Over four decades of official diplomatic ties with Thailand, the People’s Republic of China has gradually proved itself as a friend. During the 1997 economic crisis, China and Japan lent the country much needed cash to shore up the sagging economy, as the old US alliance chilled.
Since then, the superpower to the north has rarely let the country, and especially the military, down. After the 2006 and May 2014 coups, China was the first country to officially acknowledge the junta and its appointed government. As Thailand – once a regional model of Western-style electoral democracy – appears to walk down an authoritarian road, valid concerns arise. Will Thailand embrace long-term authoritarianism? What effect will that have on the country and the region? What will happen to Thailand’s long-standing alliance with the US?
Although ties between the countries have grown colder over the past few years, even staunch critics of the junta believe Thailand will trot down the authoritarian road only temporarily before returning to democracy. Thailand may appear to be dancing with the dragon, but the eagle will not fly away. Washington DC remains a close ally. The world will also see the Thai smile also aimed at emerging powers such as Russia and India.
“Obviously Thailand is dancing with the dragon. The question is whether or not the country will turn into an authoritarian regime,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, associate professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University and holder of degrees from the Johns Hopkins University School of
Advanced International Studies and the London School of Economics. He was speaking at the panel discussion “Dancing with the Dragon: Sino-Thai relations since Thailand’s coup d’etat”, held in April at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand