Thailand Should Stay Neutral Over US-China Conflict, Academics Say

Thailand should remain neutral and reaffirm its commitment to a balanced foreign policy as tensions between the United States and China rise, experts say.

Panyapiwat Institute of Management’s president Sompop Manarungsan told the media that the ongoing conflict between the United States and China is expected to escalate further after US Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan earlier this week.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has initiated an opening move that will only deepen the polarization between the two countries, Mr. Sompop said.

While the US has worked hard with 17 other allies to strengthen global supply chains and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity strives to build another new supply chain, the polarization will only become more acute.

The situation will worsen and lead to a new Cold War, the academic stated, adding that ASEA will become an “arena for the clash of the two world powers” as a result.

Mr. Sompop insisted that Thailand must maintain its neutrality and equal distance between the two nations. However, the country can see an opportunity in the crisis.

In order to avoid any potential trade restrictions China could apply against Taiwan, many more small- and medium-sized Taiwanese businesses will relocate their manufacturing bases to other nations, with Thailand likely being one of their final destinations, he stated.

As they still have solid economic relationships with their Taiwanese counterparts, more Chinese businesspeople are anticipated to visit Thailand. Additionally, these Taiwanese merchants will likely base their exports to mainland China from the kingdom, Mr. Sompop went on.

“It’s also important for Thailand to work closely with other Asean countries to strengthen regional security,” he added.

Meanwhile, independent political and economic analyst Somjai Phagaphasvivat said he agreed that ASEAN members, including Thailand, should commit to impartiality.

The academics’ comments came after Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanee Sangrat announced that Thailand stood firm in its support for Beijing’s one-China policy and called on the parties involved not to escalate tensions.

Mr. Tanee spoke about the situation regarding Taiwan, saying that the Thai government remained concerned that tensions would rise due to Ms. Pelosi’s recent visit to the island that China claims as its own.

Thailand urged both sides to refrain from further inflaming the situation and avoid actions that could undermine regional peace and stability.

However, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Thailand issued a statement calling on the nation, which it considers its “strategic cooperative partner,” to continue to respect the one-China principle it has followed for nearly five decades and uphold the country’s efforts to safeguard its sovereignty.