China-Thailand relations

People stand in a queue outside a restaurant along the popular Yaowarat Road in the Chinatown area of Bangkok, Thailand, on 5 September 2022. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP)

An imagined China and feeling Chinese in Thailand

Thai academic Sittithep Eaksittipong explains how the Thai rulers of the past used emotion as a political tool to assimilate the Chinese overseas in Thailand. Fast forward to today and the Thai Chinese are more confident of their identity, and feeling Chinese has less to do with developments in China. If anything, the latter is used as a means to chastise the Thai government.
A view of Santikhiri village, a KMT Chinese village, in Mae Salong, Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand. (iStock)

From pro-Taipei to pro-Beijing: Are KMT Chinese in Thailand switching their allegiance?

Because of China’s soft power, some Yunnanese Chinese in Northern Thailand — known as KMT Chinese and who are descendants of KMT supporters who left Yunnan and eventually settled in Northern Thailand — have gradually shifted from being pro-Taipei to being pro-Beijing. Out of the 110 private tutoring Yunnanese schools in Northern Thailand for instance, more than 40 have begun to accept Beijing’s support and modelled their school structure in accordance with PRC’s guidance. How many more converts can China's soft power yield?
Wichayanon Road in Chinatown, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2018. (Wikimedia)

New Chinese migrants forming parallel communities in Chiang Mai

While descendants of older Chinese migrants in Thailand consider themselves Thai, hold Thai citizenship, and speak the language, new Chinese migrants tend to struggle when interacting with the locals due to the language barrier and negative stereotypes about foreign Chinese held by the locals. Their inability to integrate has led to the growth of parallel communities, where new Chinese migrants seek each other out for their social needs, instead of mingling with Thais. How can new Chinese migrants integrate better with the locals?
A US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II, a short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) version of the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, flies past during a preview of the Singapore Airshow in Singapore on 13 February 2022. (Roslan Rahman/AFP)

Will America greenlight the sale of F-35s to Thailand?

The chief of Thailand’s air force wants to buy eight American-built F-35 fighter jets. While the sale would be a shot in the arm for the US-Thailand alliance, Washington may be reluctant to approve the sale because of Thailand’s growing military ties with China. ISEAS academic Ian Storey examines the factors at play.
Students and staff at Huachiew Chalermprakiet University (HCU) making Chinese New Year decorations, 10 February 2022. (HCU/Facebook)

Rising Chinese student enrolment in Thailand: Cash cows at a cost

Thailand is reaping the benefits of a steady stream of Chinese students choosing Thailand as its destination of choice for university studies, particularly at its private universities. The trend, however, is not cost-free. There are a host of problems it has to grapple with, including possibly compromised academic standards as well as suspicions of Chinese students flouting their visa conditions by engaging in full-time business activities.
A woman carries a stack of bowls during the annual Vegetarian Festival in the Chinatown area of Bangkok on 7 October 2021. (Jack Taylor/AFP)

The nature of recent Chinese migration to Thailand

New migrants from China refer to the wave of skilled and urban migrants from China who ventured to Asia and elsewhere after the reform era began in the 1980s. Since the 2000s, many have been moving into Southeast Asia. In Thailand, their number has doubled in the last two decades. These migrants are there for business, study and leisure or a combination of these pursuits. In the process, new communities such as Huai Khwang, the "new Chinatown" in Bangkok, have emerged.
A man enters a taxi in the Chinatown district of Bangkok on 9 November 2021. (Jack Taylor/AFP)

Chinese investments are increasing across sectors and regions in Thailand

Even as other countries are pulling out of Thailand due to the pandemic, China has been accelerating its foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country. This strong FDI momentum is prompted by China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as well as investors' interest in various industries across Thailand. Thai officials are hopeful that this trend will continue. Academics Aranya Siriphon and Fanzura Banu look at the numbers and offer suggestions for attracting even greater Chinese investment interest.
Boxes of Sinovac's Covid-19 coronavirus CoronaVac vaccine are pictured during a vaccination drive at Bang Sue Central Station in Bangkok on 24 May 2021. (Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP)

Sinovac or not: Thai vaccine politics

The country’s political polarisation is hindering the government’s Covid-19 vaccination programme. While China has been a keen provider of the Sinovac vaccine, currently the most widely deployed in Thailand, distrust of the Prayut government and party politics have fuelled vaccine hesitancy and the fear that this is yet another way for China to assert its influence on the country.
An aerial view of the Kra Isthmus, the narrowest point of the Malayan Peninsula where the Kra Canal would be built. (iStock)

India’s obsession with Thailand’s Kra Canal and China's 'failure'

News that Thailand has “cancelled” its Kra canal project and replaced it with a land bridge has excited Indian observers. But you cannot scrap a plan that has not been approved. India's media reports highlighting both Chinese aggression and Chinese failure say more about the country's tensions with China than its concern with the idea of a century-old canal in Thailand.