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Thai “government officials and academics sympathetic to the U.S. see the dynamic of China rising — and the U.S. receding — likely to continue, unless the U.S. takes more vigorous action to follow-up with sustained efforts to engage on issues that matter to the Thai [people] and the region, not just what is perceived as the U.S.’s own agenda,” Mr. John said in the cable released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
Thailand and the United States established diplomatic relations in 1833.
Chinese Ambassador Guan Mu is one of those Thai-speaking diplomats. He sent 17 years of his diplomatic career in Thailand, rising to the post of ambassador in 2009. Mr. Mu frequently appears on Thai television.
In 2006, when Thailand’s military staged a coup and toppled the prime minister, Washington suspended $24 million in military assistance and restricted high-level meetings.
China described the coup as Bangkok’s internal affair, gave Thailand $49 million in military aid and increased the number of exchange students at Chinese and Thai military staff colleges. Beijing also persuaded the Thai military to participate in yearly, small-scale special forces joint exercises.
Last year, Chinese and Thai special forces held a 15-day joint antiterrorism drill, and more than 100 Chinese marines from an amphibious special warfare held exercises with their Thai counterparts.
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.
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.
“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.
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