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Jan - Feb 2009
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An interview with H. E. Mr. Zhang Jiuhuan,
Chinese ambassador to Thailand

Q. How could you describe the current China-Thailand relations, in the areas of trade, investment, security, culture, etc.?

A: The Sino-Thai relationship is of long standing and the two peoples are as close as a family. The Bilateral relations have maintained a momentum of sound and steady development all through the years and a strategic cooperation relationship has been set up. The two sides enjoy a relationship of mutually political trust and economic benefit. The pragmatic cooperation in culture, education, tourism, security and other fields has yielded fruitful results. The two sides have also engaged in close coordination and collaboration in international and regional affairs.

The two sides have maintained frequent high-level visits and continuously increased mutually political trust. This year a Chinese leader will attend a series of East Asia Summit meetings to be held in Chiang Mai. HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and the then Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej made successful visits to China. HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Thai government leaders attended the opening ceremony of Beijing Olympic Games. Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat attended the ASEM in China. Last year, the two sides signed the Joint Action Plan on China-Thailand Strategic Cooperation, which drew up a blueprint for the long-term development of bilateral relations.

Thanks to the strong complementarity in economic and trade cooperation, the Sino-Thai trade relations have developed rapidly. Thailand is China’s third largest trade partner in ASEAN countries. China has become Thailand’s second largest trade partner since last year. For the first three quarters of this year, the bilateral trade volume reached $31.85 billion, a 27.4 percent increase over the same period last year.

Great achievements have been made in the fields of bilateral culture and education cooperation. The two sides inked the Agreement on Tourism Cooperation, the Agreement on Mutual Establishment of Culture Center and etc, and established 15 sister city relationships. Traders and tourists traveling between the two countries have reached approximately 1.4 million and a tour to Thailand has become a fashion for the Chinese people. There is now 12 Confucius Institutes at Universities in Thailand, spreading all over the nation. Chinese Language programs are opened in about 1,000 schools and the number of learners has been up to 400,000 in Thailand. The Fever for Chinese Learning is just unfolding.

Q: There have been news about the decline in tourist arrivals due to political strife in Thailand. Do you have any comments on the protracted uncertainty in Thai politics and the continuing border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia?

A: The political situation in Thailand is its internal affairs. It is an unswerving policy of the Chinese Government to pursue a friendly relationship between China and Thailand.  The Chinese Government attaches high importance to the traditional friendship with Thai Royal Family and Thai people, and does not interfere with Thailand’s internal affairs. We sincerely hope that Thailand enjoys national stability, social harmony and economic development. We believe that the Thai people could handle well their own matters.

Both Thailand and Cambodia are China’s good neighbors and member states of the ASEAN. We have been following the Thai-Cambodia border disputes all along. We hope and believe that, the two sides, proceeding from the benefits of the two peoples and overall situation of the bilateral ties, would keep calm and exercise constraint so as to properly solve the disputes through bilateral channel.

Q: How strategicly important are Thailand and ASEAN to China?

A: Here I would like to quote one saying from HRH Princess Maka Chakri Sirindhorn, the brotherhood between China and Thailand will carry over for generations to come. China and Thailand share a profound traditional friendship as good neighbors, good friends and good partners. The friendly cooperation between China and Thailand serves the fundamental interests and shared wish of the two peoples. The sense of ‘China and Thai being as close as one family’ has already been deeply rooted in the hearts of both peoples. No matter what changes occur in international political climate, the Sino-Thai relationships always keep sound and steady development. We can say that our relationship serves as a model for the harmonious coexistence, mutually beneficial cooperation and common development of countries with different political system, economic model and cultural tradition.

China and ASEAN are geographically close to each other and share similar cultures and complementary economic pattern. Since the establishment of dialogue process in 1991, the relations between two sides have upgraded from removal of misgivings to dialogue partner to good neighborliness and mutual trust, and to a strategic partnership. Facts show that China’s development cannot be achieved without the development of ASEAN and vice versa. Common interest has bonded the two sides closely together. Developing friendly cooperation between China and ASEAN contributes to the fundamental interest and long term development of the two sides as well as the peace, stability and prosperity in the region. 

Q: What does China contribute to the development of the Mekong sub-region?

A: China has always attached great importance to and actively participated in the Mekong Sub-region cooperation. China has made its own contributions based on our capacity in promoting the cooperation in this regard. China has been an active promoter, constructer and donor in such priority areas as transportation, energy, telecommunication and etc. China has actively participated in and donated to a few infrastructure construction projects, such as the North-South Economic Corridor (NSEC), GMS Information Highway and Local Channel Improvement in Upper Mekong River. Along with all the concerned parties, China has endeavored to promote the cooperation in the fields of trade and transportation facilitation, Biodiversity Conservation Corridors, animal diseases control and combination of infectious diseases protection and control. China attaches importance to the human resources development and actively assists the sub-regional countries in capacity building and training. Read the Complete Article Subscribe to ASEANAFFAIRS Magazine

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