Welcome to Jom's
Overpopulation is not what you think. The situation is way better than we thought.
Rather, it reveals the tragedy of development....
Comparative Developmental State Models in Thailand, Japan and South Korea and In-depth economic theories by having South Korea as a case study.
Get to know the Thai-Chinese Strategic Cooperation during the midst of Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in the 1980s.
Habit exists for a reason. It is very important to analyse one's environment before conclude one's personnal habit. here's an example of how climate genetically choose your consuming behaviour.
Understand Noncommunication Diseases in Thailand. Causes and Effect.
Potential Solutions and Challenges, using the Stock-and-Flow Diagram.
Understanding the history of the Chinese in Thailand and how they get assimilated over time
Overpopulation isn't an issue and will never be
10 October 2021 -- Jomkhwan Borrirak
10 min read
In the past decades, humanity has surged in enormous numbers whereby the population has already reached 7.8Billion in March, 2020. What seems to be the following consequences are the fact that the growth in population is often connect to the growth in energy consumption, economic subtraction, the decrease in habitable land and so on. The statement is indeed true, no doubt with that fact but however, some of us has raised the topic of 'overpopulation to cause us to exceed the planet capacity' (end of society such as the scarcity of resources, more armed conflict, rapid climate change and so) due to our low mortality rate and better healthcare. This claim is somewhat contradict in itself as the hypothesis lacks research methodology and making false claim of the future. As we speak, how one with the population boom's mindset could explain the highly developed countries with extremely low mortality rate and reliable healthcare such as Japan and Scandinavian states, that are now even entering the 'depopulation period'. According to the 1960's population boom theory (the beginning of the overpopulation claim), those countries would have encountered the overpopulation phase by now but still, those developed countries are enjoying the economic sustainability produced by the good quality of population. Therefore, could it possibly say that the more you develop, the more you likely to face depopulation? The answer is likely a yes since this theory has proved by plenty of current developing countries. Take Bangladesh for instance, in the 1970s, Bangladesh's average birth was around 7 children per woman where in 2010, the number reduced significantly to only 2 per woman. The case also applied to its neighbours such as Thailand, Malaysia and India whereby the countries would faced the ageing society and the decline in population in the near future.
Demographic transition theory describes changes from high birth and death rates to significantly low rates over a period of time. The demographic transition model shows the stages in which these rates decline. It is very essential to note that the speed of these changes depends on the degree of industrialisation of a given geographic area. This is linked to the idea of modernisation and globalisation as well since these two factors could influence the level of development in each country. The concept states that people always strive to improve their living situation is probably the consensus topic. A good example is the development of cars to improve traffic and the invention of drugs to cure some of the diseases that affect people. It is clear that different parts of the world differ in terms of industrialisation. With this in mind, the demographic transition theory / model indicates the stages populations go through when birth and death rates go through during their decline. The model has five main stages;
The first stage is associated with low population growth and an equal birth and death rate. All human populations were in this phase until the 18th century when industrialisation began in Western Europe whereby the rates exceeded 30 for every 1000 people.
The second stage involves a decrease in death rates while birth rates remain high, leading to population growth. This phase represents the time immediately after the agrarian revolution of the 18th century. During this period, most regions of the world, particularly the west, experienced an increase in food and water supplies. The revolution has improved the standard of living of the people and, with it, the decrease in mortality rates.
The third stage is that part of the model in which the population advances towards stability, with birth rates falling in contrast to the second stage. Because of this, birth and death rates are low during this phase. With a view to modernisation, this stage originated at the end of the 19th century. During this time, technological advances brought with them birth control systems as well as both men and women in the society were also more educated.
The fourth stage has proved that the population remains stable. To provide an example, Chicago, one of the largest cities in the United States has experienced almost all of these scenarios. In the 18th century, the population of Chicago was in the first phase of the demographic pattern. In the middle of the 19th century the population increased enormously whereby the birth rate at that time was 50 births per 1000 inhabitants per year. This is approximately three times the reported live birth rate in today's Chicago as the current rate is now at 14 new births per 1,000 people per year.
Not only in that, according to total fertility rate of the world, we could observe the clear recession in population growth whereby parents are having far less children than in the mid 20th century. As we speak, better healthcare could expand our lifespan and ensure the survival of the child. In the middle of the 20th century, a family tended to have more kids due to the fact that those children might not survive in the first place. For an instance of 1970's Bangladesh, the poor healthcare has pushed the survival rate of infants and low-age children to only 70% which mean that 2 of the 6 parent's kids might die before contribute to anything. Furthermore, the other survived children also might not get educated at all as there were far less education facilities. With th0se facts, it now makes sense to cover the question of why a parent in that particular time prefers to have more kids, compared to the modern Bangladesh where it see the surge in education and welfare.
Another case study though can be the Sub-Saharan African region where the birthrate surged up to 4.7 child per women, compared to Europe's 1.6 or East Asian 1.8. With this projection, the region of 1.1 billion population in 2021 might see to over 5 billion at the end of 21st century. By observing the population rate below, it could be concluded that Sub Saharan Africa is at a very early stage of demographic transition whereby the youth made up as a majority. Moreover, this statistics also prove the accuracy of the demographic model as the Sub-Saharan Region is considered to be one of the poorest region on Earth. There is less healthcare and also there is less education system. Thus, the colonisation in the past brought imaginary borderline which created disunity and conflicts as followed. Those factors has created the pressure and push down the development of the country, resulting in the parent's behaviour, familiar to the 18th century's Europe.
Therefore, it is rationale to conclude that the poverty is connecting with high fertility rate since there is a support evidence, thus the proved theory of it to support the discussion's research methodology. As we speak, it is also rationale to say that the more humans means more chance of us to develop ourselves by implementing new technologies that extend the environment's capacity to sustain the population. Keep in mind that Europe in the 1920s was about to encounter the food shortage crisis since the farming industry was not effective enough to feed enough mouths in Europe. Anyhow, in that specific decade, the new technology also emerged. In 1918, Fritz Haber would be awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his notable work in developing a method of synthesising ammonia from nitrogen in the air whereby the process could enable the production of fertiliser in quantities that revolutionised agriculture worldwide. With that result, Europe could sustain its growing population and therefore extend the capacities of the environment. This kind of breakthough could also apply to the Sub-Saharan countries as the emerging development can result in lower fertility rate. Ethiopia for instance has been a prominent country in Africa, along with South Africa as those two countries could also observe the lower birth rate due to the rapid development in education and healthcare services. With those evidence on the table, it is crucial to prioritise on economic development in every countries. What we can do right now to stop the overpopulation in the poorly-developed countries is to assist them developing. Mostly importantly, it must be the assistance or investment with fairness, otherwise, the sustained development would not occur.
Those facts have always debunked the notion of global overpopulation as we can observe the advancement in humanity during this era. Humanity has exceeded our limit each year. Each year, we would observed the successful trails or research that extend our knowledge frontiers. Planetary civilisation would occur within 2050 and the research regarding lifespan extension is promising, pushing human civilisation to be the Type-One Kardashev's Civilisation Index. Nuclear Fusion is also promised to replace Nuclear fission technology by which the output is considered to be the cleanest, most environmental friendly and largest source of energy in our solar system. Those emerging technologies will be the tool for humanity to expand ourselves and also tackle the overpopulation at the same time. As the environment has enlarged itself, the capability for humans to emerged themselves also expanded too. Moreover, the more we develop, the natural scenario of demographic transition will ensure our population will stay on the line.
Genetics of Habit : Climate decides your favourite foods.
19 February 2022-- Jomkhwan Borrirak
12 min read
This article contributed to my old self who loved eating his broccoli so much. Yes, that greenish vegetable. Sometimes, people kept asking me of why I liked the broccoli so much despite its unpalatable bitter taste. Interestingly, this vegetable tended to split the world of taste in half whereby some people seemed very much love eating it while it is also giving people an untasteful dish nightmare. Apparently, people are attempting to link this phenomenon with "memory traumatisation", the same reason as a person who got bit by a dog once when a person was a kid and trumatised for life. In this case, one might not like eating broccoli because one got forced by one's parent to consume this awful meal when one was a kid. While this hypothesis is partly true, it is not always the case. Some might even hate broccoli despite never had such traumatisation at all, but their genes are there to blame.
To prove this, there was an experiment in 1931 where a chemist named Arthur L. Fox extracted Phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) which is a property in many vegetables, including broccoli and some of fish, and fed it to many of his experiment participants and interestingly, the result was utterly unusual since the property is either taste very bitter for some as well as virtually tasteless. Moreover in 1960, a psychophamacologist, Roland L. Fischer also found that Propylthiouracil (PROP), which is the component in more variety of foods and medicines, also have the same property that related to the individual's food preference and body shape. Basically, since an individual has born, the ability to taste certain flavors would be transfered from individual's parent, not an external factor such as memory traumatisation. To put it simpler, a psychologist, Linda Bartoshuk called the type of person who has more ability to taste more flavors as "Supertaster". Nowadays, normal people like us also test out our ability to taste via P.T.C paper or n-PROPYL paper at home. According to today's data, over 75% of humans are non-supertaster while only 25% are supertaster.
Linda Bartoshuk, PhD.
This, however, raise another one important question. Then why individuals across the globe do not have the same food preference. This is a very interesting, yet mysterious question because if all humans are required the same nutrients, then why our genetics did not evolve towards the same code. Besides, some of the foods that are sensitive to the supertaster such as Broccoli or Carrot for instance, are full of good vitamin nutrients which is good for your health. Then why on Earth do our genes make someone avoid those foods by making them more bad sensitivity. Well apparently, this is where geography came in handy. By observing the demographic information in Fischer's and Bartoshuk's experiment, the data suggests that the majority of supertasters are living near the equator, namely a hot climate. And this is not an coincidence either since this data supported by the variety of plants in the equatorial environment. For instance, the tropical jungle in Southeast Asia where the land is exploited to sunlight most of the time, would have more variety of plants and animals than other biomes. According to the WorldAtlas (2018), tropical forest contained over 75% of all Earth's species of animals and plants. As a result, the intensity of natural selection in the biome increased, making all species to enhance rapid adaptation to survive. To this point, one well-known way for a defenceless plant to actually survive the predators, apart from modified physical body, is self-produced acid/poison. Example of toxic plants are; Water Hemlock, Nightshade, Rosary Pea, Oleander or Tobacco. Interestingly, most of the hostile plants are locating in hot humid climate as well as containing similar property of Phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) and Propylthiouracil (PROP) as other green plants, including broccoli.
To evolve against the kind of plant defence mechanism, we, humans develop TAS2R38 Genes which are the genes that promote taste receptor cells, known as Gustducin or G Protein as body's signal transduction. As a result, an individual who has more instense TAS2R38 Genes would detect the taste of PTC and PROP easier due to the increase number of Fungiform papillae on the tongue. All in all, the group of evolved TAS2R38 Genes are created to deal with the increasing toxic plants and vegetables, especially those in hot and humid climate.
According to Prof. Paolo Gasparini (the Faculty of Medicine, University of Trieste), human writes those kind of taste codes deep down into all 15 TAS2R38 Sub-Genes where they are deciding what kind of consuming foods may or may not entered one's body even before one was born since the information is not coming from oneself but one's parent genetic code. To prove this, there was an experiment in 1995 where Julie Mennella, a biopsychologist conducted so-called "Carrot Test", involving three pregnant women. One of them were asked to only consume carrot juice while being enceinte. Another were asked to only consume carrot juice while feeding breast milk. And the last pregnant woman not to consume carrot juice at all. At the end, the result blended towards Gasparini's point whereby the babies of the first two women liked the carrot juice, contrasting to the third baby who refused to drink carrot juice. Same result also goes with her experiment, involving mice in the wasteland area, whereby the pregnant mice were forced to consume only the junk foods (Sugar and Salt cube), as a result, their baby mice were enjoy consuming those kind of food and refused to consume any others . To this point, we can conclude that genetics are pointing towards survival. The parent chromosomes transcript the essential gene for survival into the one's chromosomes, including the TAS2R38 Genes that control one's consuming behaviour, to blend into the given environment and to survive into the given environment. Therefore, it is quite logical now to conclude that an initial consuming habit of an individual is largely depend on the environment, not necessary comes from after-born factors.
