(Written by Guan Qiuyun / Translated by Zhang Xiaoyan)
Time flies and unknowingly China and ASEAN have been working hand in hand for 30 years. As one of the founding nations of ASEAN, Thailand is a witness and participant in the friendly exchanges over these years: from the project of Sino-Thai railway under the "Belt and Road Initiative" framework to the Sino-Thai tourism programs that develop positively, from participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) to the fast development by taking advantage of China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO), Thailand is serious about strengthening cooperation with China in various fields.
The year 2021 coincides with the 30th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations. On this occasion, the staff reporter of China-ASEAN Panorama recently conducted an exclusive interview in Beijing with the Thai ambassador to China, H.E. Arthayudh Srisamoot, from which, we realize that although the questions about the development of the times are different, "China and Thailand are family" always remains the unchanged concept throughout the development of the bilateral relations.
Thailand benefits from the increasingly close China and ASEAN relations
"China has been ASEAN's largest trading partner for years in a row, making indelible contributions to economic trade, regional security, people-to-people exchanges and digital technology development, and the cooperation between the two sides has been fruitful. In the cooperation between China and ASEAN over the past 30 years, the exchanges between China and Thailand have been particularly effective," Arthayudh Srisamoot commented on the increasingly close relations between China and ASEAN and between China and Thailand.
"The friendly relations between ASEAN member states represented by Thailand and China are first reflected in the regular bilateral and multilateral high-level exchanges. For example, the special foreign ministers' meeting to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations and the sixth foreign ministers' meeting of Lancang-Mekong cooperation, held in Chongqing, China in early June 2021, are cases in point of mutual equality and mutual trust. At the critical moment of the COVID-19 pandemic, China actively assisted ASEAN member countries in purchasing and donated millions of doses of anti-coronavirus vaccine, and it is very touching to see Chinese medical rescue teams offered helps regardless of personal safety. In addition, China and ASEAN designate a specific area each year where intensive efforts are made in bilateral cooperation. For example, 2020 is the year of China-ASEAN digital economic cooperation, and 2021 will be designated as the year of China-ASEAN sustainable development cooperation. All these reflect the concern for the theme of the times," said Arthayudh Srisamoot, adding that as a member of the "circle of friends" between China and ASEAN, Thailand has caught the express train of regional cooperation in these specific areas and reaped achievements in the development from the increasingly close relationship between China and ASEAN.
Today, the world is facing the challenges combined by the changes and the COVID-19 pandemic that have not been experienced over the past hundred years. It is inevitable that the international situation will change. In this context, China and ASEAN adhere to the principle of making consultation for cooperation, sharing international responsibility, and supporting trade liberalism and the multilateral system, which not only continuously injects positive energy into the world, but also creates a win-win future for all partners in the region.
RCEP sets a new benchmark for Sino-Thai economic and trade cooperation
In November 2020, RCEP, which has gone through the "eight-year-long run", was officially signed, marking the formal establishment of the world's largest and high-quality free trade agreement, bringing strong warmth to the global economic and trade situation that has fallen into freezing point amid the COVID-19 pandemic. People have received a new signal that spring is coming.
Looking back on the development of Sino-Thai economic and trade relations, the total import and export volume of China and Thailand reached 98.6 billion US dollars in 2020 and Thailand has become China's 12th largest trading partner, ranking before the time-honored developed countries such as Britain, France, Italy and the Netherlands, with a growth rate of 7.5%, which was very difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, China is the largest trading partner and source country of tourists to Thailand. Well-known Chinese enterprises in e-commerce, telecommunication, steel, photovoltaic and other industries have invested and set up factories in Thailand. Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand Group is a name familiar to the general public of China.
According to Arthayudh Srisamoot, the economic and trade relations between China and Thailand have been fruitful, which will be promoted by RCEP in volumes of bilateral trade and investment.
