…and now the U.S. loses another piece in Asia. After years and years of coups, Thailand looks to be finally going under the Chinese umbrella protectorate.
With a post-coup cooling of relations with the West, Bangkok is looking to its largest trading partner.
Thailand’s ruling junta is boosting ties with China as it seeks to reverse sluggish growth in Southeast Asia’s second largest economy following a coup earlier this year that complicated its ties with the West.
On Friday, Thailand welcomed Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the most prominent foreign leader to visit the country since the military seized power on May 22. Li was to attend a two-day regional summit on the Mekong river being held in Bangkok.
Though the military has succeeded in stabilizing Thailand’s economy somewhat since coming to power, economic growth has been weak thus far and these woes could extend into 2015 if troubling trends like anemic domestic consumption and private investment continue. With the U.S cutting off military assistance to Thailand, and Europe suspending trade negotiations following the coup, the government has made strengthening ties with China – already Thailand’s largest trading partner – a top priority.
In that respect, the highlight of Li’s visit was the inking of two memorandums of understanding on developing a key rail project and the purchase of agricultural products.
The rail project, which costs around $12 billion, would construct Thailand’s first standard-gauge railway with two lines and fits into a broader Chinese plan to link its southwestern city of Kunming to neighboring Southeast Asian countries. For Thailand’s ruling military, the project is a key part of an ambitious $75 billion dollar master plan to upgrade the country’s transport infrastructure which it announced earlier this year.
Meanwhile, the agricultural deal, according to the The Bangkok Post, would see China buy about 2 million tons of rice and 200,000 tons of rubber from Thailand. Although the exact volume has reportedly not been determined, the agreement would give the Thai government a much-needed place to offload the country’s rubber and rice stockpiles, and it is being advertised by Beijing as a grand gesture of Chinese beneficence.
“Only China has such a big market and a huge purchasing power which could consume the big agricultural production of rice, rubber and others of Thailand,” Li said.
Full article: Thailand Turns to China (The Diplomat)