It is quite a journey to just explain why half of the world (not) like broccoli, I know. But not only this writing can explain my little curiosity, what we have discussed in this article also indicates that the behaviour of a particular individual may initiated from the parent and the environment. Hot climate, cold climate, rocky terrain, grass highland and so on, are very crucial to analyse one's habit since those biomes are creating unique living environment and our biological body tried to survive them. This article is hoped to be the example of fundamental behavioural study in social science where not only consuming habit but all existing habits, ideologies and culture were scientifically proved to be influenced by the environment. They are transcribed deeply into our epigenetics. What we do is what our body thinks it is best for it.
Paolo Gasparini, Prof.
Roland Fischer, PhD.
Comparative Developmental - Macroeconomic Model
of S.Korea, Japan and Thailand
10 April 2022 -- Jomkhwan Borrirak
25-30 min read
The term industrialisation seemed to be a huge turning point in the history of Asia. In the early 1990s, Thailand, South Korea and Japan all acquired approximately double-digit growth of Gross Domestic Product index which is quite spectacular in scale. This also includes other East and Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore whereby those mentioned states are entering the age of rapid industrialisation for the past decades. A remarkable growth indeed needs a remarkable explanation. One may raise the question of how could those countries achieve such impressive growth despite the fact that some of the mentioned countries, especially Japan and South Korea have all been through a harsh war-time economic catastrophe. As a political scientist, it is essential to gather information and acknowledge the factors that made up the result as a whole, as well as implementing new hypotheses in order to simplify the new context of analysis. Developmental state theory for example, is the hypothesis theory that could well-explicate the key reasons behind East and Southeast Asian rapid economic growth.
In this research, the reader shall find an extensive explanation regarding the Developmental State Theory, in which the research will prioritise institutional characteristics and theory’s mechanism of industrial policy. The reader shall also observe the deep analysis of the theory whereby Asian countries, especially Thailand, Japan and South Korea will be the case study of analysing the countries’ economic structure and policies. The research shall also conclude the major similarities between the Thai economic structure and the developmental state model, as well as the major contrast between them, along with self-researched facts to support the research’s arguments.
Developmental State Theory as it may seem, is the theory that indicates state-led economic development which was introduced by the political economist, Chalmers Johnson in 1982 through his notable work; ‘MITI and the Japanese Miracle’. The book itself provided an extensive understanding regarding the Japanese economic growth and how the creation of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) contributed to the rapid growth of the Japanese economy. Anyhow, the theory points out the unique characteristics of East Asian countries whereby a state has a strong intervention towards economic development. Those interventions include the fact that the rational state runs the regulations or setting up an economic environment for private sectors to conform. To put into an easier sentence, the theory is trying to emphasise what so-called ‘A state centralised control’ of a country’s economy in which the state centralised the economy through regulations. It is possible to say that the developmental state model is quite contrast to the ‘Laissez-Faire’, an economic theory of free-market capitalism from the 18th century whereby the theory opposed any kinds of government intervention in economic affairs, which make sense as a developmental state requiring strong state intervention. It is also very essential to keep in mind that the term of intervention in the developmental state model is very much different from authoritarian economy whereby the state has full control over the market economy and the market force. North Korea as such is the proper example of the current authoritarian economy in which the private sector could not exist in the economic market, contrasting to the developmental state such as Japan or South Korea in the past decades whereby the private actors could still enjoy the economic liberalisation within the limit of the state regulations. Namingly, the developmental state can refer to the principle of ‘Plan rationality’, the principle which is somewhat between the notion of ‘market rationality’ and ‘plan ideology’
It is interesting to realise that each country will acquire a unique developmental state model due to differences in institutional characteristics. As mentioned previously, the creation of the MITI has provided a significant contribution and also notable institutional characteristics to the Japanese economy. This is including the fact that the appointed bureaucratic elites autonomously guided the control of the country's finances, which collectively means that the system could determine the labour markets or even the competition of those ‘zaibatsu’, —the giant private companies. Furthermore, the MITI was assigned to control the flow of foreign capital, allocating those funds for industrial development such as the purchase of high technological equipment and machinery importation (Charlotte Ng, 2008). These notable institutional characteristics provided significant advantages to Japan as a whole since the creation of MITI could centralise the Japanese industrial finance as well as ensuring the zaibatsu to follow its state guidance. Notwithstanding, the emphasising of the institutional characteristics often come with the analysis of industrial policies and the national interests. As it may seem, the characteristics can be shifted along with the national interests. Those national interests are created under the current interests of the state in which later then formed into policies that the state utilises for achieving those interests. For instance, the mentioned fact that the MITI could allocate foreign currency to the industrial sector, control the interest rate, bank loans, tax concessions or even the investment loans from the Japan Development Bank are counted as the industrial policy in which those policies, plus the distinctive bureaucratic system, made up the unique institutional characteristics in the Japan developmental state.
To provide the reader a deep analysis that can lead to the mechanism of the industrial policy, statistics of the figure 1 illustrated the dramatic growth in Japanese foreign exchange budget which categorised into Foreign exchange allocation goods (FA Budget) and Automatic Approval goods (AA Budget). Both of the budget in total is provided as a green line which showed significant growth from approximately 2,500 Million dollars to 3,400 Million dollars in the early 1950s before entering the downfall in the 1960s due to global competitiveness. The answer to such growth in the 1950s was the mechanism of industrial policy whereby the Japanese bureaucracy could control the financial sector through the establishment of the Export-Import Bank of Japan and the Japan Development Bank in 1951. As a result, the bureaucrat-controlled MITI could commited a credit allocation to the Corporate Sectors which best explains why there was a dramatic jump in total budget in 1953. The advantage of this kind of mechanism was the fact that all sectors (State, Financial sector, Corporate sector and Labour sector) could enjoy the output of the state-led industrial policy. For example, the financial sector could enjoy the capital flow from the FA budget and the AA budget. The corporate sector also had a benefit over a stable income source because of the promotion of industries and domestic industries protection, provided by the state. The labour sector was also enjoying the controlled price of individual commodities from the MITI’s de facto import quotas on the FA commodities (Okazaki, T. 2017). Finally, the state sector, which controlled the country’s macroeconomics and microeconomics in the first place, could satisfy the outcome of its industrial policies that were implemented at the beginning as a part of the developmental plan. Nevertheless, figure 1 also illustrated the downfall in total foreign budget in the 1960s as the result of more global competitiveness in iron and steel industries which was the main industry back then in Japan, but still the impressive growth in 1953 provided the extensive idea of how the state could made an impressive change in the flow of foreign exchange budget.
figure 1; illustrated Japanese Composition of Foreign Exchange Budget
To wrap everything up from the beginning to this point, the analysis of the industrial policies are provided as the visualisation of the bigger picture of the Japanese industrial policy mechanism. The industrial policies then made up the autonomous bureaucratic system whereby the system visualised into the distinctive Japanese institutional characteristics. As a result, the institutional characteristics, also known as the ‘principle of plan rationality’, made Japan a developmental state as a whole, according to Chalmers Johnson.
As the reader now acknowledged the definition of developmental state from the paragraphs above, it is essential to realise that the developmental state model is often referred to the East Asia region since the region achieved quite a successful attempt in development by utilising state-led industrialisation in the late 20th century. However, it is also interesting to realise that Japan did not keep the model to this present day. The MITI was dissolved in 2001 as a part of central government reform. To provide a structural analysis, the biggest problem of the developmental state theory was the fact that the model indirectly created a network state whereby the ruling elites shared informal ties with the private sector (Okimoto, D. 1989) which would followed by the embedded autonomy of the ruling bureaucratic elites (Evans, P. 1995). Subsequently, there was no doubt that the policy-making process might be influenced by the Zaibatsu both directly and indirectly which was the major reason behind the Japanese central government reformation in 2001, and also a big reason behind the Korean corporate governance reform attempted by President Moon Jae-In (Kim, S. 2020) since those giants Zaibatsu and Chaebols made up too many parts in the countries’ economic market. To analyse in different perspectives, both Japan and South Korea did not seek some private ownerships to be too big on purpose but rather, it is an inevitable consequence of the developmental state model. South Korea for instance, heavily relied on external exportation and investment in its export industries in the past decades, making South Korea vulnerable to the goods and capital allocation as the factors of change were from outside of the country. Hence, the state intervention through the Japan model of interest subsidies could have ended up ineffective for South Korea since the country might encounter the inflationary refinancing of nonperforming loans as a result of companies’ fluctuations in earnings, and also faced the unnecessary increase of the state equity share of the banks (Okazaki, T. 2017). Therefore, the allowance of Chaebols’ strong ties to the Korean government would help the country’s exports rate and economic development, as the Chaebols could influence the country’s policy-making process for their interests which created a Korean distinctive model of developmental state. All in all, South Korea is still on its pathway in dealing with Chaebols while Japan could already tackle the consequences of the developmental state model by lowering the state intervention in the 1980s as well as the central government reform in 2001. Anyhow, such reforms did not occur in Southeast Asia.
As the reader shall now observe the comprehensive distinction between Japan and South Korea's institutional characteristics, both of the countries still showed the world of successful attempts for utilising state-led industrialisation as a part of the developmental state. However, the other parts in Asia, especially Southeast Asia, were also trying to bring up the East Asian model as well. Thailand, for an exemplary country, was a candidate to adopt the East Asian model of state development whereby the country began the state-led industrialisation in the 1970s. The state-owned utilities expanded rapidly in the 1970s consequent to more country’s domestic consumption of energy which provided a clear pathway for the state to intervene in the existing firms via industrial divisions and also to even create their own ones. Thailand’s state-owned utilities were composed of various companies such as PTT, MEA, PEA or EGAT in which some of those companies are considered to be large conglomerates that could influence government policy-making in the past decades. Moreover, the state-owned utilities also existed along with the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) which had the state-appointed headboard who controlled the NESDB and the Head Governor of the Bank of Thailand at the same time. All in all, it shall be concluded that the state, the financial sector and the corporate sector were partly merged during the 1970s which made up distinctive institutional characteristics that run the Thai mechanism of industrial policies as a whole.
figure 2; illustrated the relationship between Thai state-owned utilities and the Thai ministries
Therefore, Thailand was definitely one of the state-led industrialisation which marked the similarity to the East Asian developmental state theory. To extend the similarities, South Korea, for example, did play a very similar role to Thailand in most perspectives of the institutional characteristics as well as the mechanism of the policies. It is interesting to realise that both countries actually started off with the economic catastrophe at the beginning. South Korea suffered from the war-time economic ruins while Thailand suffered from the hyperinflation in the late 1950s. In fact, the hyperinflation caused the Bureaucratic capitalism in Thailand to break down and forced the Sarit Thanarat’s government to decentralise the control of finance which provided the perfect pathway for the rise of ‘technocrats’, a mastermind actor who actually introduced the NESDB to the state. Anyhow, the harsh economic destruction encouraged both countries to adopt the developmental state model whereby two countries did approach it in different ways. South Korea for instance, had a vulnerable financial sector as the sector carried too many nonperforming loans due to the downfall in industries, but still, the Korean state was solid enough to utilise state-guidance industrialisation such as the import substitution during President Rhee Syngman, Outward orientation during President Park Chung-Hee and Balance and stabilisation during President Chun Doo-hwan (Kim, K. 1991). On the other hand, the Thai financial sector, as mentioned previously, is actually on the rise while the Thai state encountered political instability both domestically and externally. From military coup d’état to the Vietnamese threat during the Vietnam war. As a result, the Thai technocrats actually led the country’s development and gained tremendous influences. To provide the reader an idea of how influential the technocrats were, it is also very essential to notice that the Bank of Thailand had lost its independence in which two governors had been pulled away by the ministry of finance during the Silpa-archa’s government. Anyhow, the state-appointed technocrats made up new unique characteristics to the Thai developmental state model. As a result, new enacted industrial policies were made to control the countries’ macroeconomics and microeconomics as a part of state-led development.
Therefore, those facts above emphasised that Thailand was actually using a developmental state model in the past decades and still using it to this current time. The factors that differentiate Thailand and East Asia were the differences in institutional characteristics and mechanism of industrial policies. Nevertheless, the differences in characteristics still made an impressive growth. From the 1950s to the 1980s, the Korean manufacturing sector increased the share of GDP from 12.0% to 30.2% while Thailand also faced the decrease of agriculture to GDP from 40% in the 1960s to 15% in the 1980s whereby Thai manufacturing increased in size from 13% in the 1960s to 25% in the 1980s (Bank of Thailand, 2003). In fact, policy such as market liberalisation could give a tremendous hope for Thailand to be the heart of Southeast Asia financing and the fifth Asian tiger, at least before the country faced the recession in 1997. However, what is considered to be the huge side effect of using the model for Thailand, is the fact that the giant companies could put lots of influences to the point that reformation is close to impossible.