"First of all, in terms of the overall environment in general, we need to keep the trade and investment markets open, and ensure that the global supply chain is more sustainable, flexible and less vulnerable. RCEP will help accelerate the post-pandemic economic recovery and bring more market and employment opportunities to enterprises and people all over the world," said Arthayudh Srisamoot, who added, "Secondly, from the perspective of economic and trade exchanges between China and Thailand in particular, we can make use of RCEP to develop our export, manufacturing and e-commerce. Local companies in various fields can strengthen the integration with regional supply chains through raw materials and semi-finished products provided by the RCEP market. With the industrial integration, small and medium enterprises will have greater opportunities to participate in the global and regional value chains. "
It is reported that RCEP has won the favor of Thailand by opening up the negative list and creating an interconnected business environment. Arthayudh Srisamoot said, "Thailand attaches great importance to an open, transparent, fair and predictable trade and investment environment, with a view to making Thai enterprises more resilient and achieving sustainable economic growth. We look forward to the entry into force of RCEP, which will help accelerate the recovery of regional economy. In this regard, we appreciate China's commitment to continually support the implementation of RCEP obligations and to ensure that all achievements of the RCEP agreement will be fully realized. "
With flat tide and wide water space, the boat is about to sail in the wind. The regional industrial chain and the opportunity of economic integration promoted by RCEP have become the catalyst and booster for developing economic and trade relations between China and Thailand, which reach a higher level in scale and quality.
Promoting the recovery of cultural tourism industry Thailand takes "integrated measures"
2020 is destined to be extraordinary. In addition to new opportunities for economic and trade cooperation, for tourism practitioners struggling in the COVID-19 pandemic, when the industry will rejuvenate is the question that worries them most. Thailand, with tourism as one of the economic pillars, should take the initiative to revitalize the declining industry.
"In order to restore the tourism industry, all parties in Thailand have made practical efforts," said Arthayudh Srisamoot, adding that at present, the Thai government has formulated a series of policies to stimulate the tourism economy by subsidizing hotels, transportation and other related industries in various domestic tourist resorts; that the national tourism authority of Thailand has launched the "Embrace Thailand" program, which aims to support Thai small and medium enterprises that are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; that at the same time, it has actively carried out close cooperation with the international airline companies, for example, the Thai tourism authority has launched the whole journey charter service for Chinese major airlines and ensured that all relevant travel agencies can get accurate and updated information on Thai tourism policies in order to help make convenient and feasible tourism plans on the part of Chinese tourists; that the Ministry of Tourism and Sports of Thailand has established a tourism recovery mechanism, by which digital technology will be applied to improve the quality of tourism and ensure the safety of tourists.
The COVID-19 pandemic might have blocked the exchanges between the peoples of China and Thailand physically, but it is unable to prevent the concept of "China and Thailand are family" from gaining popularity. Under the background of normalization of pandemic prevention and control, the Thai Embassy in China has made a lot of efforts to maintain and promote the non-governmental exchanges between the two countries.
"Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the embassy has adjusted its work plan to adapt to the situation and ensured that it will do its best to promote the Sino-Thai relations. For example, the Thai new year in 2021 has attracted 25 million netizens from all over the world to watch. People from different countries gather online, where they can "taste" Thai food and "enjoy" the beautiful scenery of Thailand, and even enjoy some wonderful performances of Muay Thai boxing and Thai dance. In addition, the Royal Thai Embassy in China has also organized a series of cultural activities in schools and universities in Beijing, and actively contacted local media in China to enhance mutual understanding between the Thai and Chinese peoples, " said Arthayudh Srisamoot.
At the 30th year into its bilateral relations, China and Thailand expect a better future. At the end of the interview, when talking about the upcoming 18th CAEXPO, Arthayudh Srisamoot showed an amiable smile and expressed his expectation and best wishes to the reporter: "China is not only an important partner of ASEAN, but also an indispensable friend of Thailand. Hopefully both sides will have better cooperation in future, and we will usher in a win-win era. I also sincerely wish that CAEXPO will become better and better. "