There has always been a special bond between China and Thailand, which hosts the largest overseas Chinese community in the world. In Thai culture, the Chinese influence is easily traced, through descendants whose origins can be found in rural areas of the southern Chinese mainland, from where their ancestors fled poverty, communism and political oppression to the more hospitable environs of Thailand.
China has always been perceived as a friend — a friend indeed who never leaves a friend in need. The phrase is not just a cliche. Comrades from the mainland have proven their love. During the tom yam koong economic crisis in 1997, this friend lent the debt-ridden Thailand much-needed funds, while other friends gave it the cold shoulder.
To Thais in general, the People’s Republic is a lovely dragon. It never preached nor gave orders after the many coups. Instead it gave cuddly pandas.
Despite the close bonds between the Chinese government and the military regime, ties are showing signs of fraying at the people-to-people level. Many Thais look down on Chinese tourists and laugh at their raucous behaviour and poor manners, while showing dismay at Chinese investors opening businesses that compete with local tourism operators, at their land grabs to create and enlarge new Chinese communities. All this is triggering Sinophobia. The difference is, these richer comrades don’t care.
My personal view is that Thais are grappling with a new reality. The derailed high-speed train project shows that Beijing does not just want to provide loans and sell train technology, but needs land for development. Another concern is Chinese dams controlling Mekong River water upstream, or in the area known as Lancang. Beijing is controlling tap water for Mekong countries, where it has invested massively to turn the area into a strategic new market and investment ground.
Not so favourable in my view is news of discontent and protest among Myanmar labourers towards mining projects operated by the Chinese, and attacks on Chinese businessmen and citizens in Laos. Chinese investors are also criticised for their poor treatment of labourers in some African countries.
Read more at Bangkok Post