To conclude this section, the developmental state for Chalmers Johnson is defined under the plan rationality or system that has a rational state-led industrialisation for the purpose of economic development. By comparing the model to the Thai political economic structure, Thailand has met the criteria to be defined as one of the developmental state utilisers. However, the characteristics of Thai institutions were distinctive from others which made up completely new ways of mechanism of industrial policies, but still, the goal of economic development via state-led industrialisation was clear. By following the East Asian model, Thailand and other Southeast Asia countries could achieve rapid economic growth in the past decades before taking a recession in 1997, challenging the model as a whole, but still Thailand nowaday is utilising the state-led development model. The developmental state also created a consequence whereby the private sector has a strong informal tie with the government such as the case of Zaibatsu or Chaebols. As a result, Japan and South Korea have been attempting to reform the model in order to tackle the influences from those giant private ownerships. Anyhow, it seems that Thailand has been pushing away from such reform as the giant companies already put too many influences into the policy-making process, turning Thailand to be a semi-democracy where Thai politics turned into a stage between elites’ business interests.
Macroeconomic Theories and 1970's South Korea as a case study
If there is a consensus in the economic literature over the successful cases of the laissez faire-led economy, how one could explain East Asia’s relative economic miracle, especially in South Korea where strong state intervention has been utilised. It is interesting to analyse the fact that South Korea once stood on the top 25 poorest countries in the world in the 1950s and could have emerged into the 4th largest Gross domestic product in Asia and the 10th largest in the world in the matter of decades. The Korean pursuit of a strong economy was indeed one of the great development success stories. At this point, one may even raise the question of how South Korea could push itself forward to this very moment, including the question towards the industrial policies, tools and strategies that South Korea has been utilising.
In this section, the reader shall find the extended explanations over South Korean macroeconomic structure, as well as its economic development strategy during the 1970s. The section shall also include the background of South Korea as a whole, along with the consequences of the particular policies enacted by the Korean state and how those policies created a strategy with the state-business relationship. Last but not least, the reader also shall observe the research’s arguments regarding the Korean economic strategies, alongside opinions with self-researched facts.
By analysing the South Korean economic strategy in the 1970s, the understanding of the country’s backgrounds are considered to be essential. Those backgrounds include all types of analysing environment aspects such as the three mainstreams of political, social and security. The political aspect, for example, has to do with the state characteristics analysis whereby the understanding of politics domestically and externally is crucial. The social aspect includes the social status and economy of the country. Lastly the security aspect required the understanding of domestic and external threats that may harm the political stability as well as the national interests. To provide the reader with such an analysis, the Post Korea war in the 1950s marked a relatively good starting point that created South Korea's environmental set up for economic development in the 1970s. After the Korean war, the country entered the period of dictatorial regime whereby President Rhee Syngman led the country from the end of the Japanese colonial rule in 1948 to his resignation in 1960. What was considered to be the main economic policy during his presidency was the fact that economic development along with Westernisation has been brought to South Korea. As mentioned in the introduction, the South Korean economic situation after the Korean war reached the critical point where an agrarian-led economy only achieved GDP per capita of $76 which left the country reliant heavily on foreign monetary aid. Despite the fact that the total foreign monetary aid was peak at $365 Million dollars, most of the fund often ended up to support an extremely large army due to the security aspect in which the large spending also caused the high rate of inflation up to 110 percent (U.S. Library of Congress, 1990). Therefore, South Korea under Rhee Syngman moved towards a rational state where state-led industrialisation has been implemented which marked as the industrial policy that set up an important environment for its rapid economic growth in the 1960s and the 1970s. Firstly, import substitution by the state was enacted to tackle the national scarcity of raw materials (Haggard & Moon, 1993). As a result, the industrial sector with the substitution tended to grow nearly 14 percent each year with the growth in Gross National Production nearly 5.5 percent from 1954 through 1958 with 3.4 percent annual growth in GDP each year (Kim, K. 1991). With that fact in process, the United States along with The United Nations Korean Reconstruction Agency program (UNKRA) reduced the economic aid to only $91 million dollars, marking the starting point for South Korea to be self-reliant on economic aspects. Continuingly, after Rhee Syngman and his Liberal Party won an election in 1960, a “Seven-year Economic Development Plan” was implemented, right before the student-led April’s revolution took place. In fact, another economic plan, known as the “Five-Year Economic Development Plan” led by the revolutionary party, Yun Posun, was put into dirt by the Military Coup d’etat in 1961.
The reader shall now observe all three mainstream basic analyses of Korean background in the 1950s. The political aspect illustrated the fact that South Korea encountered political instability due to dictatorial rule. The social aspect showed how the country aims for economic development and advancing human capital via state-led industrialisation. Lastly, the security aspect which seems to be the most important factor, considering how South Korea paid tremendous attention by putting most of the funds into a large army in order to balance the power against North Korea. By analysing those factors, it could explain as well as simplify how South Korea approached economic growth in the 1960s and the 1970s. Furthermore, the decade of the 1950s has shown how the political aspect was a huge deal in scale for South Korea, but still, all regimes and individuals were having the same mindset on economic development. In the 1960s’ Third Republic as such, opened up new political and economic contexts whereby the dictatorial incumbents seeked to legitimise themselves through economic development plans. Therefore, it is possible to analyse that the upcoming economic development strategy during the Third Republic would be very much influenced by those elites.
Export-based industrialisation is considered to be one of the essential strategies during the late 1960s and the 1970s. The strategy was enacted under Park Chung Hee’s military regime whereby the vision was to ensure the development of powerful export materials by supporting those export powerhouses. Those exports included many types of construction’s materials such as steels, chemicals and also electrical components to match the global demands on electronics supply. As a result, the export rate expanded rapidly, affirming the success in the disaggregation of different sources of income, rather than agricultural-based country’s income. To analyse deeper into the macroeconomic point of view, the export-based industrialisation during the Park’s regime and the import substitution policy in the 1950s caused the Chenery-Shishido-Watanabe’s input-output disaggregation method to occur in South Korea (Kellogg Institute, 1991) whereby the state’s import substitution played an essential tool as an input to improve the elementary capital for rapid output’s export expansion. Furthermore, the fact that South Korea could control its industrial policy, did tremendously help the export sector by which South Korea developed its own Neomerchantalist framework. That particular framework is known as the Eatwell framework of cumulative causation which is the strategy that creates a link between the world demand and the domestic output to ensure every Korean exported products would match the global supply chain. To put into easier words, the state could determine the country’s international competitiveness by comparing the initial export rate with the current export rate in order to adjust its industrial policies to bettering its export performance. For example, South Korea did observe the marginal growth in chemical exports in the 1970 by analysing the delta number of chemical export rate, subsequently, the heavy and chemical industrial policy was implemented in order to improve its international competitiveness regarding chemical industry. This example of policy is also the root to success in Pohang Steel Mill (POSCO) and other many state-supported products, mostly in the non-agricultural sector. As a result, South Korea could achieve GDP growth from $3.96 Billion in 1960 to $9.01 Billion in 1970 or average annual growth of 7.45 percent each year by having a peak at 14.56 percent in 1969 (Lee, J. 2016). This particular decade marked the grand turning point for the South Korean economy as a whole. The output materials were entering the global market, pushing the country to acquire such a significant catch-up. In fact, the well-known conglomerates or “Chaebols” in today’s world happened to set up their fortune in this decade such as Samsung which entered the electronics industry in the late 1960s or Hyundai motor which entered automotive manufacturing in 1967. Continuingly, the state-led economy through export-based industrialisation still proceeded in the 1970s and could even provide the country with an average GDP growth of 8.6 percent each year, even more than the 1960s. Therefore, there is no doubt that the state-led economy as the national strategy seemed to provide plenty of benefits to South Korea as a whole. Nevertheless, it could be said that the boom without bust did not happen for South Korea since the state interventionist model by military regime tended to show their double-edged sword in the political economy. In fact, some of the consequences of a state-led economic strategy still exist at this very moment.
To clarify the point, South Korea did overextend its economy as the import substitution and export-support industrialisation overflew the market circular flows which stimulate inflation and also caused the overwhelming foreign debt due to its industrial subsidy. By proving the number, the South Korean total foreign debt in 1961 was approximately $63 Million dollar while the total foreign debt in 1979 was groundbreaking $20,287 Million dollar (Park, W. & Collins, S. 1989). Keep in mind that the increase in foreign debt is not an unusual financial scenario in other countries either since the inflation due to the market expansion occurred across the globe, but still, such an overwhelming increase of foreign debt in South Korea was +32,101% increment within only two decades. With this huge amount of spending for subsidies, the inflation rate shot up once again at 40 percent in which the inflation would remain there for the rest of the 1970s decade until the balance and stabilisation policy during President Chun Doo-hwan got rid of it in the 1980s. Beside the economic consequences, the Korean political aspect also reached the critical point where the decade of 1970s was characterised as ‘the dark age of democracy’ in which Korean politics turned into the stage for state-business interests. Despite the fact that those developmentalist elites built up the country’s economic fortune, what came along with them seemed to be a scandal over corruption and the point over Chaebol’s dominance in the export sector which shared a defective relationship with the labour sector.
figure 3; illustrates the Korean rate of profit according to Esteban Maito and Seongjin Jeong
It is also interesting to pay attention to South Korea’s rate of profit in which the export-based industrialisation could impressively show how successful the strategy was in the 1970s as shown in figure 3. However, the high rate of profit was mainly contributed to the industrial sector who got support from the state through macroeconomic subsidies and low wage labour regulations. Subsequently, the state-led industrialisation through export-based strategy during the 1970s indirectly created a loophole whereby a serious misallocation of resources widened the concentration gap of economic power. As a result, the export powerhouses who carried the entire country’s 58.3 percent of profit rate, could undoubtedly influence the state’s decision-making process whereby the labour sector was unequally pushed to ground by the state. Therefore, there is no doubt the labour sector would push back against this kind of oligopolization and dictatorial regime in which they did throughout the 1970s and would eventually turn the country into a true democratic country with labour rights in 1987. To this point, there is a potential question of the possibility that Korean democratisation has caused the downfall of the profit rate in the 1980s as shown in figure 3. To add some economic clarification, the democratisation did not cause the country’s rate of profit to fall, rather, the bearish trend of profit rate can be explained through the recognised theory of Tendency of the rate of profit to fall (TRPF). The theory has been introduced by Karl Marx through Chapter 13 of his notable book: Das Kapital where the theory stated that the rate of profit naturally decreases over time due to the cost increment of capital and also the increase of price inflation in each type of goods and service. With that fact, it could explain the reason why Korea's profitability declines each year and so do other industrialised countries such as the Netherlands where the country achieved 75% of profit rate in 1850 and just 15% in 2010 (Maito, E. 2015). Besides, a country's economic growth does not consider a country’s profit rate as an economic indicator, but rather the increase in goods and services per head of the population. With that in consideration, South Korea could observe the difference regarding economic growth during the military regime and the Sixth republic as shown in figure 4. The Yellow line represents the average National Income per capita if the military regime still admistrate, while in reality, the democratic reforms could acquire even more exponential growth. What is considered to be the achievement of Korean democratisation was the fact that South Korea has been attempting to tackle the consequence of having a powerful state sector with resources misallocation and the large gap of economic power as a consequence of state interventionist strategy in the 1970s. Nonetheless, even the democratic reform still did not tackle all of the strategy’s consequences, especially the state-business informal tie which is the nowsday’s ‘observable consequence’.
figure 4; the North and South Korea’s GNI with the yellow line as average growth of military regime in South Korea
Before going to the analysis of the ‘observable consequence’ and how South Korea tended to tackle them, it is essential to get a bigger picture from the beginning to this point. The analysed background during the 1950s marked the foundation for Korean individuals to make a major change. Additionally, the Korean war caused the destruction of more than 40% of the industrial sector and over 33% of the residential area, pushing South Korea down to the least-developed country. With that fact, plus with the political and security aspects, South Korea could get itself along its own history line where a state-led economy as the 1970s’ strategy made up the Korean economic miracle while also pointing out outcomes both positively and negatively.
