Thailand, a beautiful and fascinating country, is known to the world for its captivating landscape, abundant resources and splendid culture. The Thai people lead a life of prosperity. I am coming to Thailand again soon, long after my last trip here, to pay an official visit to this friendly neighbor of China. I wish to convey the warm greetings and best wishes of the Chinese people to our friends in Thailand. I am full of expectations for this visit, and I sincerely hope that the visit will give a strong boost to the traditional China-Thailand friendship and start another brilliant chapter of amity and cooperation between our two countries in a new era.
China and Thailand have been good brothers since ancient times. Back in the Yuan Dynasty, King Ramkhamhaeng the Great invited hundreds of Chinese craftsmen to teach ceramic techniques in Sukhothai and Phitsanulok. By working together, the Chinese and local craftsmen created the exquisite and unique Sangkhalok porcelain, whose beauty has been well-preserved till this day. In the Ming Dynasty, the Ayutthaya Kingdom sent more than 100 delegations to China. Its students even studied at China’s Imperial College. Chinese and Thai scholars jointly compiled the early version of the Chinese-Thai dictionary entitled Translations of Siamese. The original copy of the dictionary is still kept at a library in Beijing. On his voyages to the western seas, Chinese navigator Zheng He led his ships northwards along the Chao Phraya River and reached today’s Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province. He brought along to the local people Chinese calendar and measuring and weighing instruments as well as agricultural techniques such as the production of solar salt, well-digging and terracing. And he took back home the spices, pepper, paddy rice and fine fruit tree seeds of Thailand. Through those long centuries of exchanges a deep friendship was formed. The ever-growing mutual understanding and goodwill between the two peoples has laid a solid foundation for the sound and steady growth of China-Thailand relations.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, the people of China and Thailand have worked closely together and supported each other in times of adversity. Together we tackled the Asian financial crisis and the international financial crisis, upholding economic stability in both our countries and the region at large. Together we fought against the SARS epidemic and bird flu, protecting the health of people of both countries. Together we prevailed over the Indian Ocean tsunamis, earthquakes in China, severe floods in Thailand and other natural disasters, allowing life and work to quickly return to normal in disaster-hit areas.
A storm will be followed by a rainbow. Our bilateral cooperation has expanded rapidly and produced fruitful results across the board. China has become Thailand’s biggest source of tourists and export market. Thailand is China’s largest source of natural rubber. Among Southeast Asian countries, Thailand is the first to conduct strategic cooperation with China, the first to implement zero-tariff arrangement on vegetables and fruits within the framework of China-ASEAN FTA, the first to complete a China Culture Center and the first to receive a pair of giant pandas for collaborative scientific research. In fact, the pandas living in Chiang Mai have even got a baby panda now named Lin Bing. Thailand is on track to becoming the country with the largest number of consulates general in China.
Since the turn of the century, China-Thailand relations have entered a fast-track of sound growth. A comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership has been established, and there are tremendous opportunities and room for the expansion of cooperation in various fields.
We share the same development goals. As two important developing countries in the region, both China and Thailand give top priority to development and both are working to achieve economic prosperity and national development and improve people’s well-being. Amid complicated and profound changes in the international situation, Asia’s status and role in the world are becoming increasingly prominent. For China and Thailand, nothing is more important than national development and revival. Our destinies are closely linked and our interests intertwined. To support and work with each other for common progress is a wish shared by both countries, which serves the fundamental interests of our two peoples.
We have vast opportunities for cooperation. Thailand is an important ASEAN member, ranking second, third and fourth among ASEAN countries in terms of economic size, total area and population. Thailand is implementing its 11th National Economic and Social Development Plan, advancing infrastructural development, and further improving people’s living standards. China, for its part, is in the process of implementing its 12th Five-Year Plan towards the goal of doubling its 2010 GDP and per capita income by 2020 and completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects. China’s development will unleash even greater market demand. This represents important cooperation opportunities and huge cooperation space for Thailand and other ASEAN countries.
Thailand is a leading producer of rice and other agricultural products. China will support its companies in importing one million tons of Thai rice in the next five years as well as more specialty produce from Thailand. Rail cooperation will become a new highlight in our bilateral cooperation. China has gained rich experience and credentials in high-speed railway construction. We are ready to take an active part in high-speed rail development in Thailand, as this will facilitate the movement of goods and personnel in the region and enhance Thailand’s role as a regional transport hub. China and Thailand will vigorously carry out cooperation in electricity, power grid, water conservancy and renewable energy. As our economic and personnel exchanges get closer, China will seriously consider the establishment of an RMB clearing bank in Thailand to create conditions for Chinese and Thai companies to increase cross-border RMB trade settlement.
Our two countries share a solid cultural and people-to-people bond. In 2012, there were nearly three million mutual visits between the mainland of China and Thailand. And the number has risen dramatically since the start of this year. Chinese has become a popular second foreign language among Thai friends while Thai cuisine, TV series and sports are winning the hearts of more people in China. Jointly sponsored activities like the Two Lands One Heart gala and the Happy Chinese Spring Festival in Bangkok have flourished over the years and become bridges for heart-to-heart communication between our two peoples.
We are full of confidence in the future growth of China-Thailand relations. We hope that China-Thailand friendship will keep surging forward like the Yangtze River and the Chao Phraya River. Let us join hands and embrace a brighter future.