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Asean Affairs  19  January 2011

How do Thais feel about China’s clout?

By  David Swartzentruber

AseanAffairs     19 January 2011

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China has become Thailand's second largest export market with export value of US$40 billion last year, accounting for 25 percent of China's trade with Asean. Exports to China are projected to double within three years as the China-Asean Free Trade Agreement progresses.

In response to this developing relationship, a Thai-China International Products City covering 2 million square meters is being proposed by the Ashima Yunnan Cultural Industry Group, a Yunnan-based state enterprise. The first phase, a wholesale trade center covering 500,000 meters, is to open this October on the eastern side of Bangkok.

The second phase will feature wholesale activities covering 800,000 square meters and the third phase would have retail space of 700,000 square meters. A plant to produce tires is also proposed outside of Bangkok with Thai investor cooperation. The complex is offering 30 percent of its space to Thai operators at lower rental costs than for Chinese traders and this will benefit 3,000 factories in Thailand.

The first phase of the Thai-China International Products City is estimated to expand trade value by 45-50 billion baht yearly and create 70,000 Thai jobs, the Chinese promoters have said. As part of the negotiations a distribution center for Thai manufactures and agricultural products in Yiwu in the Chinese province of Zhejiang is to open later this year.

At the official level, a government commerce official is quite positive, observing the economic benefits of the Chinese-backed venture and also mentioning that western companies such as Carrefour, Makro and Tesco Lotus had come into Thailand but in his view had not benefitted Thailand that much.

Questions not addressed by the commerce official include the large number of jobs created for Thais by the western companies, the expanded market for Thai-produced goods from factories and farms and the more efficient supply chains the companies have created in Thailand.

The most interesting response to the China City project so far is an editorial cartoonist who portrayed a large Chinese dragon holding China City in its mouth and placing it down on barely visible Thai street vendors.

Thailand is the only Asian country not to have been occupied by a foreign power and therefore, is extremely nationalistic.

Thailand has welcomed the western mega-stores as they offered Thai shoppers a better place to buy their daily goods than previously existed in the country. It is likely to do the same for projects from China. Or will it?

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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