By mentioning ‘observable consequences’, it means the consequence that can be observed in this current time. For instance, the fact over Chaebol’s economic dominance in today's time was the direct outcome of having the policy tool of resources and budget allocation to the export industry in the 1970s and the defective state-business relationship. In 2019, Samsung generated sizable revenue of 16.4 percent to South Korea’s total GDP while Hyundai Motor made up a second place of 9.7 percent which was followed by SK group, LG Electronics, Lotte and so on (Bank of Korea, 2019). By combining 64 known chaebols’ revenue, they built up approximately 1,919 Trillion won which comprised over 84 percent of the entire country’s GDP but surprisingly created only 11.4 percent of the country’s employment (Kyung-Hwa, S. 2020). The existence of Chaebol also provides the concern over transparency as the state-business relationship is still inherited to this current time. To clarify the point, the state-led development is also known as the developmental state model by which a state could interfere with the corporate sector through fiscal policy. This kind of relationship is the foundation that makes export-based industrialisation possible and yet effective since Chenery-Shishido-Watanabe’s input-output disaggregation method and Eatwell framework of cumulative causation could occur in the past decades, as mentioned previously. But still, state-business relations also create an informal tie between bureaucratic elites and Chaebols that led to the Corruption scandal and other related scandals. The Choi Soon-sil scandal in 2017 can be the example case whereby President Park Geun-Hye and her aide: Choi Soon-sil faced corruption charges, involving Chaebol’s donation money. The fact that the mass protests took place in 2017 to end such corruption could be said that South Korea is still trying to balance the consequences caused by the state-misallocation of resources to those Chaebols as a part of export-based strategy in the past decades. Unlike Japan where central government reform in 2001 could eliminate its conglomerate’s influence in the state, South Korea still faced difficulty in removing the conglomerate’s influence as those firms made too much contribution to the country’s economy. Anyhow, South Korea under Moon Jae-In is on its way to tackle this problematic issue by utilising the ‘Fair Economy Act’ (Kim, S. 2020), yet another state-controlled economic regulation to supervise private ownerships, especially those Conglomerates.
To this point, it is a clear consensus regarding the Korean double edged success story in an incredible short amount of time. The export-based strategy in the 1970s acquired the neomerchantist models whereby South Korea could achieve an impressive miracle through a state-led economy. With this fact, South Korea is considered to be one of the most successful state-led economies in the past decades and also an ideal model for developing countries to walk on its pathway. Anyhow, those who tried to walk on this pathway must accept the consequences of the upcoming difficulty of inflationary control, foreign debt balancing or even a state-business overwhelming economic gap by which even South Korea itself is still attempting to tackle it to this very moment.
Understand Non-Communication Diseases (NCDs) in Thailand, using Systematic Thinking Theory.
11 June 2022 -- Jomkhwan Borrirak
10-13 min read
If there is a consensus among individuals regarding the immediate response to a particular surface issue to achieve the satisfied outcome, how one could simply explain some certain issues that are relatively overgrown in size despite having plenty of solutions to the problems. It is quite intriguing to see that despite having quick solutions to the issues, one could still encounter tremendous difficulty due to the fact that specific issues have different leverage points. This statement probably explains the theory at once. In theory of systematic thinking, considering the leverage points, as the the theory suggests, offers a different dimensional and systematic analysis to find the potential lifting point which is usually located deep in the core structure of an issue. Hence, in order to find one, it is quite crucial to analyse, not only the surface problem, but also the fundamental structure of the issue as whole to find a relative fit of the solutions to the problem. Therefore, in this article, the reader shall find the utilisation of ‘stock and flow diagram’ in the systematic thinking theory as a mean to indicate a solution to the structural problem for such of the Non-Communication Diseases (NCDs) within Thailand whereby the article shall includes the analysis regarding the diagram, potential solutions and challenges as well as self-researched facts throughout the article;
In Thailand, Non-Communicational disease is considered as one of the problems that are in immediate need of finding a leverage point for a solution. It is prompt to kill more than 400,000 people annually which accounted for approximately 74 percent of Thailand's Mortality whereby 2.2 percent of the GDP is transferred annually to tackle the issue (WHO, 2022). The economic cost is also including the four policy prevention packages to prevent the exposure to any behavioural risk factors, especially from unhealthy diets, usage of alcohol as well as tobacco uses. Furthermore, Thailand has also been engaged with plenty of awareness rising campaign such as the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (known as – สสส.) in hoping for reducing the number of death that related to NCDs. Intriguingly, Thailand also collaborated plenty with international community and companies to tackle the issue such as the collaboration with AstraZeneca on NCDs education program throughout the country (AstraZeneca, 2021) or even implementing the WHO Health System Framework as the question of this article suggests. Anyhow, with all the mentioned efforts in mind, Thailand still encountered the identical problem yearly with no sign of actually halting the problem. Surprisingly, all the information in this paragraph is actually the core systematic structure that leads to the NCDs problem as a whole.
CAUSES AND EFFECTS
To clarify the previous point, it is important to observe the stock and flow diagram below to better understand the system leading to the problem caused by the NCDs altogether. To begin with, the article considered the Population, Economy and NDCs related supply as stock in which they are altogether intertwined through flow factors. The population group is having Fertility and Mortality rate as the means of shifting, Economy has inflow and recession while NCDs supply with its supply inflow and outflow. This diagram illustrates the current system of Thailand towards the issue of NCDs within the country whereby the article shall illustrate that the System in Thailand towards NCSs tackling, has been, all along, prioritising the wrong perspective.
To get straight into the point, the reader shall find that the Economic allocation (2.2% of the GDP) to the health sector is very much engaging with only population groups. With that being said, Thailand chose to approach the issue by prioritising only on Population perspective such as the case of implementing four prevention policies, creating a Health promotion foundation to inform individuals and even engaging with foreign companies for internal education. While it is true that informing individuals of the threats of NCDs to the country and individuals themselves, does alleviate the problem to the extent of reducing demand of NCDs related product, the paper strongly believes that focusing on Population factor alone tends to not effectively eradicate the issue as a whole since the leverage point is the Supply of Production within the system that causes NCDs. To clarify, the diagram above suggests that ‘Population affected per NCDs case’ usually came from the existence of NCDs related product supply whereby the supply inflow found to be greater due to higher consumption on such products as well as having government supportive utilises such as Tobacco Authority of Thailand (โรงงานยาสูบ) that making major Cigarette share in Thailand or Liquor Distillery Organisation (องค์การสุรา) that opens the liquor factories up to 13 in the country (Liquor Distillery Organisation, 2022). Not to mention various uncontrollable variables such as the individual's consumption on unhealthy diets or the even well-known pollution in Thailand that made up some cases of lung-related NCDs. In another word, Thailand has been prioritising on informing individuals over the threats of NCDs but has not tackled the supply of the NCDs related products due to the fact that the Thai government itself has participated in the supply chain of such products. With this fact, Thai individuals are forced to encounter the uncontrolled variables and inevitable consumption of the NCDs products as a result of no intervention from the government on the supply chain thereby creating the absenteeism or even death in the country, which has an effect on economics as the question of this paper mentioned and diagram suggested.
POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS AND CHALLENGES
To this point, it is now quite important for Thailand to change the perspective of finding solutions to the NCDs issues. Instead of prioritising on Population groups only, Thailand should consider its economic capabilities to enhance further control on NCDs related demands and supply since there is a marginal surplus in NCDs related products which causes the Population group to be exposed to the NCDs and causes economic burden as a result. With that fact, the paper will provide three constructive political economic proposals as following;
Consider proposing fiscal reallocation through legislative and executive entities to effectively control the supply chain of the products that causes NCDs.
Establishing the social contract as well as proper regulation to control personal consumption of NCDs related products. For example;
Tax imposes on Sugar, Saturated fats and Salt usage that are above set standard
Supporting R&D to enhance coexistence between humanity and the uncontrollable environment that is favourable to NCDs. For example;
Investing in Carbon Capture Technology to alleviate lung-related NCDs
Funding the genetic engineering to tackle behavioural-related NCDs such as the program on genetic rehabilitation of Alzheimer’s individuals.
Anyhow, there are some catches and challenges. All the three proposals will not come to place if there is not enough political support as well as individual’s pressure. This is considered to be the huge constraint within the WHO health system framework as the framework itself lacks the political factor regarding the system building block to meet their expected outcome, especially in Thailand where politics does play a huge role in decision-making. Remembering that the government itself has engaged with the supply chain of the product that causes the NCDs, by simply eradicating the supply, would give Thailand a very divided opinion and internal political constraints. Therefore, it is also important for Thai individuals to realise all the mentioned leverage points, push the proposal by pressuring authority and actually leverage it to happen.
NCDs tended to be the major threats to the socio-economic factors in Thailand as the large amount of infection and deaths are responsible for absenteeism and economic recession in a country. Hence, WHO has proposed the system framework for its member countries to follow its building blocks to better enhance the control of NCDs. Although as the stock and flow diagram has suggested that Thailand has well-achieved the Information block, anyhow the ability to shift its governance and financing building blocks to tackle the main leverage point of production supply chain, are considered to be Thailand's major constraints as the paper has mentioned the constraints of politics throughout the last two paragraphs. With that fact, the paper has proposed three potential solutions of fiscal reallocation, social contract and R&D to alleviate the issue to some extent whereby the paper also provides constructive challenges for individuals to overcome in order to enhance better quality of life, ensure economic growth of the countries and establishing strong state to be ready for risk environment that causes NCDs for once and for all.
Thailand-China Economic, Security, and Cultural ties in the 1980s
7 August 2022 -- Jomkhwan Borrirak
12-15 min read
(1) Economic Engagement in the 1980s ;
It is quite crucial to see that since mainland China has opened its economy, following Deng Xiaoping’s Economic Reform in 1978, China has observed an average of double-digit in GDP growth a year. With that fact, China increased its dependence on the global market, especially the export’s dependence that hit 40 percent-GDP-ratio in 2008. Along its way, Thailand also became one of its strategic economic partners. Additionally, Thailand got a huge benefit from the Chinese implementation of “Equity Joint Venture Law” in the year 1979 which was the regulation that established solid trade for inbound and outbound enterprises. As a result, during the 1980s, the foreign investments both in and out China skyrocketed as exchange capital was more than 469 Billion US Dollar worth. Furthermore, a set of Joint Venture Regulations in both of 1983 and 1984, resulting in more joint-venture entities to be increased tremendously whereby one of the parts is Thailand inbound and outbound investment as a result of having Thailand – China Joint Trade Committee (JTC) in which Thailand and China would cooperatively host the bilateral trade conference annually. Within the conferences, Thailand would be led by the Director General of the Department of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Commerce whereby the Chinese side would be set by the Director General of the Asian Department, Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation (MOFTEC) for any negotiations. The main targets of every conference were the setting up of predictable trade volume and support of trade expansion of both Thailand and China.
In the midst of Chinese enactment of the Wholly Joint Foreign-Owned Enterprise, the amount of Chinese investment in Thailand was the largest among Southeast Asian countries during the 1980s. This tended to be the legacy of 18th Thai Prime Minister, Prem Tinsulanonda that prioritised economic growth in dint of Post-Plaza Accord’s Japan and Post-Economic Reforms’ China which tended to be Thailand’s attractive characteristics during the Pre-financial crisis epoch. The potential motive of Chinese investment in Thailand is finding suitable markets and resources as China’s rapid growth was based on the so-called ‘resource-intensive manufacturing’ and exports. In which those businesses then became nowsday’s Thai conglomerates that could shape Thailand’s decision-making process as a whole because of the dominance of local socioeconomic order since Prem Tinsulanonda’s administration. For instance, CP Group, also known in China as "Zhèng Dà" (正大), has begun itself in 1978 and successfully rose during the 1980s and connected Thailand via ports in Special Economic Zone of Guangdong Province. Eventually, the group has nowadays become one of the monopolistic images of Thailand and has well-connected with Thai Banks and privately held Royal Warrant holders of the Thai Royal Family . Not to mention that the Chinese influence would increase even more after the Chinese “Go-Out Strategy” in the 21st century that involved investment in foreign countries by which more and more Chinese enterprises has entered Thailand.
