Belt and Road Initiative promotes China-Thai development in multi industries
A Thai student performs a folk dance in Qingdao, alongside the launch of the Royal Thai Consulate-General in December, 2014. [File Photo: qingdaonews.com]
China and Thailand, two countries that share the same origin of culture and traditions, are at present, developing even closer ties following the launch of "The Belt and Road Initiatives".
This new strategy also provides unprecedented boost in opportunities for cities like Qingdao in east China, in terms of economic and trade development as well as tourism.
Shen Ting has more.
"The Belt and Road Initiatives" has pushed Qingdao enterprises to set up base in Thailand as a means of expanding their market reach and boost their communication channels.
Fan Quanjiang is an employee at a Thai branch company with Qingdao's Sentury Tire.
"The warehouse we are in is the most advanced stereoscopic warehouse in the world. There are no operators in it except for just two staff members, cleaners and equipment maintenance staff; 85% of them being Thai. The close cooperation and communication between Thai and Chinese staff has helped them establish a strong friendship."
Up until 2017, the number of Qingdao's investment projects in Thailand has reached 18. In addition to Qingdao Sentury Tire Co., Ltd., the Haier Group, China Qingdao Construction Co., Ltd., Qingdao Brewery Co., Ltd., and other local Qingdao companies all have their offices headquartered in Thailand.
According to Feng Wenliang, President of the Thai Shandong Chamber of Commerce, compared with other Asian countries in "The Belt and Road Initiatives", Thailand's economy is more advanced and the investment environment is relatively stable.
"Ninety percent of the Thai nationals are staunch Buddhists. They are very friendly. So far we haven't encountered any difficulties adjusting into their culture since we arrived. Therefore, it's possible for us to quickly enter their mainstream society."
Before the initiatives, Thailand was one of China's closest trading partners in ASEAN.
Today, it's the technological capabilities and experience of Chinese companies that have helped win increasing trust from the Thai government and their enterprises. The projects of Chinese enterprises, based on the mutual benefits and win-win principle, enjoy a bright future in cooperation, by offering competitive prices and having a good reputation in quality and guarantee period.
At present, investments from Chinese enterprises in Thailand are booming.
Observers predict that in the next decade, Chinese enterprises will maintain an annual growth of between 0.8 to one billion US dollars in their investments to Thailand. Feng Wenliang explains:
"Take rubber for example, companies are exempted from paying taxes for eight years and will enjoy a further 50 percent reduction for another five years.
This preferential investment policy is indeed attractive. Thailand is the raw material distribution center, and the joint ventures help avoid trade barriers while exporting tyres to China."
Currently, China is Thailand's biggest trading partner. Last year alone, the country exported 600 thousand tons of tropical fruits to China, with 10% transported to Shandong.
June and July are the ripening seasons of tropical fruits. During this period each year, Nonthaburi, Rayong, and Chanthaburi will hold fruits exhibitions, attracting tourists at home and abroad to have a taste.
The vice provincial governor Mr.Pongpat Wongtragoon explains:
"The Chinese market is very important, because Chanthaburi is a major producer in Thailand and Chanthaburi also applies the latest research and development technologies in the industry."
Since some tropical fruits have a rather short shelf life, they would be directly transported to Qingdao by freight or by sea. Thanks to the rapid transportation, locals in Qingdao can enjoy fresh but cheap fruits from Thailand.
Xu Mulan, head of the Agricultural Office at the Thai embassy in China, gives further details.
"There are also wholesale markets for Thai fruits in Qingdao. The Chinese people are expected to travel more frequently to Thailand.
In December, 2014, the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Qingdao was formally established. It is the third consulate for any foreign country to have established an office in Qingdao, after South Korea and Japan.
Since the establishment of this consulate, the number of Thai tourists coming to Shandong province, including Qingdao, has increased by 30 percent compared to the previous year.
On the other hand, Thailand uses its highly-developing fruit industry to attract tourists. In Rayong, the eastern province of Thailand, the Suphattra Land fruit orchard attracts thousands of tourists both within and outside Thailand. This fruit farm covers over 120 hectares of land. It grows more than 20 types of tropical fruits such as durian, mangosteen, star fruit, guava, mango and so on. Tourists coming here can not only observe how tropical fruits grow but also pick and taste them.
Xu Guixiang, manager of the Suphattra Land fruit orchard, is a Chinese born in Thailand. She hopes that more Chinese people can come to her Suphattra Land.
"My parents came to Thailand before I was born. I still regard China as my motherland and hope China and Thailand could develop a close friendship."
Three airlines in Qingdao now offer direct flights to Thailand. What's more, Chinese nationals starting from the first half of this year have been able to travel visa-free to Thailand. This has consequently increased Chinese tourists flying to Thailand from Shandong by 30 percent compared to last year.
Wan Heyi is the deputy Consul-General at the Royal Thai Consulate in Qingdao.
"Last year, a total of 300 thousand visits were made from Shandong to Thailand, a substantial increase compared to previous years. For example, in 2015, the number of people who applied for visas was around 100 every day, while in 2016, that number jumped to 3000. For many Chinese, their preferred destination in Thailand still remains the capital city Bangkok, and the Chiangmai and Phuket Islands. But in fact, in many other places like Rayong and Chanthaburi, there are also lots of scenic spots with typical Thai culture, architecture and local cuisine."
The craze for learning Chinese is now sweeping Thailand.
At present, 10 percent of the Thai population is made up of Thai born Chinese. The Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn studied Chinese and spent many years translating quite a few Chinese novels into Thai, which won her high praise. She has visited China 38 times and obtained a doctorate degree in Chinese in China. Princess Sirindhorn enjoys high prestige among Thai people, and her accomplishments using Chinese language has stirred a wave of enthusiasm for learning Chinese. Today, Thai people who are able to speak Mandarin have become a common sight in many tourist attraction sites in Thailand.
This August, the construction of a railway line that connects China with Thailand is set to kick off.
Upon its completion, the railway will go through Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, facilitating a smooth flow of multinational trade. By then, the exchange of goods and services between China and Thailand will become more convenient and the cost of communication and tourism is expected to see a remarkable drop.
Wan Heyi adds that the Thai government has offered its support for "The Belt and Road Initiatives", because they're willing to see this change at an early possible date.