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But China has sold inferior weaponry to Thailand, making some Thai military officials wary of becoming dependent on Chinese supplies.

Thailand’s incoming prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, appears eager to expand business ties with China. She favors a Chinese proposal to construct high-speed trains and replace Thailand’s decrepit railway.

In January, Chinese investors began building a $1.5 billion China City Complex near Bangkok to manufacture clothing, household items and other goods.

Chinese migrants have been settling in Thailand for generations, arriving through Laos and across the Mekong River or, more often, by sea from China’s southeast coastal towns to Bangkok.

Today many ethnic Chinese hold some of Thailand’s highest political, economic, military and cultural positions.

Chinese faces, fashions and symbols are promoted in Thai advertisements and pop culture as badges of financial success.

Several top Thai corporations, meanwhile, are trying to make profits by investing in China and hoping to copy the success of Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group, which opened a chicken-processing plant in China in 1979.

The CP Groupt also invested in huge supermarkets, entertainment complexes and other industries.

Thai exporters use Bangkok’s port to ship goods along the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea into Hong Kong.

China, however, produces much larger and more diversified foods for export into Thailand, threatening local producers.

“People in Thailand are worried,” one former Thai diplomat told The Washington Times. “China’s economy is so big, and ours is so small, that we cannot compete with all the Chinese things being sold here.”

Another official expressed alarm over China’s growing economic clout.

China will own us!” she declared. “Thailand will be like a vassal of China.”

Both asked not to be identified so they could talk candidly about China’s increasing influence in Thailand.