Thailand, a Vital Part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative


Red line is the planned route from China to Indian Ocean through Kra Canal while the black line is the existing route through Malacca Strait

Thailand is not along China’s ancient Silk Road so that it is certainly not within China’s Silk Road economic belt.

China’s 21st century maritime Silk Road mainly go through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean and seems to have nothing to do with Thailand.

However, China plans to build a high-speed rail linking China with Bangkok through Laos. Construction of the section of the rail in Laos with a cost of $5.95 billion has already begun, but according to SCMP’s report “China seeks green light to get rolling on Thai ‘train to nowhere’” yesterday, the section in Thailand “has been dogged by delays and mistrust on the Thai side”.

Discrimination against overseas Chinese in Thailand is quite serious. The Chinese there was called Jews in the East by Thai King Rama VI (1910-1926). But in spite of the discrimination, overseas Chinese have been prosperous in Thailand. They account for 14% of Thai population but control 80% of Thai listed companies.

They seem assimilated by Thai people but in fact remain Chinese patriots as proved by their enthusiastic investment in China to help China’s reform and opening-up. Since China began reform and opening-up, overseas Chinese investment has accounted for 80% of foreign investment in China, in which Thai overseas Chinese has made the largest contribution. Therefore, it is only natural for China to invest in Thai infrastructures to help develop Thai economy and thus facilitate the growth of overseas Chinese business there. Return kindness with kindness is Chinese tradition.

However, that is not the major goal of China’s efforts there.

I had a post titled “China to Bypass Malacca Straight by a Canal at Kra Isthmus, Thailand” on March 15, 2014 on the benefits to China, Japan and ASEAN if a canal is build across Kra Isthmus, Thailand as an alternative route to that through the Malacca Strait.

It will shorten China and Japan’s trade route to Europe by 1,200km.

The problem is Thailand’s political instability. However, as mentioned above, overseas Chinese accounts for 14% Thai population but controls Thai economy and in addition, 70% Tai people have Chinese blood. When China was poor and weak those who have Chinese blood would not admit their Chinese kinship for fear of discrimination, but when China has grown rich and strong and able to protect overseas Chinese now, those people would be proud to admit their relationship with China. As a result, overseas Chinese and Thai people with Chinese blood will dominate and bring stability to Thai politics. They will make Kra Canal a viable project.

For that purpose, China shall make lots of investment in Tai infrastructures to facilitate development of Thai economy and enable Chinese people to set up and develop their enterprises there. With Chinese support, Thai Chinese will be certain to be the dominant force in Thailand. In fact, 80% of Tai prime ministers in the past were partially Chinese.

The plan so far for the high speed rail in Thailand is for connection between China and Singapore to provide a shortcut for export of goods from Southwest China, but if Kra Canal is built, the rail will link China with the canal to provide an even shorter trade route.

Taking into consideration of the long term benefit of the rail and canal, the $5.2 billion for the first Thai section, $5.95 billion for the section in Laos and the estimated $28 billion for the canal will be very cost-effective long-term investment. There will certainly be difficulties in conducting such large projects in other countries, but for China’s long-term interests, Chinese officials shall make great efforts to overcome the difficulties.

As the projects will also bring much benefit to Thailand, I believe it is certainly possible to overcome the difficulties.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2121540/china-hopes-controversial-thai-railway-will-get-green.


18 Comments on “Thailand, a Vital Part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative”

  1. alking1957 says:

    Yes i agree. The new canal is a good incentive for Singapore to think wisely. If they change their overly biased view against china, the canal need not be built. Fact is such a canal will be very costly. But it will be built if SG fails to see the writing on the wall!

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  2. alking1957 says:

    It is only a matter of time before USA starts planning regime change for Thailand. But no matter who gets into power, china should be able to win via win-win!

