Recently, I visited Khon Kaen, Nong Khai and Udon Thani in Thailand’s Northeast. At the Confucius Institute of Khon Kaen University, I attended the opening ceremony of the preparatory class for Thai vocational college students to study in China. I met 40 students from 15 vocational colleges in Thailand.
They will first study Chinese in the Confucius Institute and then learn logistics, electronics, machinery, computer and other professional knowledge in China’s vocational colleges. As these students prepare for their classes in China, 28 Thai students are learning high-speed rail technology at Liuzhou Railway Vocational Technical College in Guangxi, China.
In Nong Khai Province, I talked with local government officials and people from the business and overseas Chinese communities. They briefed me on the economic and social development of Nong Khai and expressed hope that the China-Lao Railway could be completed as soon as possible and extend southwards, so that the location advantage and economic potential of Nong Khai could be fully unleashed, attracting more investors and tourists.
The young students’ desire for knowledge and the expectations of people from all circles give me a strong feeling that we should speed up cooperation between China and Thailand under the Belt and Road so that more people and regions will benefit. Since President Xi Jinping put forward the Belt and Road initiative in the autumn of 2013, the leaders of China and Thailand have held multiple meetings and reached important consensus on synergising China’s Belt and Road with the Thailand 4.0, Eastern Economic Corridor, and other Thai development strategies. The two countries have signed memoranda of understanding on jointly promoting the Belt and Road and building the EEC. Friends from all walks of life in Thailand pay close attention to the progress of the cooperation. Many of them even know how to say Belt and Road in Chinese.
Over the past five years, we have witnessed the achievements of Belt and Road cooperation between China and Thailand. Construction of the China-Thailand railway, which is the flagship project in bilateral cooperation, began last December. The Rayong Industrial Park, jointly developed by Thai and Chinese enterprises, is now home to 110 Chinese-funded enterprises. It has drawn investment of US$2.9 billion, and created jobs for more than 30,000 local people.
In recent years, leading Chinese enterprises such as Huawei, Alibaba and Jingdong have increased their investment in Thailand and actively participated in EEC development and also digitisation in Thailand. At present, we have 37,000 Chinese students in Thailand, and 27,000 Thai students in China. Last year, Chinese tourists made nearly 10 million visits to Thailand. China and Thailand have carried out rich and fruitful exchanges and cooperation in education, culture, science and technology.
Looking back on the achievements of cooperation between China and Thailand, we can see that the two countries are closely connected with each other as never before in terms of policy, infrastructure, trade, finance and people-to-people bonds. We can see that cooperation projects in various fields are making continuous progress, benefiting individuals, families and businesses. And we can feel that we are earning greater trust and understanding from the public.
At the same time, we have also noted the resurgence of trade protectionism and unilateralism in some countries, which may have a negative impact on the multilateral trading system and cause disturbances to our cooperation. However, the trend of world multi-polarisation and economic globalisation is irreversible, and the concept of opening up, integration and win-win cooperation is gaining popularity.
I believe that the Belt and Road initiative, which is based on the principle of “achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration”, will bring more opportunities for China-Thailand practical cooperation, create more benefits for our two peoples, and enable China and Thailand to increase their affinity.
Lyu Jian is China’s ambassador to Thailand.