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The Coordination of China BRI with Thailand and CLMV Countries' Development Path
The Coordination of China’s Belt and Road Initiative
with Thailand and CLMV Countries’ Development Path
4 July 2018, Bangkok
Mr. Sompong Sanguanbun,
The Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies,
College of Government, Rangsit University, Thailand
Professor Anek Laothamatas,
Professor Zhou Fangye,
Dr. Neak Chandarith,
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
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’
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
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.
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
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
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. 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.