May the Flower of China-Thailand Friendship Bear New Fruits
--Speech by H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the National Assembly of Thailand
Bangkok, 11 October 2013
Your Excellency Somsak Kiatsuranont, President of the National Assembly and Speaker of the House of Representatives,
Your Excellency Nikom Wairatpanij, Vice President of the National Assembly and President of the Senate,
Honorable Members of the National Assembly,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me pleasure to meet you here in the National Assembly. I visited Thailand 30 years ago when I was in charge of youth affairs. The impression left on me by this “land of smiles” was wonderful and lasting. On behalf of the Chinese government and people, I wish to extend to you, the representatives of the 64 million Thai people, and through you to all the people of Thailand, sincere greetings and best wishes.
Thailand is an ancient, beautiful and richly endowed country full of dynamism. The world-renowned Grand Palace, magnificent Buddhist pagodas and splendid ethnic art all speak volumes about Thailand’s profound culture and unique charm. Over the centuries, the Thai people have created miracles on this land with their hard work and wisdom. Back some 20 years ago, Thailand earned the title as being one of the “Four Asian Tigers” and a frontrunner in economic growth among Southeast Asian countries. In the past few years, Thailand has overcome such challenges as the Asian financial crisis, the Indian Ocean tsunami, devastating floods and the international financial crisis, and has scored remarkable achievements in building the country and strengthening the nation. I am convinced that a glorious future is ahead of Thailand.
China and Thailand have a long history of friendly exchanges. The two countries are geographically close. There is also a strong bond that links our two peoples and cultures. In 1975, China and Thailand officially established diplomatic relations, which ushered in a new era of friendly relations between the two countries. Over the past 38 years, regardless of the changes at home and in the world, our bilateral relations have maintained sound momentum of growth, bringing tangible benefits to our people.
As a Chinese saying goes, “You reap melons if you plant melon seeds, and beans if you sow bean seeds.” I understand there is a similar saying in Thailand: “you reap what you sow.” We are heartened to see that China and Thailand have deepened political mutual trust, strengthened economic and trade ties and increased people-to-people exchanges. In 2012, two-way trade approached US$70 billion, an eight-fold increase in a span of a decade. China has become Thailand’s top export market and biggest source of tourists. Thailand is China’s main trading partner in ASEAN, main source of agricultural imports and biggest source of natural rubber imports. Among ASEAN members, Thailand was the first to sign a joint statement with China on the plan of cooperation in the 21st century, the first to pursue strategic cooperation with China, the first to achieve zero-tariff arrangement with China for vegetables and fruits, the first to set up a China culture center, and the first to establish a mechanism for defense and security consultations and to conduct joint military exercises and training with China. Thailand will soon become the country that has the largest number of consulates in China. It is not commonplace for so many “firsts” to be achieved in any bilateral relationship, which underscores the fact that China-Thailand relations stand out as an example of friendly cooperation between countries with different social systems.
Talking of China-Thailand relations, people in both countries know about “Jeen Thai Phee Nong Gan” (China and Thailand are brothers). This belief, which has taken deep roots in the hearts of our people, is a true reflection of the profound friendship between our two countries. China and Thailand conduct frequent exchanges at various levels on an ever larger scale. We enjoy regular high-level exchanges. Most Chinese leaders, both past and present, have been to Thailand, while members of the Thai royal family and successive Thai government, parliament and military leaders have visited China many times. The Chinese and Thai peoples have close exchanges like relatives. Mutual visits approached three million last year. For Chinese tourists, Thailand tops their most popular overseas destinations. The movie Lost in Thailand produced by Chinese artists has set last year’s box-office record in China and sent a new wave of Chinese tourists to this country. Thailand’s delicious cuisine, intriguing TV series and growing sporting prowess have all left a deep impression on the Chinese people. In recent years, in cases of emergencies and natural disasters, China and Thailand have always stood together and helped each other. We have forged a deep friendship. Thai fishermen in a remote fishing village who once received Chinese assistance during the tsunami could never forget the help they got from the Chinese people. When they heard about the earthquake in Wenchuan, they acted immediately to raise donations for people in disaster-stricken areas, showing their love and support. This touching story is nothing but a true example of the reciprocal friendship between China and Thailand.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Now that the international situation continues to undergo profound and complex changes, Asia has stood out as the most vibrant and promising region in the global economy, and the status and role of East Asia have been on the increase. China and Thailand are presented with golden opportunities to deepen cooperation. We are old friends and close relatives. Under the new circumstances, we need to cement the traditional ties of “Jeen Thai Phee Nong Gan” and write a new chapter of even closer friendship. Our two countries are determined to become good friends that treat each other sincerely, good partners engaged in close cooperation and good relatives that visit each other frequently, so that the blossoming flower of China-Thailand friendship will yield more fruits and the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership will reach a new height. I am sure that the honorable members of the National Assembly will vote yes for this friendship. In this connection, I would like to suggest the following:
First, we need to jointly plan for future development. The fine tradition of regular high-level engagement should be carried forward. China welcomes more visits by leaders of Thailand. China, on its part, will also send high-level delegations to Thailand on a frequent basis. We should base our cooperation on real needs and earnestly implement the mutually-agreed projects. More importantly, we should take a long-term and strategic perspective and make overall plans. During my visit, the two sides will release a joint press communiqué on the Long-term Program on the Development of China-Thailand Relations, charting the course for future cooperation. China is ready to work with Thailand to boost cooperation in wide-ranging areas including transport, water conservancy, energy and education in light of Thailand’s strategic plan for national development.
