chapter  5
21 Pages

Thailand and China: a special relationship

Since the late 1970s Thailand and China have forged a close and concordant relationship. Outside of ASEAN, Bangkok regards its relationship with China to be its most important in Asia for reasons of economic well-being and regional stability. For Beijing, maintaining close ties with Thailand is a priority because the Kingdom is the most influential player in mainland Southeast Asia, the subregion where many of its most valuable political, economic and strategic interests are nested. Emblematic of the ‘special relationship’ is the frequent invocation by Thai and Chinese leaders of the family as an analogy to describe bilateral relations. Thus as Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji remarked in 2001, ‘the idea that China and Thailand are intimate as one family is deeply rooted in the minds of the two people’, and as Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra asserted more concisely a few years later, ‘Thailand and China are like brothers’.1