and to a smaller extent Vietnam but Thailand is a crucial country," Thitinan said. "It has leaned towards China over the last decade or so especially after the military coup and the polarization in Thailand.  But both sides Thaksin and his enemies have leaned on China.”

Several Thai business leaders joined the prime minister on the trip. The Thai Board of Investment announced five companies in the automotive, machinery, food flavoring, and real estate are considering investments worth more than $2 billion in Thailand.  Thai businesses, through partnership agreements with Chinese companies, were also looking to invest up to $2.4 billion.

The trip also highlights China's role as a key driver of economic growth in the region, Thitinan said.

“Increasingly China has become the main locomotive for East Asian economic growth so it is not just a symbolic political strategic dimension but also some very substantial trade and investment interest as well.”

Thailand was the first of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to sign a long term cooperative framework agreement with China over a decade ago.

Carl Thayer, a political analyst at Australia’s University of New South Wales, points out that upgrading to a comprehensive, strategic-cooperative partnership also strengthens their bilateral relations.

"That kind of awarding of a title established a hierarchy and, at least, lets us know China’s views of Thailand," Thayer said. "Therefore, the bottom-line being relatively trouble-free on issues that really count to China.”

Besides the increased economic links, the two agreed to increase joint patrols on the China, Thailand, Lao and Burma borders on the Mekong River.

In October last year 13 Chinese crewmen were killed on the Mekong River, in an attack blamed on drug trafficking gangs.  The bloodshed led to a temporary halt in river trade that has largely returned to levels seen prior to the killings.

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Comment Sorting
by: Jonathan Huang
April 22, 2012 5:49 PM
I suggest those who doesnt know China go to China, see with your own eyes.
I spend 1-2 month every year in China and my family is still in China. I see the change in China in past 30 years. That's why I am grateful for CCP. Too bad I dont have Chinese passport and cant stay too long, but very soon I might get a Chinese green card. Working in Canada also can contribute to my country any way.

by: SEAN
April 22, 2012 4:31 AM
US is the enemy of many countries. It is arbitrary take advantage of other countries. China help other countires to develop the economics.

by: Xing
April 21, 2012 7:11 PM
@Cả Thộn: Do we force you to buy and use Chinese goods? You think our goods are bad, but still want to buy it. It means you are cheap people.

by: Cả Thộn
April 21, 2012 4:57 PM
Thai people prepare to buy and use no-quality Chinese products even they are so cheap, very cheap and very bad. Vietnamese already had some experience.

by: kingkarn
April 19, 2012 9:37 PM
Thailand has all the good opportunities in the global arena if their leaders are in harmony with global and local.However Thailand first woman PM Yingluck Shinawat has began to show this steadily.Wishing Thailand and the people of Thailand a happy new year.

by: Jonathan Huang
April 19, 2012 6:26 PM
the difference between China and US is , US bullies its allies such as Canada and Mexico, US is greedy and takes advantages on the trade with Canada and Mexico, but China really boost economics within all allies. almost all trade partners benefit from trading with China. NK is different, we try to help but it doesnt appreciate.

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