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SinoThai cooperation on fast track 繁體

A Fuxing bullet train replica painted in Thailand's national colors, which was presented by President Xi Jinping during the 29th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Bangkok in November 2022 and holds pride of place among state gifts at the Thai government house, is on its way to being translated into reality.

The construction of the China-Thailand Railway, a flagship project under the Belt and Road cooperation framework based on the Fuxing bullet train's advanced technology, has been accelerated over the past two years. It is Thailand's first standard-gauge high-speed railway project.

In April last year, a freight train carrying durians in 25 refrigerated containers arrived in South China's Guangdong province, completing its first heavily loaded return trip by rail through Thailand, Laos and China. The train took five days to reach Guangzhou, the provincial capital, from Map Ta Phut in Rayong, Thailand. The transportation time by train was at least a week faster than by ship.

Upon completion, the China-Thailand Railway will be connected to the China-Laos Railway, forming a railroad artery across the Indochina Peninsula and elevating infrastructure connectivity in Southeast Asia.

Pitiwat Angsuviriya, a mechanical engineering student from Thailand's Khon Kaen University who is currently participating in a study program at Southwest Jiaotong University in Sichuan province, said he found Xi's visit very inspiring.

"President Xi's visit to Thailand impresses me even today, given that the trip was made at a time when the whole world had just recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. It's encouraging that leaders from the APEC member economies gathered in Thailand and joined efforts to further common interests," he said.

About two months after Xi's visit, China announced the resumption of group tour services that were suspended due to the pandemic, and Pitiwat was able to enroll in a one-year railway talent training program along with 18 other Thai students.

After finishing the training, they will return to Thailand and apply their knowledge to the development of their country's railway network.

"It's a good opportunity for me to study a high-speed train engineering course in China. Economic growth relies on connectivity and transportation. High-speed rail is therefore considered a very good option for the development of Southeast Asia's economy," Pitiwat said.

He added that the course will help him build a career and advance the high-speed railway network under the Belt and Road Initiative, which in turn will allow the regional economy to play a bigger role on the global stage.

Xi's visit to Thailand in 2022 was his first trip to the country as Chinese president. The visit left a lasting impression on local residents who still remember the messages of friendship flashed on giant LED screens dotting the way to the hotel where Xi stayed.

"I clearly remember the screens along the road that his convoy took. They said 'China and Thailand are a family' in both Chinese and Thai languages," said Nut, a taxi driver in Bangkok. "Everywhere the convoy went, it was greeted with warmth and friendliness."

That China and Thailand are a family has been further illustrated after the two countries signed a mutual visa exemption agreement early this year.

The Association of Thai Travel Agents estimates that the visa-free policy will help maintain more than 20,000 visits per day by Chinese tourists, which will help Thailand meet the target of welcoming 40 million foreign tourists this year, generating around 2.3 trillion baht ($62.5 billion) in revenue.

Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the travel agents' association, said the visa exemption is expected to boost Thai tourist visits to China by 18 to 20 percent. "Diversified Chinese cultural activities in summer and winter, such as the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival, are a big draw for Thai people," he added.

In his opening remarks during the 29th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, Xi emphasized that countries in the Asia-Pacific region should stay committed to openness and inclusiveness, build an Asia-Pacific community with a shared future, and strive for an Asia-Pacific region that is peaceful and stable as well as clean and beautiful, bringing about common prosperity through mutual help and care.

History has proved time and again that only openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation can pave the right way forward for humanity, Xi said.

Pinit Jarusombat, president of the Thai-Chinese Cultural Relationship Council, said the mutual visa exemption measure is a concrete action to practice China's commitment to openness.

"Thailand and China are as close as brothers and share a lot in common, especially in terms of culture. The visa policy will boost exchanges among the general public and further deepen understanding between people," he said.

As China and Thailand continue to strengthen infrastructure connectivity and further boost people-to-people exchanges, bilateral trade and cooperation in other fields have also entered the fast lane.

Last year, the trade volume between the two countries reached $126.3 billion, according to the Chinese embassy in Thailand. China is Thailand's largest trading partner, accounting for 22 percent of its total foreign trade.

Thai durian, one of Thailand's most popular fruits, is currently a hit among Chinese families. Durian exports to China surged 81.7 percent to a record 90 billion baht last year, according to the Thai Department of Foreign Trade.

Shipments to China accounted for 70 percent of Thailand's total durian exports in 2023, and the number is expected to grow this year, thanks to the improved transportation.

Wichai Kinchong Choi, senior vice-president of Kasikornbank, one of Thailand's leading banks, said that logistics is among the major issues for Thailand, a country that makes more than 60 percent of its GDP from exports, especially international trade in agricultural products.

"President Xi stressed that countries should follow the spirit of the Asia-Pacific family, look after one another like passengers in the same boat, and steadily move toward an Asia-Pacific community with a shared future. China always practices what it advocates," he said.

Wichai said that Thailand has been supporting the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and has benefited a lot from China's investment.

Moreover, China's openness in organizing several big trade fairs, ever since the country optimized COVID-19 control measures last year, has provided great opportunities to other developing countries in speeding up their own economic recovery, he added.

During his visit to Bangkok in 2022, Xi also called for efforts to drive green and low-carbon development and ensure a clean and beautiful Asia-Pacific region. He promised that China will provide support for the implementation of the Bangkok Goals on Bio-Circular-Green Economy.

Wichai said that Chinese electric vehicle brands are now very popular among Thai people, especially the young generation. "With China's support, Thailand is accelerating its progress toward the country's green development goal, and aims to become Southeast Asia's EV hub and logistics center," he said.

As Xi noted that APEC economies have jointly sown the seed of the Putrajaya Vision of an open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community by 2040, it is time to cultivate, nurture and foster the blossoming flower of common development in the region, Wichai said.

"China is taking the lead in joining hands with the Asia-Pacific community, aiming for common development of the whole region," he added.

[来源: ChinaDaily]

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