Sunday, June 23, 2013

China's influence on Thailand

            China and Thailand: China is influencing the state of Thailand, affecting the culture, politics, and economics. Thailand almost has Chinese roots as a culture; therefore, The Thai politics has had to assimilate the Chinese people, since there is a very large population of Chinese that they needed to deal with. The Thailand economy depends a lot on China, and China seeking more accommodations in recent years.
Although Thai Heritage is existed longer than the current lineage of the monarch society, the patriarch so to speak is named Somdet Phra Chao Taksin Maha Rat also known as King Taksin. He actually has a Chinese father; however, Taksin was raised much like Zheng He, being raised as a servant by royalty of another nation.[1] Assimilating the Chinese to identify themselves as Thai has been important to establishing the culture. King Taksin was a great military leader that preserved the people from the invasion of the Burmese. The Thai Culture is very hierarchical, requiring the people to live within their social status, and the Chinese Confucianism is similarities should not be overlooked. Over the past century Thailand has to exercise aggressive measures to assimilate the Chinese people into its country as the immigration of Chinese was dissolute in the early years of the 20th Century.  Conveniently in these years Chinese men immigrated a lot more than women as 2–3% of the Chinese immigrates were women. When the Chinese women immigration raised to 21% of the Chinese population in Thailand, the measures to limit the Chinese population were implemented in 1932. The assimilation of the Chinese in the Thai Culture has been successful as the Thai people of Chinese dissent do not consider themselves as Thai rather than Chinese. The distinction between the races has been increasingly blurred as the Chinese has to marry Thai women especially in the beginning when the Chinese women population was so low.[2] Thai Culture today can be partially seen as a Tourist dependent nation as it employees 15% of the population.[3] Since China is the most visiting nation, they are increasingly demanding accommodations.[4] The commercialism of China is being seen more prevalently, and it cannot be said that it is not influencing the Thai culture and tourism. More on this will be explained in the economy argument of the research. As 40% of the population of Thailand is of Chinese dissent, the politics cannot be assumed that it is purely designed by Thai people.[5]
            The Thai Government has not been stable as the nation has had 17 difference constitutions since 1932.[6] The Chinese people has been oppressed in Thailand until the 1950s, forced to work low class jobs; therefore, the Chinese population is distributed throughout all classes of people as the Chinese are known for business skills. The Chinese have never really practiced democracy, and a paper that has been quoted a lot in this article. A Thai tendency toward democracy has been delayed.[7] A most regnant politician is Thaksin Shinawatra, and his sister is currently the prime minister of Thailand. Thaksin served as prime minister from the 9th of February 2001 – the 19th of September 2006. Mr. Shinawatra’s policies has been compared to the government in Argentina called Peronism, where workers rights is highly reliant of a relationship with the government. There is a deep rivalry between a political party designated with colors of shirts: Yellow and Red. Thaksin lives in exile, and his sentence by the justice department has been controversial. There is a belief that the People's Alliance for Democracy, the Yellow shirts, conspired against him, pulling the strings to oust him politically. A fruit of the instability of Thailand’s government and Thaksin Shinawatra’s policies is “an unresponsive, overcentralized local administrative system.”[8] The many Asian nations have had a hard time implementing democracy in their countries because there is a weak philosophy base of it. This difficulty to establish a stable democratic government can be linked to a long history of dynasties, and China cannot be excluded from that. Other extreme acts similar to China to preserve the state that Thailand does is implement harsh judgments on people that spread propaganda against the ruling monarchy with censorship. “The Committee to Protect Journalists…said, “By exporting censorship techniques, China plays a particularly harmful role worldwide.” In Thailand, meanwhile, nearly 75,000 Web sites are being blocked by the government, the committee says.” The Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act protects the dignity of the royal family, convicting 61 year old man Ampon Tangnoppakul for 20 years in prison for sending 4 text messages about the royalty. The content was never discussed; furthermore, the man died in prison. Another journalist “Chiranuch Premchaiporn, a Webmaster who has been on trial for having 10 allegedly offensive comments on her highly popular news site, Prachatai. She is facing a possible 50 years in prison.” [9] The extents of China’s political influence on Thailand is unknown.