(2) Mutual Regional Security ;
As the reader observed the high economic engagement between Thailand and China in the 1980s, one might get a glimpse of other engaging perspectives. One of them being Mutual Regional Security in the midst of the security crisis in Indochina. The Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia marked the beginning of Thailand-China Mutual regional security and both countries see Vietnam as a security threat. Initially, in June 1980, Vietnam rushed into Don Muk Mun, Thailand, causing high levels of panic among the Thais. However, what makes Thailand a unique characteristic is that Thailand under Prem’s administration has recognised this security threat as a proxy or power struggle among superpowers, hence the external players are viewed to be required. Thailand under the Prem’s administration, therefore, aligned itself with China, the rest of the ASEAN to engage with the Heng Samrin’s Cambodia, Aggressive Vietnam, and Backing Soviet Union. Military equipment and arms purchases were performed at so-called “friendship” prices such as 400 armoured personnel carriers and 50 Chinese T-69 tanks .
All in all, China during the midst of the Indochina security crisis highly rebuked Vietnam as well as having waves of support from various Chinese presidents during the time. The most well-known quote was by Yang Dezhi, General Staff Department who made a visit to Bangkok in 1983. “If Vietnam dared to make an armed incursion into Thailand, the Chinese army would not stand idle. We will give support to the Thai people to defend their country”. In other words, Thailand and China have established mutual security, marking as the security umbrella for Thailand in a sense. Moreover, during and after the tension in Indochina, the Thai-Chinese strategic cooperation went to many areas. Visits between high-ranked military officials of China and Thailand were increasing in significant time in the 1980s. Interestingly, Prem Tinsulanonda, later by the name of Thai Privy council president, still met up with Vice President Xi Jinping in 2011 regarding the talk of Thai-China relationship development
(3) Cultural Diplomacy ;
Cultural Diplomacy is considered to be one of the initial engagements that unify oneself with others through the same interests and culture. For Thailand and ASEAN, especially during the 1980s, China is among the actors that illustrated high influence in cultural diplomacy within Prem’s administration due to the Chinese openness policy. One being the Bamboo Network which well-represented the cultural diplomacy between Mainland China and ASEAN, also known as the networks of business informal connection between enterprises owned by ethnic Chinese families and expatriates in the region of Southeast Asia. The Bamboo Network linked Post-Chinese Economic Reform’s Economy to the metropolitan cities in Southeast Asia such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok as ethnic Chineses in those cities were considered “Prosperous minority'' for hundreds of years. Nowadays, China has built its significant economic connection throughout the region during the post-Chinese economic reform era, using the existence of this sort of dominant socioeconomic order that could intervene or make up the decision-making process within Southeast Asian countries.
Cultural Diplomacy, as its name suggests, involves the way of thinking or philosophy of a certain culture. In this case, Family plays an essential role in Chinese businesses within Southeast Asia. What seems to be the advantages of Chinese family businesses are that those enterprises have no issues with loyalty, low overhead and flexibility. Therefore, in the bamboo network, the Chinese businesses are relatively midsize, anyhow, they are quite amassed billionaire fortunes.
In other words, Cultural relationships could be represented by networking or making business with individuals that are closer to the existing networks or family, also known as “valuing over traditional business relationships”. As a result, cultural diplomacy successfully makes economic, trade and financial activities straightforward and trouble-free. Communications and Interactions among families, even ‘Clans’ in China and some countries, has illustrated the essentiality.
Correspondingly, the cultural relationship has built the Chinese business connection across the globe, particularly in Southeast Asia. This kind of business influence notably surged in Thailand, whereby 20 out of the 31 billionaires were ethnic Chinese.
(4) Diplomatic Visits ;
As the reader has observed the high engagement between Thailand and China, one might see the importance of diplomacy from such an economic, security and cultural perspective. With this fact in mind, Thailand and China, particularly during the 1980s, have seen a significant increase in diplomatic visits, even though the diplomatic visits usually came in the form of security and economics, rather than focused on general state-visits due to the on-going tension in Indochina. The visits in as following list are the well-illustrated Thailand’s characteristics and interests during the Prime Minister, Prem Tinsulanonda that prioritised the security efforts rather than neutrality under Prime Minister Kriangsak Chamanan ;
The Prime Minister, Prem Tinsulanonda visited China two times in October and November 1980 for strategic consultations and arm dealing, right after the grand visit of Deng Xiaoping to Bangkok in November 1978. It is also important to note that the arm sales with so-called ‘friendship’ prices started during this period.
General Serm Nanakorn, The Supreme Commander of Thai Armed Force also made a visit to China in May of 1981 for military assistance and strategic advisory.
On the Chinese side, the Chinese Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang made a diplomatic visit to Bangkok, Thailand in February, 1981 to discuss future’s cooperation and tension in Indochina.
Two year later in 1983, the famous visit of the General Staff Department, Yang Dezhi visited Thailand and made a warning to Vietnam. Moreover, during the year of 1983, Supreme Commander General Saiyud Kerdphol of the Thai Armed Force, also frequently exchanged visits of Thai high-ranked military commanders.
Much later during Prem’s late administration, President Minister Li Xianian also made a visit in March of 1985.
The Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng visited Thailand in 1988. All of the Chinese side’s visits were for logistic coordination and general support as well as the Chinese Defence Minister Qin Jiwei that visited Bangkok in January 1989.
The list above also includes many Thai parliamentary delegations that visited China regularly to ensure Chinese support. To this point, the reader shall now observe that Thailand under Prime Minister Prem did put a high prioritisation on security aspects in plenty of Thailand-China Diplomatic visits which made the characteristics of Thailand during the 1980s as a whole. All in all, this sort of all diplomatic visits built up the Thai-China great relationship whereby Thailand could ensure the security of itself while China could also limit the influence of Marxist Vietnam in Southeast Asia.
Timeline Summary and Introduction to the Study;
Genuinely, the interaction and relationship between Thai society and Chinese immigrants before the 18th century were complex and multifaceted, nonetheless, it is a relative consensus regarding the success of the Chinese since the beginning period of engagement and in modern day Thailand. Upon their general arrival, the Chinese individuals established trading networks and ports throughout the region, and their presence assisted to diversify the culture and Siamese economy. While the rationale behind the Chinese engagement in different countries during the time was ‘sui generis’ according to various contexts, these early settlers were primarily drawn to Thailand by the region's thriving trade hub and economic opportunities. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the number of Chinese immigrants to Thailand began to increase significantly. Many of these immigrants were involved in the emerging tin and rubber industries, and have played a major role in the development of these industries in Thailand. With those facts in mind, the Chinese immigrants also further established plenty of businesses such as shops, restaurants, and banks, helping to further spur economic growth in the country. Interestingly, unlike the interaction within the 17th and 18th century, the 19th century illustrated the more distinctive and roaring relationship enlargement whereby plenty of scholars have developed several points of view to understand this particular assimilation as a whole, this is also including the controversy of total assimilation as well a s flexible identity of assimilation.
With this point, Chinese immigration to Thailand continued for the following century, with the Chinese population in Thailand increasing from 230,000 in 1825 to 792,000 in 1910 by which many Chinese immigrants prospered under the "tax farming" system, where private individuals were sold the right to collect taxes at a lower price than the value of the tax revenues. Interestingly, this establishment of networks provided the initial coming of the economic assimilation as a whole whereby those merchants had installed a supply and demand chain into Siamese capital. As an additional fact, Chinese traders also often married local Siamese women, which played a part in integrating the Chinese community into Siamese society. With those points in mind, their presence helped to diversify the Siamese culture and economy.
It is also essential to note that the Chinese community was not a homogenous group, but rather a diverse population from various regions and backgrounds, who brought different customs, languages, and religious practices. Therefore, their role and interaction with Thai society varied over time and location. For instance, the Chinese Revolution of 1911 also had a significant impact on the Chinese community in Thailand, as many Chinese immigrants returned to China to participate in the revolution. It also led to increased anti-Chinese sentiment among the Thai government, which feared the spread of revolutionary ideas and Republicanism among the Chinese community in Thailand. Despite facing discrimination and challenges, the Chinese community has been able to preserve their cultural heritage and traditions through institutions such as schools, temples, and associations. Chinese festivals such as Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival are celebrated widely in the country, and the Chinese language and culture are also passed down from generation to generation. In this modern time, the Thai Chinese constitute the largest minority group and overseas Chinese community in the world, with a population of around 10 million (11-14% of Thailand's population as of 2012).
While plenty of scholars have put a consensus regarding this timeline, numerous scholars have also endeavoured details and analysis regarding the more in-depth timeline. This includes notable works from Wasana Wongsurawat, Benjamin Zawacki, Chan Kwok Bun, Tuong Vu, William Skinner, Porphant Ouyyanont, Ruji Auethavornpipat and Kasian Tejapira in which readers shall observe their opinion and analysis in the following paragraphs. This paper shall aim to provide an understanding of the foundation of the Thai nation as a whole with the influence from the Ethnic Chinese and the Coming of assimilation and integration of Sino-Thai culture and relationship. Throughout the paragraphs, readers shall also find the article’s self-researched facts to support as well as against some of the viewing points of the authors and implement constructive conclusions and future studies.
The History of the Chinese in Thailand: Political, Cultural, and Social Integration
28 January 2023 -- Jomkhwan Borrirak
38 min read
Aspects of the Place and Role of the Chinese in Late Nineteenth Century Bangkok
As mentioned particularly for the 19th century, there was quite a relative consensus regarding the significance of the growing numbers of the Chinese community in Thailand and so was the economic fortunes associated with the surging number. In this case, Porphant Ouyyanont has brought out the Postal Census through his notable article to provide the comprehension regarding the emergence of Chinese in Bangkok during this particular century. Intriguingly, the study showed that the Chinese immigrants have played an essential role in the construction of the country's railroads and other infrastructure projects as well as provided the readers with the glimpse of the Chinese intervention of Thai politics, with many holding important positions in the modern day government and civil service. This was also particularly true in the areas of trade and industry, where Chinese entrepreneurs and business leaders became major players and portrayed as the leading figure.
According to the Bangkok Postal Census of 1883 which was a survey conducted by the British government in British Malaya and British-administered areas of Siam to gather information on the population and economy of the region, the Chinese had a significant presence in Bangkok during this time, as they were involved in various forms of trade and commerce, including the opium trade. Many Chinese immigrants had come to Bangkok as part of the coolie trade, which was the forced labor of Chinese men in Southeast Asia, including in Bangkok. The Chinese population in Bangkok was concentrated in the area known as Chinatown (唐人街), which was located near the city's main port and commercial center. The results of the Postal Census of 1883 showed that there were more than 20,000 Chinese residents in Bangkok with a total of 8,531 household heads, making up approximately 27% of Bangkok's registered households. This large Chinese population in Bangkok played an important role in the city's economy, as they were involved in various forms of trade and commerce, including the opium trade. To this point, it is also important to note that the coolie trade was abolished in 1874 by the British government, but many Chinese immigrants continued to come to Bangkok and Southeast Asia in search of work and better economic opportunities. Interestingly in 1883, approximately 33 percent of the Chinese household heads worked within Commerce and Manufacturing, 20 percent into the Marketing and Agricultural production sector with approximately 14 percent. (Figure 1).
Figure 1; illustrates Occupations of Household Heads and Agricultural Areas in Bangkok in 1883 by Ethnic Group
Through the illustration, readers shall now observe a significant contribution to the city’s economy whereby the mentioned Commerce and Marketing sector has been dominated by the Chinese immigrants as their number of occupations exceeded the local Thais. Notably, in regards to those contributions, the Chinese were heavily involved in the city's thriving trade, with many owning and operating businesses such as rice, textile, and opium dens. As a matter of fact, the Chinese were able to dominate the opium trade due to their expertise in opium cultivation and processing. The Chinese also played a significant role in the construction of Bangkok's infrastructure, including building canals and roads. Furthermore, Porphant also examines the relationship between the Chinese and the Thai royal family, highlighting the role of Chinese merchants in financing the construction of the Grand Palace area as a result of the complete outnumbering of Chinese brick buildings.
To provide the self-researched facts to add on from Porphant’s point of view, despite the Chinese-related economic success, this particular time also highlighted the challenges and difficulties faced by the Chinese community, including discrimination and prejudice from Thai populations. This was the result of the Haw Wars during the year 1865-1890 whereby the Chinese quasi-military invaded the Northern part of Siam and Tonkin (Northern part of Vietnam). As a result, it marked the beginning of the anti-Chinese sentiments among the Thai nationalists. Remembering that Siam during this particular time was struggling to keep its independence from the Colonial powers, such conflict and ethical tempestuousness were viewed as quite serious topics.