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    • Steve says:

      No chance of a regime change, the days of Christendom a political christian world, as an informal cultural hegemon together with western democracy cannot enforce gunboat diplomacy especially in Thailand. If the US can’t do in PH, a christian country under President Duterte, they have no hope in Asia. Thailand is a powerful Theravada Buddhist country, the monks will revolt on behalf of their Thai King. China will surely ally with Thailand.

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    • Joseph says:

      Didn’t the American try regime change to remove Yingluck? Western media had even referred the opposition leader as the next Thailand PM after Yingluck was toppled. It was only a matter of ‘time’. But the military ruined their plan with the coup. Everyone in Thailand seems to be sick with democracy and happy to have military in charge. It is a stable government anyway. And the American would find that recruiting a traitor is not that easy anymore in Thailand. After all Thailand military threw the last traitor/opposition leader to jail for treason. And now that Thailand has a new eccentric king, perhaps he will appoint one of his fancy dogs to be ambassador to America to deal with the American, the way he appointed his dog as an Air Marshall to deal with bumbling American generals ruining his holiday.

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  3. alking1957 says:

    Singapore PM is starting to switch to be more friendly, writing on the wall – cant beat, must join.

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  4. Simon says:

    In Thailand today if you are of Chinese ethnicity you are considered especially privelaged class.
    As in South Africa, although now under black rule but if you are white you remain privelage class because they are educated, wealthy with strong business connection that makes the economy work. They would also have learnt what happen to Zimbabwe when the natives took over everything and destroyed what was once Africa’s most prosperous country to a basket case.

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    • Joseph says:

      Zimbabwe’s economy is not as bad as what Western media reported. It is actually doing well similar to Myanmar. Of course, trade with the West are really bad, and some Western countries steals/freezes Zimbabwean assets, but what’s important, like other African countries, trade with China. It was actually the West who tries to ruin Zimbabwe with embargoes and seizing assets. In this case, the native Zimbabwean is doing quite well to resist Western embargoes and assets thefts. The Zimbabwean, one of the most educated African, is not as dumb as what the West tries to potray them. While the Zimbabwean initially suffered because of their economic interdependence with the West, but they are preserves with with the help of what the West angrily denounces as ‘Chinese interferences’ in their Embargoes. Mugabe was in fact strong to the West, having fight for the country’s independence and scraping British law that protect White farmers in exploiting Zimbabwean even after its independence, and the military is not trying to topple him for the sake of democracy, but to remove his mad wife from ruining Zimbabwe. Already, White farmers cannot wait to return and democracy means for them inreinstating the archaic British laws. But the military has shown no interest in democracy, seeking their Chinese approval rather than Washington’s support.

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  5. nonothai says:

    The Thai High Speed Rail is actually funded by Thailand not China as the loan terms were deemed unfavorable to Thailand. The part about Thai Chinese not admitting they are of Chinese decent is ridiculous as I come from a Chinese family both parents are of Chinese decent and since I was born in 1964 till today never hid the fact and never had to. The Kra Canal must be built to move Thailand forward. It will create 5 million jobs and will make Thailand as an oil refining hub taking the place away from Singapore. But the funding may not come from China as seen in the High speed rail if China imposes unfavorable terms Thailand would look elsewhere for the funding.

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    • chankaiyee2 says:

      70% Tai people have Chinese blood. When China was poor and weak those who have Chinese blood would not admit their Chinese kinship for fear of discrimination, but when China has grown rich and strong and able to protect overseas Chinese now, those people would be proud to admit their relationship with China.

      It seems you have not read this passage of mine with understanding due to your bias against China.’

      China’s Belt and Road is open to participation by all those who are willing to join. If Thailand can find other financial sources to build the canal, China will be benefited without taking financial risks especially the risks from Thailand’s political stability. China can be benefited by the canal built by others just as from the Suez and Panama Canals.

      I hope Thailand will find such funding given its history of large number of military coups.