Second, we need to deepen practical cooperation. Economic and trade cooperation is an important anchor for our friendly ties. China will work with Thailand to implement the Joint Action Plan on Chinese-Thai Strategic Cooperation to advance mutually beneficial cooperation across the board. The two sides need to strive to reach, ahead of schedule, the goal of US$100 billion in two-way trade set for 2015. Thailand is a main producer of rice and other agricultural products. China is well aware of this and will support Chinese companies in importing one million tons of rice from Thailand in the next five years and consider increasing that amount further in light of actual demand. Rubber is an important commodity in our trade. China will actively consider importing more rubber from Thailand. We will also establish a specialized mechanism to explore trade cooperation on agricultural products. As our personnel and economic exchanges get closer, China will actively consider setting up an RMB clearing bank in Thailandand hopes that Chinese and Thai companies will settle more cross-border trade in our respective currencies.
Third, we need to speed up connectivity development. Infrastructure such as transportation facilities forms not only the basis for economic and social development, but also a bond of good-neighborliness and friendship. Railway cooperation can become a new highlight in China-Thailand cooperation. China has leading capacity in high-speed rail construction and rich managerial expertise. Railway development in Thailand will facilitate smooth logistics and economic prosperity. There is enormous potential for railway cooperation between our two countries and China is keen to advance such cooperation. During my visit, Prime Minister Yingluck and I will together attend the China high-speed rail exhibition. I hope to see early launch of substantive cooperation between the two sides. China and Thailand will also carry out vigorous cooperation in electricity, power grid and renewable energy and work together to ensure the sound implementation of water projects.
Fourth, we need to intensify people-to-people and cultural exchanges. As a Chinese saying goes, “Friends and relatives become closer when they visit each other more.” The two sides will announce the decision to negotiate and sign an MOU on mutual visa exemption for ordinary passport holders, the first of its kind between China and an ASEAN country. It will facilitate personnel interflow between our two countries. We may fully harness the role of Confucius Institutes and Classrooms and facilitate the successful establishment of a Thai culture center in China to promote cultural exchanges. China will help Thailand enhance its vocational training capacity through joint running of schools and short-term training programs, and work with Thailand to advance practical cooperation in science, technology, marine sectors and environmental protection.
In recent years, China-Thailand relations have gone beyond the bilateral scope, and played an important role in showing the way for relations between China and ASEAN countries. China will further enhance coordination with Thailand on regional and multilateral cooperation and maintain close communication and cooperation with Thailand in regional and international affairs.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the face of the complex international situation, China will keep to the path of peaceful development, adhere to the foreign policy of building friendships and partnerships with our neighbors and work with other countries for regional peace and prosperity. This year, China has worked vigorously for economic progress while maintaining stability and achieved steady growth through reform and structural adjustment, shoring up market and public expectations about China’s future development. We have not only the ability to meet our economic and social development goals for this year, but also the conditions to achieve sustained and sound economic growth. This will create even more opportunities for the development of Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries.
China-Thailand cooperation has entered a fast lane, and China-Thailand friendship has taken deep roots in the hearts of our people and is reflected in every aspect of their exchanges. Ten years ago, a pair of Chinese giant pandas arrived in Chiang Mai. Four years ago, their baby named Lin Bing was born and became a symbol of China-Thailand friendship and cooperation. Not long ago, when Lin Bing was about to return to China for dating, Thai friends held a big farewell ceremony for her. It is also said that more than 200 Thai friends from the National Assembly, the government and various sectors of society even voluntarily accompanied Lin Bing all the way to her Chinese home on their own expenses. It was such a touching story and a great example of our deep friendship. I can tell you that Lin Bing will soon come back to Chiang Mai with her husband. I am confident that with even closer exchanges, China-Thailand good-neighborliness and friendship will continue to move ahead like the Yangtze River and the Chao Phraya River. Our all-round and mutually beneficial cooperation will embrace an even brighter future. And our two countries will become even closer to each other.