To this point, the key takeaways of the article are the points that the Chinese played a significant role in the economic and social development of Bangkok during the late 19th century, despite facing discrimination and negative portrayals as discussed, the Chinese community in Thailand continues to thrive whereby the Chinese immigrants and their descendants have made up a significant portion of the country's population which continue to make significant contributions to the Thai development and played an important part of its cultural heritage.
2. The Ethnic Chinese and the Founding of Thai Economic Diversity and Education
As discussed previously, the ethnic Chinese played a critical role in the economic development of Thailand, particularly in the realm of commerce and finance. The concept of extraterritoriality, or the exemption of certain individuals or groups from the jurisdiction of local laws, also played a significant role in the founding of the Thai nation, as it allowed the ethnic Chinese to maintain a degree of autonomy and independence within Thai society. Additionally, the Chinese community's wealth and economic power allowed them to exert significant influence over the Thai government and economy, shaping the nation's development in significant ways.
One example is the role that Chinese merchants played in the development of Thailand's export-oriented economy. Chinese merchants were instrumental in the growth of Thailand's rice export industry, which helped to establish the country as a major player in the global economy. The Chinese were also instrumental in the establishment of banks and financial institutions that helped to provide capital and credit to Thai entrepreneurs and businesses whereby this establishment has helped spur economic growth and development in the country. Additionally, the Chinese community's wealth and economic power allowed them to exert significant influence over the Thai government, education and publication. Chinese merchants and businessmen were able to use their wealth and influence to shape government policies and regulations in ways that favoured their own interests as well as training officials within the Chinese schools to be a part of the Siamese attempt on modernising bureaucracy. At this point, Wasana has pointed out that Chinese schools during the were increasingly politicised and has become one of the major issues during the Siamese modernisation under King Chulalongkorn and Vajiravudh.
Interestingly, according to Wasana, the Chinese revolution of 1911 as discussed in the previous section was the important motivation behind the education reform, known as Nationalisation of Education, whereby the Thai ruling class suddenly lost trust in the Chinese schools as a result of a wide-spreading doctrine of republicanism in the last-Qing period. Intriguingly, Nationalising education refers to the process of centralising and standardising the education system under the control of the state, with the goal of creating a cohesive and unified national identity. Wasana argues that nationalising education played a critical role in the formation of the Thai nation whereby the control of public education helped foster the shifting factor of Chinese anti-monarchism and republicanism. By creating this particular standardised education system, the Thai government was able to maintain and shape the national identity and values of its ‘Thainess’. Additionally, the reform helped to create a sense of shared identity and belonging among the diverse population of Thailand, and helped to foster a sense of loyalty and commitment to the nation. Interestingly, Chinese immigrants did not receive the Chinese schoolings at all due to the result of this particular anti-Chinese sentiment and prohibition of other ethnic education.
3. The Chinese Assimilation on Thai politics
In addition to the previous paragraph, the article "Chinese Assimilation and Thai Politics" by G. William Skinner also provides a comprehensive and in-depth support of the complex relationship between Chinese immigrants and Thai politics. Skinner delves into the historical background of Chinese immigration to Thailand, detailing the factors that have led to the influx of Chinese immigrants in the country and the impact that has had on Thai politics over time whereby Skinner has introduced three main specific factors that affect the assimilation rate of the Chinese in Siam which are Intermarriage, Education, and Nationalism.
Intermarriage between the Chinese immigrants and the Thai population was a key factor in the assimilation process in which the Thai government has put prioritisation since the beginning of Phibun’s administration. As the Chinese immigrants married into Thai families, these individuals were able to properly adopt Thai customs and ways of life, whereby their children were able to consider themselves fully Thais. This, indeed, helped to bridge the gap between the two communities and facilitated the assimilation rate positively. This policy was seen as a way to create a more cohesive and homogeneous society, and to reduce the potential for ethnic conflict.
Education, as the paper discussed, is one of the factors that can affect the assimilation rate of the Chinese in Siam, Royal-Nationalism, according to the author himself and also by Wasana Wongsurawat in his notable book “The Crown and The Capitalists”, was the most crucial factor in the effect on Chinese assimilation in Siam. Notably, the article also highly prioritised how the Thai government as well as the Monarchy have enacted various policies of assimilation to control the Chinese community and maintain political stability as well led to the suppression of Chinese cultural identity and the marginalisation of certain segments of the Chinese population. As part of this policy, the Thai monarchy encouraged Chinese immigrants to change their names to Thai names, adopt Thai customs and dress, and to speak the Thai language. In the extreme case, Phibun’s policy in 1939 was enacted to limit the study of Chinese to only two hours per week. In Addition to the Thai Monarchy action, the Royal policy also introduced the policy of "Thaification" whereby the policy encouraged the Chinese immigrants to adopt Thai customs and ways of life, and to become integrated into Thai society. Anyhow, the important output from the Thaification was the attempt to nationalise Chinese economic contribution, given that the Thai monarchy has heavily relied on the Chinese commercial, financial, and maritime skill, particularly explicitly for the interaction with the Far-Eastern countries. As a result, Skinner notes that the Chinese have been able to assimilate and gain political power through their economic success, especially through the engagement with the Thai monarchs, elites or noble-merchants. In this case, the economic success has led to increased political influence for the Chinese community in Thailand, including the rise of Chinese-Thai politicians and the increasing importance of the Chinese vote in elections.
The key points of this article is that the Thai-Chinese relationship is multifaceted, and that understanding the dynamics of Chinese assimilation is essential for understanding Thai politics whereby Skinner has introduced the notions of three assimilation factors with the primary emphasis on the ‘Nationalism’ factor. Notably, the main point of the Thaification was to control the Chinese presence in the flavour of Thai interests, especially for Thai elites and noble-merchants. As the following outcome, the economic relationship between Thai elites and Chinese immigrants in Thailand was quite interdependent. The Chinese population played a significant role in the country's economy as traders, merchants, and entrepreneurs. Thai elites, particularly those in the government, recognised the economic contributions of the Chinese community and actively sought to integrate them into the country's economy. As a matter of fact, according to Skinner, Thai monarchs dated back from the 17th century to the middle of the 19th century were engaged in the highly profitable East Asian trade which further fostered cooperation and interaction between Chinese merchants and the Thai ruling elite. As a result, the Thai rulers relied on Chinese expertise in commerce, finance, and seafaring, while the Chinese had access to ports closed to others. After 1630, the king's agents, warehousemen, and accountants, both at home and abroad, and the officers in charge of cargo and sailors aboard the royal trading ships were almost exclusively Chinese. Thai state trading was expanded between 1767 and 1850 beyond all previous examples, and Sino-Thai cooperation developed rapidly. Their relations with the Thai elite merchants made the Chinese aware of the advantages of Thai elite status in terms of making money as well as power and prestige. The Thai elite took the huge share of the trading profits, while the Chinese traders, who assumed the risk, only got the leftovers. This resulted in an inevitable increment of the desire of Chinese traders for assimilation to the Thai elite class.
Intriguingly, this policy was also actively promoted by the royal policy since then. Throughout the history of Thailand, with striking consistency in some periods, the Thai monarchs were able to pursue a policy that successfully aimed at bringing Chinese into the Thai nobility and ensuring their loyalty to the Crown. Intriguingly, due to this particular royal policy, the governors or —“Rajas” of Phuket, Chanthaburi, Songkhla, Ranong, Pattani and Nakhon Sri Thammarat during the late 19th century were Chinese appointed. As a result, those Chinese individuals were loyal to the Thai monarchy which illustrated complete assimilation.
Additionally, Skinner also states that Phibun's government also had similar economic policies that helped integrate Chinese immigrants into Thai society by encouraging them to become involved in various forms of commerce and industry. These policies, again, helped create a mutually beneficial relationship in which Thai elites benefitted from the economic contributions of the Chinese community, while Chinese immigrants were able to establish themselves in the country's economy. Nonetheless, Phibun’s administration was also portrayed as one of the harsh periods for the lower-class Chinese in Thailand. During Phibun's first term in office, the policy of containment was strictly enforced in the political, educational, and economic spheres. By the end of 1940, there were only two Chinese schools remaining in the entire country. Arrests and deportations of pro-Nationalist Chinese continued throughout 1940 and reached a climax after the Japanese landing in December 1941. In June 1942, the government reserved 27 different occupations and professions for Thai nationals, many of which were previously dominated by Chinese. Between 1941 and 1943, ten provinces and four smaller urban areas were declared off-limits to non-citizens, and all Chinese nationals had to leave on short notice. In 1943, a bill was passed which effectively prohibited Chinese nationals from buying land in Thailand.
4. The Misbehaving Jeks
Notably, the Chinese immigrants, also known as "jek" or "lookjins," have always faced significant challenges in assimilating into Thai society in both cultural and political contexts as the readers may observe throughout the paper. With this point, Kasian Tejapira and his article “The Misbehaving Jeks” provide a supportive insight into Skinner's history of Chinese assimilation in Thailand and the difficulties faced by the Chinese community. The article discusses how the Thai government, particularly in the early 20th century, implemented policies of assimilation and integration to assimilate Chinese immigrants into Thai society. As readers might realise from Skinner initially, these policies aimed to encourage the Chinese immigrants to adopt Thai customs, language, and culture. However, Kasian has raised the topic regarding how these policies were also met with resistance from the Chinese community, and the government's efforts were not fully successful as a result of wide-spread discrimination in areas such as education, employment, and political representation. One of the most significant events that the article has raised is the general strike organised by Chinese immigrants in the early 20th century. The strike was a response to the government's policies of assimilation and integration, which the Chinese immigrants saw as an infringement on their rights and freedoms. To clarify, the strike was organised against a capitation tax increase and it happened to paralyse the capital city of Bangkok for several days, causing a significant shockwave among the Siamese rulers. The Chinese immigrants were organised into speech-group and clan associations, as well as secret societies, and intriguingly, those individuals largely monopolised the modern urban sector of the domestic economy and also came under the influence of the Kuomintang, a Chinese nationalist and republican political party led by Sun Yatsen, who visited the Chinese community in Bangkok in 1908 to solicit support for his revolutionary cause.
In response to this perceived threat, King Vajiravudh, who ascended the throne only months after the strike, launched royal-nationalist policy based on the ethno-ideology of "Thainess" which aligned with Wasana and Skinner’s point of view. This ideology was essentially identified with the monarchy, and was politically positioned against the Chinese, who were dubbed "the Jews of the Orient" in one of King Vajiravudh's infamous essays in 1914. This racialising political discourse of conservative royal absolutism was directed towards the Chinese in Siam, which aimed to counter and control their perceived threat to the monarchy and the nation. Furthermore, Wasana also supported Kasian with another piece of evidence supporting the anti-Chinese stance against King Rama VI whereby his reign, from the beginning, was greatly impacted by the Chinese Revolution. In 1912, again shortly after Rama VI came to power, there was an unsuccessful revolution attempt that included a plot to assassinate the king. The incident, known as the Kekmeng Rebellion, was led by Captain Khun Thuaihanphitak (known as Leng Sichan), an army physician of Chinese descent with strong connections to supporters of Sun Yat-sen. It was clear that many of the 91 officers arrested in the failed plot were well-informed about alternative forms of government and political systems from translations of Chinese political speeches and commentaries into Thai, particularly those of Sun Yat-sen and his supporters. Some even suggested that Leng was selected as the leader because he had the same profession as the Chinese revolutionary and first provisional president of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-sen.
To this point, readers shall now see that the Chinese assimilation into Thai society has been a complex and challenging process. The government's policies of assimilation and integration aimed to assimilate Chinese immigrants into Thai society, but these policies were met with resistance from the Chinese community. Notably, according to Kasian, Skinner and Wasana, the evidence illustrated quite firmly regarding how the assimilation through political means was the prior attempt for the Thai ruling class to control the Chinese as the minority group and for the prevention of the coming of republicanism and anti-monachism.