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    • johnleecan says:

      If Thai government says they never defaulted on their debts, they should not worry about China’s demand of guarantees of payment if ever Thai government defaulted. Even these guarantees do not guarantee China would get their investment back. So why would the Thai government say these loans are unfair? China is just being realistic since Thai government is kind of unstable with a number of coups happening.

      I believe you have a Thai family name. Why is this relevant? You said you are not afraid to hide your ethnicity but the Thai government in the past already made your Chinese ancestors hide their ethnicity by forcing Chinese to change their Chinese family names to Thai sounding family names even though some ethnic Chinese I spoke to now say this is alright. Of course you are made to believe this is OK and subconsciously, you actually accept it’s OK. But let’s say some Thai family immigrated to Canada before but the Canadian government now requires them to change their family name to one of Canadian, would they feel OK? I don’t think so.

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      • nonothai says:

        China demand was for the Government to guarantee the loan with actual assets like Laos were subject to. However, considering Thailand credit rating is way better than Laos Thailand deemed the Chinese demand unacceptable as Thailand. I am not bias against China actaully I am for the Thai-Chinese relationship.

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      • nonothai says:

        Actually all Thai names of Chinese decent are actually known by Thais as Chinese. Therefore the change of name as you claimed to be for discrimination is rubbish.

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        • Joseph says:

          Yes, we had similar situation in Indonesia where people chose to change their name to Indonesian, and their name would specifically Chinese Indonesian. However, the American-installed regime in 1960s took that choice from us and it became personal for us Chinese Indonesian. The changing of Chinese name became the symbol of oppression in Soeharto era. But in the new era, it become a symbol of reconciliation. The names are Chinese specific anyway. In this case Thailand is quite moderate to Chinese. In Philippines, it is more discriminatory. Filipino believe a Chinese should change their name once they are out of China. I’ve never been to Philippines, but my experience with Western Filipino were quite disgusting. They’d question why I still used my Chinese name. They would allege that abandoning Chinese name is a ‘sign of good faith’ for a Chinese. Ironic that Filipino would masquerade as other people for prestige when overseas. The girlfriend of Las Vegas shooter was a Filipino masquerading as Indonesian. And Indonesian known to be wealthy enough to travel and live extravagant life in the US are mostly Chinese Indonesian.

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        • johnleecan says:

          I didn’t say anything about discrimination against Chinese but since you brought it up, it proves there was discrimination. Why would the government of Thailand force the Chinese to change their surnames? Inferiority complex? Also, you expect foreigners know those Thai sounding surnames are of ethnic Chinese?

          With regards to the loan, even if China demands actual assets, it wouldn’t be a problem for Thailand since according to your government, Thailand never defaulted on its debt. So the problem is in you and your government’s “PRIDE”. Just like when a well-to-do and a poorer person apply for a loan in a bank, both go through the same process and requirements. But what Thailand want is like VIP treatment for very rich persons applying for loan in a bank.

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    • Steve says:

      I personally know of a Thai Elder with a Chinese ancestry whose great grandparents emigrated from China decades ago. His original family surname was MR. CHAN. Later his grandparents had to change from Mr. CHAN to Mr. CHANlongsirichai to avoid discrimination for the sake of his future generations.

      Off course my elderly friend is now All Thai born in Thailand and his children are proud Thais. You can easily trace many Thais with a Chinese surname at the beginning ending with Thai addition.

      Compared to Indonesia Thailand is safer. Chinese people had to use Indonesian Malay names during the time of Sukarno. Lots of bloodshed.

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      • chankaiyee2 says:

        When China has become strong and able to protect them, those Thais who dare not use their Chinese name to show their Chinese origin will become proud Chinese as well as proud Thais. After all China will have much more to be proud of when it has recovered its past glory.

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        • Steve says:

          Yes definitely, China’s suffering has hit rock bottom 4 decades ago. China is now rising to the Zenith and only wise nations will follow and ride the dragons back to prosperity.

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  6. Steve says:

    Excellent Commentary

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