“In the increasingly participatory political system, parties and other interest groups are more active in the distribution of political power in Thai society. With this recent change the Chinese are an important ethnic political force. However, although their ethnic origins may be in another country, the Chinese regard Thailand as their homeland and as the country with which they identify. Current indications point to an identity that is more than a superficial construct, as there is no strong ethnic factionalism in the political parties. However, this assessment is tentative and requires further investigation.”

            China is also a leading partner for economic development, being Thailand’s greatest destination for exports.[10] The bilateral trade volume between the two nations have increased by the tens of billions of dollars over the past decade.[11] However historically China has not been a super power, hurting deeply many nations that neighbor it. Although Thailand is not adjacent to China, one neighboring country that has had a profoundly affected the unity of Southeast Asia is Myanmar. Under Ne Win regime, a leader of Burma similar to Mao Zedong installed non progressive and isolating policies.[12] Ne Win was directly inspired by Mao Zedong plunging the country into 50 years of oppressive military rule. The effect of neighboring countries’ transgression on its neighbors is tremendous as millions migrated to Thailand from Myanmar. They turn into a black holes on the economic map of the world. An estimated 2 – 4 million people have migrated into Thailand.[13] Billions of dollars are estimated to be sent home from Thailand and other neighboring countries to Myanmar. This black hole has created a disunited Southeast Asia. For centuries Thailand dreamt of “building a canal across the Kra isthmus, which would link their own gulf directly to the Andaman Sea and save days of costly shipping through the Strait of Malacca.” This is only one of many infrastructural projects that will unite the entire Southeast Asia to accelerate the economic development,[14] since Myanmar has miraculously been lead to open up and reform in recent years. As mentioned before China is Thailand’s number one source of tourism. Thailand has adapted to the continually increasing numbers of Chinese tourist, expecting to welcome 3 million in the year 2013. The Central
Embassy is “a 10 billion-baht ($336 million) project in the heart of Bangkok, regards Chinese travelers as one of its top targets after its shopping mall section opened in December” of 2012, attracting the high end tourist’s shopping as on they spend on average 874 dollars on a trip to a foreign nation.[15] “Some Thai police are corrupt and the justice system is slow, but perhaps more importantly, not enough Thais speak Chinese — that’s the gist of “a long list” of complaints by China’s Ambassador to Thailand, Guan Mu, delivered at a meeting with Thai officials Wednesday on the popular vacation island of Phuket, the Phuket News reported.”[16] China has bold relationships with the miniscule Southeast Asian Union of ASEAN. The relationship does not appear as stable as the profitable it is with sea disputes and other issues; however, there is one project that may have been completed this year of 2013 that is concerning people. ““People in Thailand are worried,” said a former foreign ministry diplomat, placing down his glass of red wine” as China is building a 1.5 billion dollar commercial city in Bangkok. “The 700,000 square metre site (the equivalent area of one hundred football pitches) will be in the China City Complex on the outskirts of Bangkok City and will have enough space for over 70,000 Chinese traders.”[17] The main purpose for this agreement with ASEAN is for China to avoid the costly European Union and United States tariffs by re-exporting their goods through this Chinese commercial city in Thailand. ““China will own us!” said an official interpreter for top government leaders, expressing her outrage at Beijing’s rapidly growing influence on Bangkok’s economy.”[18]

In conclusion the Chinese influence on the culture appears to be tamed, but we do not know the extent of their influence on Thailand politically and economically. Both nations have needed to use brutal tactics to preserve their sovereign states. The Chinese people have been successfully assimilated into the Thai culture; insomuch, they do not identify themselves as Chinese.

Because education emphasized assimilation, it was influential in the integration of ethnic Chinese into Thai society. Ethnic Chinese have become much less sharply distinguishable from the Thai during the past sixty years. The reforms implemented in the early 1900s have eliminated basic administrative distinctions and in doing so have lowered social barriers to assimilation.”[19]

[5] Theraphan Luangthomkun (2007), "The Position of Non-Thai Languages in Thailand", Language, Nation and Development in Southeast Asia (ISEAS Publishing): 191

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