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The Coordination of China BRI with Thailand and CLMV Countries' Development Path

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Mr. Sompong Sanguanbun

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The Coordination of China BRI with Thailand and CLMV Countries' Development Path

  1. 1. 1 The Coordination of China’s Belt and Road Initiative
 with Thailand and CLMV Countries’ Development Path
 4 July 2018, Bangkok Mr. Sompong Sanguanbun, Dean, The Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, College of Government, Rangsit University, Thailand -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Professor Anek Laothamatas, Professor Zhou Fangye, Dr. Neak Chandarith, Distinguished Panelists, Ladies and gentlemen, May I, first of all, express my gratitude to Klangpanya Institute of Rangsit University and National Institute of International Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, co-organizers of this important event, for inviting me to this international conference. It is my honor to take part in this deliberation. To begin our discussion, I would like to point out that the key word of the topic under discussion is ‘coordination’. Coordinations between China and ASEAN countries, bilaterally and collectively, have existed long before the Belt and Road Initiative was launched in 2013. The ASEAN-China coordination officially began in the framework of the ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations when H.E. Qian Qichen, the then Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China, attended the opening session of the 24th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in July 1991 in Kuala Lumpur as a guest of the Malaysian Government in which he expressed China’s keen interest to cooperate with ASEAN for mutual benefit. Subsequently, China was accorded full Dialogue Partner status at the 29th AMM in July 1996 in Jakarta, Indonesia. The relationship between ASEAN and China has developed well as the ASEAN-China Summit has now reached its 20th round in 2017. Those close coordination have been in progress without disruption and hence reflected as a crucial part of their continued relationship and cooperation. The coordination
  2. 2. 2 between China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the ASEAN Connectivity Master Plan as well as the infrastructural development of the Greater Mekong Sub-Region and the Mekong - Lancang Cooperation frameworks is, therefore, complementary to each other. Today I will discuss three points concerning the topic assigned to me on ‚The Coordination of China’s Belt and Road Initiative with Thailand and CLMV Countries’ Development Path.‛ The first point is about the "Action Plan on the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative" issued by the National Development and Reform Commission of China in March 2015, which explains clearly about the background, principles, framework, cooperation priorities, cooperation mechanisms, the role of different regions in China and policies and measures to be taken by China. The said Action Plan covers all significant elements comprehensively. Adherence to the above action plan, including its principles and cooperation priorities will certainly help promote Chinese good intentions and image. May I outline as follows: Principles to be used as guidelines are the UN Charter, Peaceful coexistence, open for cooperation, harmonious and inclusive, follow market operation, seek mutual benefit; Frameworks are win-win cooperation, run throughout the globe, link with industrial parks and economic corridors, infrastructure-network-trust; Cooperation priorities are to promote policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, people-to-people bond; Cooperation Mechanisms are to take full advantage of the existing bilateral and multilateral cooperation mechanisms and international forums. In the case of Thailand and SEA nations, ASEAN Connectivity Master Plan and Mekong-Lancang Coooperation Connectivity Plan as well as GMS Connectivity Plan can be excellent linkages. As a rising power, any move taken by China, whether political, economic and cultural, may inevitably make smaller countries be cautious. The developmental path and speed of each country varies. Countries have their own certain needs due to their different background and foundations, politically, economically and socially, in particular, each country has its own path of development.
  3. 3. 3 All countries concerned have to make adjustment to each other when they need cooperation. Since there are huge differences between China and countries along the BRI routes, in particular those in Asia. Certain misunderstandings among them still exist, although China has put efforts, including soft power measures toward many small countries. The mutual understanding must, therefore, be enhanced further. The consultation between China and concerned countries, with a view to achieve mutual understandings and agreements are of significant for all kinds of dealings. The support and cooperation of China in any form to be given to any regional and sub- regional efforts will be welcome and praised. The second point is about the ‚challenges‛ to BRI. My first involvement in BRI was when I attended the seminar on ‚One Belt One Road and Win-Win Asia,‛ organized by the Institute of World Economics and Politics, CASS, on 11 June 2015 in Beijing. At the 1st Session under the title ‚One Belt One Road and Chinese Diplomacy, Professor Zhang Yunling, Academic Member and Director of International Studies, CASS, pointed out in his topic ‚Understanding The Silk Belt and Road Initiative,‛ inter alia, the challenges for OBOR as follows: 1. Trust-building to overcome the suspicious China’s strategic intention; this is one of the most crucial element and perhaps the most difficult, and yet it is not impossible to solve; 2. Financing the infrastructure-market rule and long term perspective; it was said that the whole infrastructure projects covering about 60 countries might get cost up to US$8.0 trillion, it is therefore a huge task for China who has initially set up the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (with the initial capital of US$100 billion) and the Silk Road Fund (US$40 billion fund); 3. Political stability and security cooperation in BRI areas, where one of the riskiest area is in South Asia, but since China and Pakistan have agreed to cooperate to develop the infrastructure linking China and Pakistan which evolved into the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in 2013, the risks have been calculated;
  4. 4. 4 4. Strategic competition —-need a new mind set, this is true as the strategic competition has been obvious, in particular among major powers, however, the strategic competition in Asia will be less threatening without the interference from outside Asia; 5. Disputes on South China Sea, which is now under a relatively calm situation as China has to certain extent resolved bilaterally with claimant countries. The first point concerning the trust-building leads our discussion to the next point. The third point concerning the Chinese philosophies which are related to several aspects and dimensions. However, on today’s discussion, I would like to quote President Xi Jinping’s speech delivered during a symposium commemorating the 120th anniversary of the birth of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong in on Thursday, 26 December, 2013 in Beijing. Xi Jinping quoted Mao’s doctrine of "seeking truth from facts.‛ In this connection, there are facts about the differences amongst China, Thailand, and ASEAN member countries. These facts are unanimously accepted by all parties. However, there some truths, which are always complex because of human minds, belief systems, cultures and ideologies, etc., that we never comprehend thoroughly. Therefore, in order to live in harmony with mutual understanding amongst countries, in particular amongst neighboring countries, all parties must study the truth from such facts. These efforts need patience. In summary, I want to point out that countries in Southeast Asia and China have engaged in coordination for so long and they will continue to do so, including the coordination in their development path with regard to BRI. All countries will certainly face certain difficulties which, with joint efforts and patience based on mutual interests and understanding, can be overcome. And, eventually, projects under the frameworks of ASEAN, GMS, Mekong-Lancang Cooperation, BRI and some others will complement to each other as long as we all have political will to achieve our common goals.