China/Thailand relations and its effect on Australia

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China/Thailandrelations and its effect on Australia

Thepurpose of this report is to analyze the China/Thailand relations andits effects on Australia. China and Thailand have enjoyed goodrelationships over the years. Formal ties between the two countrieswere established by the civilian government in 1946. These diplomaticassociation were suspended in the wake of political changes in 1949,but were reestablished in July 1975. Direct trade between the twocountries was also commenced in 1976. China and Thailand marked 35years of diplomatic relations in 2010. Political and trade activitieshave continued to boost the relationship between the two countries.In the recent years, Thailand has pushed its ties with China further,especially in the military and political cooperation. These moves aredefinitely going to complicate the relations between China, Thailand,and Australia. This paper will further expound on the relationshipbetween the three countries on Diplomatic, Economic and Militaryrelations.

Politically,China’s support to Thailand can be traced back in the late 1970s,when it backed Thailand against Vietnam’s Cambodia invasion. Chinabecame Thailand’s security partner, replacing the United States whoappeared unwilling to defend Thailand. In 1978, China withdrew itssupport for the communist movement in Thailand and urged them to joinBangkok’s front against Vietnam.

Soonafter the re-establishment of the direct trade between the twocountries, first trade agreement was signed and Thailand-Joint TradeCommittee (JTC), established in 1978. China supported Thai’seconomy during the 1986 economic crisis. They purchased $45 millionworth of rice and maize, 30,000 tons of glutinous rice and 20,000tons of green mug and beans from Thailand. This was purely in goodfaith as China was already exporting the same products. After Thai’ssecurity stabilized, talks between the two countries focused more ontrade rather than the Vietnam issue. In the 1997 financial crisis,China supported Thailand by not devaluing its currency andcontributed $1 billion to the IMF’s rescue package (Freedman,2014). In 1999, the two countries signed a Joint Communique on a planof Cooperation for the 21stCentury. As a result of the strong trade relations between Thailandand China, trade tripled and more Thai investments were done in Chinabetween 1990 and1999 (Freedman, 2014).


Chinaand Thailand have continued to foster good relations despite existingchallenges, such as increasing Thailand’s trade deficit with China.Security and economic ties have continued to thrive between the twocountries. Amidst the 2014 coup, China still made trade agreementswith Thailand. China agreed to aid Thailand infrastructure byconstructing railways as well as buy rice and rubber from them.During his 2015 visit to Thailand, China’s Defense Minister ChangWanquan, expressed the country’s respect for Thailand’ssovereignty despite condemnatory messages from Western countries.During the visit, China and Thailand also agreed to cooperate ondefense training and military support. The first joint air forceexercise was held in November 2015. Since late 1990s, China hasincreased its military relations, arm sales, training and jointexercises with Thailand.


Australiawas a key player in developing multilateral reforms in Asia after theCold War. In its bid to build the Association of Southeast AsianNations, Australia pushed for the establishment of ASEAN regionalForum. This forum addressed security issues in ASEAN countries.Globalization has seen increased Australia’s contact with Thailand.In 1973, the Immigration Restriction Act was repealed, which saw manyVietnamese, Lao and Cambodian refugees in Australia. In the 2011census, 45,465 Thailand-born people lived in Australia. Australia andThailand trade relations have also continued growing in favor ofThailand. Australia has long-standing bilateral and multilateralpartnerships with South East Asia countries including Thailand, whichhave an interest in maritime security (Davies, 2016). However, theAustralian government is keen to note that their continuedcooperation is subject to Thailand’s return to democracy. Duringthe United Nations review, Australia expressed concerns over thehuman rights deterioration in Thailand. It is no doubt that theAustralian government faces dilemma in support for Thailand’sdefense in the wake of human rights situation in the latter country.Thailand’s ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO),however, continues to enjoy close relations with China.

China-Thailandrelations effect on Australia

China’seconomic boom has boosted its diplomatic ties with Australia throughtrading. Given China’s stand on the Thailand’s issue, Australiafinds itself grappling with its stand on Thailand. Thailand hasrecently expressed interest in purchasing submarines from China andstrengthening military capacity. This is an issue that greatlyconcerns many western countries as well as Australia. Australia istroubled by the stability of the Asian countries and is specificallyconcerned with terrorism and risks of state failure (&quotInternationalRelations of Asia&quot 2016.) Considering its geographical location,Australia has the right to be worried with the terrorism issue inAsia. Australia’s new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, stated that Chinawas a big challenge to Australia.

Australiais also concerned with China’s growing power. China continues tobid for increased regional influence, which will eventually begranted as it continues to rise economically. China and the U.S seemto be engaging in a struggle for global dominance. The stand taken byChina on global issues such as Thailand cannot be ignored. China hasover the years placed itself as the South Asian region’s mostinfluential state due to its political non-interference approach. Itcould therefore influence the future of the region’s standingespecially in light with ASEAN’s ideals. Australia being surroundedby Asia countries has to trend carefully to ensure its security isnot threatened. Although China lacks the military strength like thatof the U.S., it has over the year modernized its armed forces andmilitary.

Australiais a close ally of the United States, which is not the case forChina. The U.S has been strong on the Thailand issue and wasreluctant in endorsing the political elite in Thai. The uncommonground held by China threatens to create tension between Australiaand the U.S. Australia, therefore, finds itself in a difficultposition of balancing between the relations with the US and China.


Chinaand Thailand have enjoyed good diplomatic ties over the years.Diplomatic relations were suspended in the wake of political changesin 1949 but were reestablished in July 1975. Direct trade between thetwo countries was also reconstituted in 1976. Political and tradeactivities have continued to boost the relationship between the twocountries. Chinaand Thailand have continued to foster good relations despite existingchallenges such as increasing Thailand’s trade deficit with China.

Australiawas a key player in developing multilateral reforms in Asia after theCold War. It also has long-standing bilateral and multilateralpartnerships with South East Asia countries including Thailand, whichhave an interest in maritime security (Davies, 2016). ConsideringAustralia’s friendship to China and their different stands on theThailand political instability, Australia finds itself in a difficultposition with China. Australia fears for state failure and terrorismin Asia.


&quotInternationalRelations of Asia&quot. 2016.&nbspGoogle Books.

Australiais holding bilateral Defense Cooperation Programs with Thailandestimated at $3 million during the year 2016-2017.

Davies,Andrew. &quotAustralia`s Next Defence White Paper.&quot&nbspTheRUSI Journal&nbsp157, no. 5 (2012): 72-77.doi:10.1080/03071847.2012.733115.(

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