5. Beyond Jews of the Orient
Interestingly, Wasana Wongsurawat and William Skinner’s notions combined could indeed further make sense regarding how the Thai government during the early 20th century dealt with the Chinese or “Jew of the Orients” according to King Vajiravudh. As the paper has already discussed in the previous headings, the article "Jews of the Orient," which was written by King Vajiravudh Rama VI of Siam, has been applied as grand evidence of the anti-Chinese sentiment in Siam's royalist nationalism whereby the argument is largely illustrating how the king targeted the ethnic Chinese, who were a large minority group but controlled a great share of the economy, as the "other" against which Thai nationalism was formed. Additionally, Vajiravudh's writings are considered many of the strong examples of anti-Chinese propaganda by major nationalist leaders in Thailand during the 20th century. The King himself was a prolific author who wrote over a thousand fictional and non-fictional works throughout his lifetime. A significant number of these works were meant as political propaganda, many of which can be classified as anti-Chinese and depict the relationship between the ethnic Chinese and Thai society in a similar way to the Jewish relationship with Europe.
Nonetheless, Wasana in his work “Beyond the Jews of the Orient” contradictory pointed out that this interpretation of ‘Jew-like’ in Siam is quite outdated and incorrect since the proportion of the ethnic Chinese individuals in Siam during the time was relatively greater than that of the Jews in Europe and, more essentially, the Chinese in Siam were closely related to the ruling class. Interestingly, Wasana also pointed to the fact that Chinese ancestry actually made up more than half of the Chakri royal bloodline. According to Wasana, the Siamese ruling class also implemented a controlling strategy whereby instead of ethnic Chinese discrimination equally as the European to the Jews, the Siamese ruling classes instead adopted an Anglicised or Americanised value, which appeared more influential globally during the late 19th to 20th century. With this applied, the Chinese merchants and entrepreneurs in Siam were allowed to keep their Chinese identity as long as those individuals have expressed their loyalty to the crown while the lower-class Chinese either totally assimilated politically or encountered persecution.
Additionally, Wasana also raised the notion from Benedict R. O'Gorman Anderson and his notable study in 1978 that criticises the Siamese ruling elite, particularly the Chakri dynasty, including King Mongkut, King Chulalongkorn, and King Vajiravudh, for their inadequate efforts at modernisation and nation-building. To clarify, Anderson pointed out that the Siamese dynastic rule is quite similar to that of European colonial governors who only supported modernising projects in their colonies to maintain their dominant power and overall control over the native population. In this sense, this sort of modernisation would put a prioritisation on infrastructure such as telegraph poles or railways for the purpose of military utilisation and state communication, rather than on education for all citizens or public health that would have been to the benefit of the Siamese individuals. Intriguingly, this sort of political mean was not actually the first time the Siamese ruling class sought support from a foreign superpower to stabilise their domestic control. Interestingly, King Taksin and King Nangklao also sought similar policies and projects in order to achieve wealth and trade relationship with China during the time.
With the Wasana’s notion in mind, the reader shall now get a comprehension that the state's relationship with the ethnic Chinese before the Cold War was more of a class issue than one of ethnicity and the assimilation of the ethnic Chinese to Thai society occurred strongly through the complexity of the political context. While this type of assimilation happened during the war time, interestingly, the Thai government provided a more relaxed and liberal policy towards the Chinese in July 1955, according to Skinner. In August the same year, the Military service regulations were amended yet again whereby the shift was amended to remove provisions that were discriminatory towards citizens of foreign origin, and also the decrees that discriminated against such citizens in the acquisition of land were also lifted. In October of 1955, regulations were also issued allowing six broadly defined classes of foreigners to apply for the exemption from paying the foreigner registration fee whereby the reduced fee was set to only 200 baht. Additionally in 1956, a new Electoral Law was issued, granting Thai nationals born of foreign fathers and naturalised Thai citizens the right to eventually stand for elections to the National Assembly. The Nationality Law is currently being amended to restore citizenship rights to those born in Thailand of foreign mothers, and naturalisation of Chinese foreigners is officially encouraged. Notwithstanding, the relaxation of the suppressive assimilation is still illustrated as the minor changes. To clarify, there are still no major changes in educational policy that could relatively alter the decline in Chinese education. As a numerical fact, the number of students in Chinese schools in the entire country has decreased approximately 120,000 students in less than a decade (from 175,000 to less than 50,000). Intriguingly, a new inter-ethnic labour union federation, in cooperation with the Thai state and Royal Thai police has also organised a strategy to end opium smoking and cure addicts as the byproduct from it. With this being said, the Thai government was following a consistent and pro-assimilation policy in almost every respect. This has indeed illustrated that, while the Thai government has a new approach in dealing with the Chinese domestically over the course of time, including the mentioned relaxation of the suppressive political assimilation under the topic of Thaification and Royal-Nationalism, the state itself still reflect the similar ‘bitter’ treatment towards the Chinese that derived from the past time.
6. Manipulation of the Cold War and the Ethnic Chinese
Speaking of the timeline within the mid-20th century, Skinner and Wasana, as readers might have observe in the previous three headings that have already pointed out how Royal-Nationalism and Thaification under Phibun’s administration affected the ethnic Chinese as a whole and how their interaction and engagement eventually came into the period of interdependent. Intriguingly, this specific relationship according to Tuong Vu, Wasana Wongsurawat, and Benjamin Zawacki also derived into the time of the Cold war whereby the relationship between the Thai ruling class and the ethnic Chinese has illustrated the influential shift from the United States to China. To extensively clarify, the book "Dynamics of the Cold War in Asia" by Vu and Wasana has provided a different perspective on the Cold War, placing emphasis on the Asian side of the story. The chapter by Wasana Wongsurawat, in particular, has challenged the commonly held belief that the United States held a dominant role in creating Thai politics and foreign policy during the Cold War. Instead, Wongsurawat has pointed out that the People's Republic of China, the Nationalist Republic of China in Taiwan, and the overseas Chinese community instead actually played a significant role in influencing Thai policies after the Second World War.
Unsurprisingly, before the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978, Vu and Wasana examined the public opinion as well as responses by the Bangkok government to two racial incidents involving the ethnic Chinese community that occurred in 1945 and 1974, respectively. Wasana discusses two large-scale riots among the Chinese community in Thailand, one in 1945 and another in 1974, which have not been widely acknowledged or studied. In September 1945, Chinese nationalists demonstrated in support of the Republic in the Yaowarat district of Bangkok, resulting in a police cordon around Chinatown and a full-scale shootout between the Thai police and Chinese residents. This event, known as the Yaowarat Incident, was the first race riot in modern Thai history. The second event, which occurred near the Plabplachai police station, began when Thai police confronted a Chinese cab driver who had parked illegally, according to the police, in front of a Chinatown cinema in July 1974, resulting in mass protests and violation within the Plabplachai area whereby this particular event has illustrated only though the Chinese-language newspaper and not in the Thai-language one. During this specific period, it could be said that the country’s opinions towards the Chinese were still quite atrocious due to various factors from the late 19th century, the communist insurgency in the Northeastern region to the 1974’s mass protests and the engagement between Thailand itself and China was dimmed since Mao Zedong and his communist regime declared victory.
While it is also true that Thailand and the United States have strengthened over time since the end of the Second World War through international cooperation and mutual agreements, the bilateral relationship between the United States and Thailand during the Cold War has mainly been focused on the security and military aspect. Interestingly, after the end of military base usage in Thailand, doubts have rapidly arisen regarding the next phase of the United States’ diplomatic relationship with Thailand. At the same time, bilateral relations between Thailand and China, on the other hand, became relatively closer after 1978, following Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia. The critical situation of the Cambodian-Vietnamese War led to pressure on Thailand's security interests, causing it to be cautious in its relationship with the United States and China, and determined to contain Vietnamese and Soviet influence in Southeast Asia. As a result, China became a significant partner in Thai foreign affairs, particularly in economic and security engagement. In the same year, Thai Prime Minister Kriangsak Chamanan actually met Deng Xiaoping, the paramount leader during the time twice, discussing the ongoing insurgency, increasing economic ties, and their strategic expectation for the escalation of war in Indochina. Notwithstanding, this particular engagement with the Chinese still made some scepticism among the Thais and the Royal affairs. In fact, during the second meeting in Bangkok, Thailand's queen threatened to visit Taiwan at the same time, making a clear anti-communist statement and also showing a form of resistance towards Chinese engagement. Interestingly, there was even a short-lived idea of merging the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs to ensure a more consistent approach to China. Despite this, Deng managed to meet the king and even attend the ordination of Thailand's crown prince through a display of diplomatic and strategic skill. The reason behind this change in attitude was Deng's realisation that China could no longer afford any association with the Communist Party of Thailand, which was targeting the monarchy.
According to Zawacki and Wasana’s notions, Siam could be able to manipulate superpower interventions to their own advantage whereby the Siamese ruling classes, including the Chakri kings of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the various junta regimes during the Cold War, have also excelled in forming mutual alliances with leading ethnic Chinese capitalists while suppressing political unrest from the ethnic Chinese working-class population. Interestingly, the European colonial powers also used Chinese intermediaries to control local economies in Southeast Asian colonies, similarly, the Siamese ruling class in the mid-19th century developed ways to maintain a close alliance with leading ethnic Chinese business leaders within their realm to stay economically competitive during the colonial era and ensure dominance over the local economy despite foreign intervention and domestic unrest.
7. Thai Spring and the shift towards China in the 21st Century
To this point, readers shall now observe how strong the relationship of the Chinese both overseas and domestically has built up through political means and international relations context. Noteworthily, the Deng Xiaoping reform in 1978 has also been a major breakthrough of overall economic engagement with Thailand. The Chinese special economic zone has allowed many investments among the both sides to flow. In fact, the Charoen Pokphand (CP) or "Zhèng Dà" (正大) in Chinese which is the largest private company in Thailand has registered its business in Shenzhen and Guangdong, illustrating the growing economic relationship and solid economic structure of the Chinese in Thailand. To this extent, according to Benjamin Zawacki, the Sino-Thai have consolidated their control over the governments and factions, especially during Thaksin’s administration. The ‘good’ Chinese in Thailand (The one who shows loyalty to the Royal family) continued to develop their business into large conglomerates with the Royal Warrant holder. However, this section shall further explore how the integration occurred with the understanding of a bigger, international relations context and how Thailand shifted itself from the United States to China in terms of economic engagement and dominant foreign affairs.
According to Zawacki’s work – “Thailand shifting ground from the US to China”, Zawacki had examined more on the major characteristics of the triangular relationship between Thailand, the United States and China, from the time of Prime Minister Thaksin's tenure (2001–2006) to the military government in 2014. During Prime Minister Thaksin's term, Thailand has received relatively strong support from China in terms of trade and investment, which showed that Thailand could maintain a balance between or align with China. While Thailand benefited from Beijing's growing economic ties, Thai-US relations also remained visible from 2001 to 2006. As a matter of fact, Thai troops were also deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq after the United States' announcement of the War on Terror after the 9/11 incident. Nonetheless, the improvement of Thai-US relations was temporarily halted after the Thai military coup d'etat in September 2006.
With this event in mind, Zawacki also highlights the shift in Thailand's diplomatic approach towards China in 2014 whereby he explains how China's proactive stance in terms of regime acceptance, economic expansion and competitiveness, both at the bilateral and regional level, had a significant impact on Thailand's diplomatic strategy. This was especially true in light of the creation of the Free Trade Area (FTA), which reduced the potential for a FTA in the Asia-Pacific region and created sudden opportunities for economic growth in Asia that China was able to take advantage of. As a result, Thailand then saw China as a valuable partner in economic cooperation, including defence, as it offered access to cheaper weapons and most importantly, the Chinese support/acceptance of the military-installed government. While it is true that there was still continuing military cooperation with the United States, the military ties between China and Thailand improved notably between 2011-2014. Additionally, as China's influence expanded in regions such as the Straits of Malacca, Indian Ocean, and South China Sea, Thailand saw an opportunity to broaden its alliances. This shift in strategic cooperation led to a renewed focus on economic diplomacy with China.
As a result, China surpassed the United States as Thailand's second-largest trading partner in 2007. Bilateral trade with China increased by 23% in 2007 compared to the previous year. In another numerical fact, Thailand did actually experience a trade deficit with China, whereby its imports from China rose from $6 billion to $17 billion which rose by a slightly higher percentage than exports of $6 billion to $15 billion between 2003 and 2007. Despite this, Zawacki pointed out that Thailand saw "no option other than riding the wave as skillfully as possible." To this point, all of the occurrences also raised overall concerns regarding the undervalued Chinese currency to Thai Baht. In 2007, the United States fell (from first to third within around two years) behind China as Thailand's leading trading partner. With this point in mind, the trade engagement diversion that the United States feared in 2006 had suddenly become a reality twice over. The prospects of a FTA that might reverse the damage were considered "iffy" by the United States six months before the coup and negotiations were "indefinitely delayed" or would "resume when a democratic government is in place."
