The road to Wuhan

opinion August 22, 2016 01:00

By Suwatchai Songwanich


Wuhan, China’s 6th most populous city, and the city I have been visiting since 2001 is attracting growing interest from Thai companies and Wuhan businesses are investing more in Thailand. Consequently, there was great enthusiasm among participants at a re

The growing commercial ties between Thailand and Wuhan are a significant development. Until fairly recently Thailand’s trade and investment with China mainly focused on the economically developed regions in the east and south. However now there is much interest in both Chongqing in the West and Wuhan in Central China.

Wuhan came under the spotlight about 10 years ago during a visit by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. While there she toured a geospatial research centre and was so impressed that she asked scientists if they could offer Thailand a satellite to provide detailed images during bad weather. In response to the request China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System was set up in Thailand and we became the first country outside of China to use it. BeiDou aims to rival the American GPS system and is especially well-suited to conditions in Asia such as low-altitudes, high-density cities and large-scale agriculture. BeiDou currently has 22 satellites and it aims to increase these to 35 covering the globe, while building a network of around 1,000 ground stations across Southeast Asia.

BeiDou is by far the biggest Wuhan investor in Thailand. It is investing $1.6 billion in a major project in Chonburi which includes three BeiDou stations to enhance data precision and the positioning accuracy of the satellite system. There are also plans to build a China-Asean BeiDou Technology Park and to expand the Thailand model to other Southeast Asian countries.

Over the past two years educational, cultural and business exchanges have intensified between our two countries, such as the Wuhan-Thailand Economic and Trade Forum, which was held in Wuhan in March last year. This attracted about 60 Wuhan-based enterprises and 50 Thai ones who explored potential areas of cooperation such as tourism, culture, education, technology, logistics and manufacturing. The group leader Phinij Jarusombat praised Wuhan for the role it plays in Sino-Thai relations, describing it as a good role model for Thailand, especially in areas such as urban planning, environmental protection, water treatment and high-end manufacturing.

Since then there have been many other visits to Wuhan by Thai businesses, universities, government ministers and other officials. Tourism has also increased. To cater to the growing traffic between Wuhan and Bangkok more airlines are providing a direct service between the two cities and the number of flights is increasing.

The cooperation between Wuhan and Thailand is an excellent example of how Team Thailand can open up opportunities for development along a unique Asian path. I expect there will be many more exchanges between Thailand and Wuhan, and many more visits to the city for me in the future.