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China and Thailand seek new ways to cooperate

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Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (3rd L) talks with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (3rd R) in Bangkok, Thailand, July 5, 2022. /Chinese Ministry of Affairs foreign

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (3rd L) talks with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (3rd R) in Bangkok, Thailand, July 5, 2022. /Chinese Ministry of Affairs foreign

Editor’s note: Hamzah Rifaat Hussain, a former visiting scholar at the Stimson Center in Washington and a former research assistant at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute, is a television presenter at Indus News in Pakistan. The article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of CGTN.

In Bangkok, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha agreed on the importance of continuing traditional friendships while expanding bilateral cooperation between the two countries. This year also marks the 10th anniversary since the establishment of comprehensive strategic cooperation between the two countries, and there is great potential to take the existing cooperation in 2022 to new heights.

China and Thailand have much to gain from expanded cooperation in 2022, with historical precedents dating back to 1975. At the time, trade had become a dominant theme with neutrality as the foundation of relations and Bangkok expressing unwavering commitment. to the one China principle. In addition, Thailand has benefited from post-colonial economic development thanks to the valuable contributions of the overseas Chinese business community in Southeast Asia.

In a world marked by deep polarization in 2022, China and Thailand should capitalize on these historic precedents and promote multilateral cooperation on issues such as cybersecurity challenges while complementing development strategies through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) .

There are specific areas both countries should explore in 2022 and for good reason. First, it is important to expand business cooperation to compensate for economic downturns due to the pandemic and the Ukrainian crisis. In 1999, bilateral trade stood at $4.22 billion, while 22 years later, in 2021, China has become Thailand’s largest trading partner with bilateral trade reaching $103.75 billion. . Apolitical trade relations in a global environment defined by increased polarization and economic shocks can greatly benefit both countries.

Second, China and Thailand can focus on peaceful development in the absence of hostilities by tapping into the Global Development Initiative (GDI) and the Global Security Initiative (GSI). Note that Prime Minister Chan-o-Cha attaches great importance to the proposed GDI as it draws attention to the immediate challenges of the global Sustainable Development Goals. Likewise, the GSI has an unwavering commitment to respecting state sovereignty and promoting cooperative security for a more peaceful world, which aligns with the foreign policy priorities of both countries.

The GSI and GDI can promote closer ties between the two countries as constructive frameworks to promote a more prosperous and peaceful world order. Thailand’s status as a middle power in the region and a full member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations makes it an important strategic partner in this regard.

Another area of ​​cooperation is infrastructure development, which is essential for Southeast Asia’s growing economic needs in this time of war. Bangkok and Beijing have prioritized the construction of the China-Laos-Thailand railway, which can smooth the flow of goods and services and facilitate the growth of industries through improved logistics. This opens up tourist routes and cross-border transport which greatly benefits the region.

A train arrives at Nong Khai Railway Station in Nong Khai Province, Thailand, Nov. 16, 2021. /Xinhua

A train arrives at Nong Khai Railway Station in Nong Khai Province, Thailand, Nov. 16, 2021. /Xinhua

Thailand is also seeking to learn from China’s development experiences, with Prime Minister Chan-o-Cha admiring China’s remarkable achievements in fighting poverty and promoting regional integration. Likewise, a more sustainable and progressive future for soft power diplomacy between the two sides can take root with the joint building of the Sino-Thai community acting as a model for a more sustainable, progressive and stable future for both peoples, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs pointed out. Wang Yi.

China and Thailand can also contribute positively to Bangkok’s vision for economic development. The “Thailand 4.0” development strategy, for example, can be linked to the BRI to counteract Bangkok’s historic reliance on agriculture and light industries, which has otherwise led to growing social inequalities.

The vision’s four goals are to ensure environmental protection, improve social well-being by reducing social disparities, promote economic prosperity by investing 4% of Thailand’s GDP in research and development, and to enhance the value of Thai citizens to become competent human beings in the 21st century. ; all of these can be greatly improved as regional connectivity will allow Bangkok to escape the middle income trap by developing growth poles such as the 44 billion EEC and linking its various provinces as a gateway regional to Asia.

In addition, strategic convergence on peace in the Asia-Pacific offers potential for the relationship. Thailand’s role as the host country of APEC 2022 strengthens its position as a promoter of peace, dialogue and lasting cooperation.

Bangkok also shares Beijing’s vision of building an Asia-Pacific free trade area and promoting greater regional integration in the absence of tensions. This is important, because the region cannot afford polarization or increased militarization as obstacles to regional prosperity. The agreements reached in 2022 are therefore particularly relevant in this regard, as an open and prosperous Asia-Pacific region benefits both parties.

There is therefore immense potential to advance the strategic partnership between China and Thailand. Historical precedents and specific areas of cooperation can boost regional trade, promote infrastructure development and implement visions of shared prosperity.

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