Disturbing the inequality of PRC influence on the position of ethnic Chinese in Thailand in the New Era
The final chapter, written by Wasana Wongsurawat on the influence of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the ethnic Chinese in Thailand, is a treatise of how the rise of China in the New Era has produced what the author called “a surprising equalizing effect in Thailand’s domestic scene” and that China’s rise “would appear to be a strong force behind Thailand’s development into a fairer and more equal society”. To substantiate her views, Wongsurawat starts with a succinct historical summary of events that led the anti-communist, US-backed Thai government to adjust its policy to improve relations with communist China. The change of the Thai conservative regime in dealing with the PRC was reflected not only in the establishment of formal ties with Beijing in 1975, but also in the cozy relationship between the Thai royal family and the Chinese government in the New Era. For the latter relationship, Princess Sirindhorn became the “royal icon of PRC–Thailand relations”. The remaining part of the chapter is basically an analysis of the impact of China on the ethnic Chinese in Thailand. It is noted that with the influx of Chinese capital, tourism, and immigration, the center of action for the Chinese communities is not only based in Bangkok but also in northern and northeastern regions of Thailand. Provincial centers of the ethnic Chinese communities have become more influential and China-oriented, producing an equalizing effect in the Thai domestic scene. Finally, the chapter examines the impact of the rise of China on the diasporic nature of the ethnic Chinese community in Thailand. In light of the prevalence of Putonhua and Chinese culture, tourism, and relocation of Chinese citizens in Thailand, Wongsurawat argues that the ethnic Chinese in Thailand are “slowly but certainly becoming increasingly nationalized to become more of an extension to the Chinese nation and part of the expanded greater Chinese economy”. As such, the ethnic Chinese community will “eventually cease to function as a Diaspora community”. In this connection, for ethnic Chinese in Thailand, the rise of China would encourage them to follow or identify with the cultural and linguistic standards of China as analyzed by the author.