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The Myth of Sino–Thai Brotherhood: Archival Evidence on Thailand’s Relations with China in Continental Southeast Asia in the 1990s

In: Asian International Studies Review
Authors:
Poowin Bunyavejchewin Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences, Naresuan University Phitsanulok 65000 Thailand

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https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9080-2052
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Wichian Intasi Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences, Naresuan University Phitsanulok 65000 Thailand

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Watcharabon Buddharaksa Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences, Naresuan University Phitsanulok 65000 Thailand

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Abstract

Thailand–China relations have often been described metaphorically as fraternal, signifying the special place China has in Thai foreign policy. However, Sino–Thai brotherly friendship is an illusion. Based on archival evidence recently made available in Bangkok, this study provides a new account of Thailand’s relations with China in the 1990s, usually described by scholars as the period of partnership. This study argues that during this period, Thai foreign policy vis-a-vis China was almost exclusively driven by the Kingdom’s national interests, framed by its consistent diplomatic mentality over time. Specifically, the primacy of national interest was a modus operandi of Thailand’s China policy. Notably, Bangkok policymakers viewed China’s expanding role and influence in mainland Southeast Asia and throughout Asia as a long-term threat to the Kingdom’s security. Thus, ironically, China and Thailand might not be termed brothers but possibly in a distant fraternal relationship that some might categorize as “others.”

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