All of which has illustrated that the pivot of Thailand towards China also occurred in the larger context of political economy. At the same time, the assimilation of the Chinese into Thai society happened through the motivation of economic growth and ruling class’ interests under Royal-nationalism and Thaification. As a result of Thai shift towards China in the large context, it could be said that the ‘good’ Chinese in Thailand could establish a solid network due to greater Sino-Thai trade engagement in the early 2000s which, again, further created a compact of the Chinese-influential structure in the share of Thai economy in the 21st century as a whole.
8. The Chinese-Thai Flexible Identity
To this point, readers may now understand the relationship between Chinese immigrants and the Thai government with an emphasis on total assimilation as a whole, particularly the political economic integration as presented by the notable articles by Wasana Wongsurawat and William Skinner and the bigger image of economic engagement from Benjamin Zawacki. Notwithstanding, those main focuses regarding the sole assimilated factors of political-economics have indeed raised the follow-up questions and argument. Ruji Auethavornpipat in his article, for instance, extensively examines the identity of the Chinese-Thai population and how the assimilation is also shaped by flexible identity and hybridity rather than only the Skinner’s inevitable integration which illustrates different approaches to the topic from different perspectives.
According to Ruji, Flexible identity refers to the ability of individuals or groups to navigate and negotiate multiple identities in different contexts. It is a concept that describes the fluidity and adaptability of identity, rather than a fixed or essentialised identity. Concurrently, Hybridity refers to the blending of different cultural elements, resulting in something new and distinct. It is often used to describe the blending of elements from different cultures, such as the fusion of Chinese and Thai culture in the Chinese-Thai population in Thailand. Hybridity can also refer to the blending of different identities within an individual or group, as the Chinese navigate and negotiate multiple identities in different contexts.
Intriguingly, the notion of flexible identity and hybridity could be extensively observed within three levels; villages, national, and transnational. At the village level, the Chinese-Thai population often emphasises their Chinese heritage and cultural practices, particularly in rural areas where these individuals have lived for generations and often have strong ties to their village and maintain close-knit communities, which allows them to maintain their Chinese identity without much pressure to assimilate. For example, the article cites a Chinese-Thai village in northern Thailand where the residents maintain traditional Chinese customs and practices, such as ancestor worship and the Chinese New Year celebrations, and also have strong ties to their village. At the national level, the Chinese-Thai population may face more pressure to assimilate and emphasise their Thai identity, particularly in urban areas where the Chinese may be in the minority. These individuals may also face discrimination and marginalisation from the dominant Thai population as discussed in the previous Skinner’s article. However, some Chinese-Thai individuals in urban areas maintain their Chinese identity by participating in Chinese cultural events or organisations. The article cites an example of Chinese-Thai individuals in Bangkok who may speak Thai language in public and emphasise their Thai identity, but maintain their Chinese cultural practices and traditions in private spaces. At the transnational level, the Chinese-Thai population may use their Chinese heritage to gain a competitive advantage in business or other areas, particularly in relation to China and other parts of Asia. Transnational corporations for instance of Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group, emphasise its Chinese heritage in certain contexts to establish connections and gain access to markets in China and other parts of Asia while also emphasising its Thai identity to appeal to domestic and international markets such as the design of Lotus logo which is the Buddhist figure.
Overall, Ruji argues that the Chinese-Thai population have a flexible identity which allows them to navigate and negotiate multiple identities in different contexts, at different levels, such as at village, national, and transnational levels which illustrates quite an additional point of view to the total and inevitable assimilation as mentioned by Skinner. Interestingly, Ruji allowed his readers to observe the behaviour of flexible identity and hybridity in the contemporary context as well whereby individuals within small communities, for example, are holding two identities while plenty of the Chinese-Thai conglomerates family such as Chearavanont, Charoen or Chirathivat family that are holding hybridity to promote adaptability for business continuity and cultural context.
9. Rethinking Assimilation and Ethnicity
Additionally, Skinner’s assertions have been questioned several times by the regional study. To this point, readers shall observe that flexibility in assimilation did occur with the Chinese in Thailand. Interestingly, apart from Ruji, Chan Kwok Bun and Tong Chee Kiong with their notable work “Rethinking Assimilation and Ethnicity” had also put an interesting addition (or could be said as ‘contrary’) to Skinner’s point of view. To begin with, their text argues that the concept of assimilation, as it is often defined and understood in Skinner’s thought process as an American anthropologist, does not accurately capture the relative complexity of relationships between Chinese and Thai individuals in Thailand. To clarify their point, the American theories of assimilation tend to exaggerate the ability of the majority group and its culture to absorb minority groups which oversimplify the process of social shifting, and view minority groups in simplistic terms. Kwok Bun and Chee Kiong argue that to understand the dynamics of majority-minority relations, one must consider the complexity of ethnicity and ethnic identity. The authors proposed that ethnicity is both inherent and shaped by circumstances, and that it is self-sustaining and resistant to attempts of assimilation. The article also asserts that ethnicity is most prominently expressed within one's own ethnic group, in a private setting, and that it resists attempts to dilute or assimilate it. Notably, the authors also mention that individuals usually have a primary ethnic identity, a reference group, and a heritage that is derived from their primary ethnic identity, which is formed early in life and is maintained through interaction with other cultures. Additionally, Kwok Bun and Chee Kiong suggest that ethnicity is open to manipulation and representation by the individual and others; in situations where ethnic boundaries intersect and overlap, individuals may form cooperative or conflicting relationships, and minorities may have to strategise and manage their ethnicity in order to survive which significantly explained the Chinese resistant, presented by Kasian’s The Misbehaving Jeks. With this in mind, the authors have strongly illustrated their contrary to Skinner’s point of view who claimed that the assimilation happened suddenly with governmental factors.
Furthermore, the article notes that most Chinese in Thailand in the modern time have already adopted Thai values such as languages or religious practices and that their secondary ethnic identity is an integral part of their overall ethnic identity. Interestingly, the authors also note that the use of language and ancestor worship are markers of expressive and instrumental ethnicity for Chinese in Thailand. The article also illustrated an example that is most clearly seen in the behaviour of shopkeepers, talking to one another in Chinese, often Teochew. Notwithstanding, in their dealings with Thais, those individuals would use Thai. Similarly, Chinese is most often used in the home, as opposed to Thai in the public area. To this sense, this is used by many Chinese in order to maintain their identity as it differentiates them from the Thais. Intriguingly, this type of behaviour also acts as a reinforcement of their historical linkage with China whereby most Chinese businessmen in Thailand enter into the so-called symbiotic relationships with their Thai counterparts, and these relationships are based on shared benefits and mutual interdependence.
Conclusion, Analysis and Future Studies
In conclusion, all of the articles by notable authors are discussing how the Chinese-Thai population assimilated to Thai society since the 19th century. While Porphant Ouyyanont has raised the coming of the Chinese in Bangkok through population growth and increasing occupancies, William Skinner's article further examines the political integration and total assimilation of the Chinese-Thai population into Thai society and government, Interestingly, Wasana Wongsurawat, along with Benjamin Zawacki have presented that the Siamese ruling class of the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century stood out from other Southeast Asian ruling classes in their ability to strategically utilise the political interference of European colonial powers to maintain their dominance over potential rivals while preserving a degree of autonomy. Additionally, they implemented policies aimed at incorporating leading ethnic Chinese capitalists into the upper echelons of the state and, in some cases, even into the royal family. These policies effectively separated the "good" upper- and middle-class ethnic Chinese who were allowed to maintain their culture in exchange for loyalty to the Chakri Dynasty from the "bad" working class ethnic Chinese who were subject to suppressive ‘Jew-like’ assimilation. This approach allowed Siam to remain competitive in the regional economy during the colonial era and set the stage for a more successful assimilation of ethnic Chinese during the Cold War era compared to other Southeast Asian nations. In addition, Kasian Tejapira also touched upon how the Chinese illustrated the resistance (as the misbehaving jeks) towards this particular policy. In this point of conclusion, it is important to observe that all mentioned authors have touched upon the sole political assimilation which happened to be inevitable for the Chinese in Thailand during the past. Moreover, the assimilation has derived to the modern day with the expansion of the economic network to Mainland China with the help of the larger context of international political economy in the 21st century as Zawacki has suggested.
Nonetheless, Ruji Auethavornpipat additionally focuses on the flexibility in identity and hybridity in cultural, social and economic aspects that affects the Chinese-Thai population's identity as a whole. Furthermore, Chan Kwok Bun and Tong Chee Kiong also challenged Skinner's thought process and showed supportive attitude towards Ruji’s notion whereby ethnicity and the manipulation of the ethnic identity also illustrated as one of the crucial factors for the assimilation, instead of the sole interpretation of the inevitable political assimilation.
To the extent, the paper believes that all the articles offer different unique approaches to understand the Chinese role in Thailand, rather than illustrating contradictions. To clarify, Porphabt has created the vast space for further discussion whereby he explicitly provided the numerical introduction for Wasana, Ruji, Kwok Bun/Chee Kiong, Zawacki and Skinner to expand the relationship development in Cultural, Social and Political aspects. Skinner has offered quite accurately regarding how Thai elites, noble-merchants or even the monarchy played an essential role in controlling the Chinese in Thailand. This indeed got supported by Wasana and Zawacki on how political assimilation happened throughout the timeline with the involvement of Royal-nationalism and Thaification process and the exact illustration of governmental policies during each period of time. While Ruji, Kwok Bun and Chee Kiong illustrated the assimilation in the more micro-reality whereby the flexibility in identity and hybridity could be strongly observed within Chinese individuals in Thailand. This not only applies to the communities in the Northern part of Thailand as their paper suggested but also other parts in Thailand where mixed cultures could be observed regularly and the manipulation of ethnic identity was formed in order to secure adaptability through cooperative or conflicting relationships.
With this mind, it is quite intriguing to implement the future studies in the contemporary context by which the study could touch upon the continuity of the flexible identity in the 21st century whereby the Chinese-Thai now made up to approximately 14 percent of the Thai population and how the hybridity in cultures created the new distinctive cultural set in the modern day Thailand. In regards to the political context, future research may touch upon Skinner’s notion as the base thought and analyse how Thai political context got influenced from the Chinese in Thailand particularly whereby the study may analyse the share of ethnicity of the political actors and the outcome of the decision-making in relations with the share. Notably, the future study might touch upon the connection of the Zawacki’s study of the Thai pivot towards China and the Thai decision-making process that is relatively made up of the Thai-Chinese influence (if there is any or none at all).
Additional: History and Legacy of the Charoen Pokphand Group
The Charoen Pokphand Group — (CP Group) has its roots dating back to 1921 with the establishment from Chia Ek Chor and Chia Jin Hyang, who were Chinese immigrants from the Southern Chinese city of Shantou whereby Ek Chor and Jin Hyang opened a seed store called Chia Tai Chung on Songsawat Road which located at Yaowarat area during the reign of King Vajiravudh. As a matter of fact, Ek Chor and Jin Hyang built their fortune during the period of the most flourishing trade in Bangkok whereby the Chinatown area has experienced significant growth after the signing of the Bowring Treaty, which allowed for greater freedom in international trade. As a result, despite being virtually penniless, the brothers managed to gather enough funds to start their small seed store whereby the two brothers imported seeds and vegetables from China as well as exported pigs and eggs to Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, and Kuala Lumpur.
By the 1950s, the store started to focus on exporting animal feed, specifically for chickens. Interestingly, the store began to specialise in purchasing grown chickens for distribution to grocers and restaurants using a vertically integrated strategy which combined feed-milling operations with chicken breeding, resulting in the reduction of cost and higher profitability. As a result, the company had an annual revenue of US$1–2 million from the operation in 1969. To this point, one may state their inquiry regarding the fundamental structure behind this sort of CP’s surge in success. Appealingly, it is quite important to note that crucial structure for growth within the CP group tended to be generated from the so-called —— “Navigation of institutional complexity” through a combination of formal and informal mechanisms.
According to Wang, B., Liang, Q., Song, L. and Xu, E. in 2022, Institutional complexity refers to the various formal and informal rules, norms, and expectations that govern economic activity in a given firm whereby these can include internal relationships, regulations, customs, and companies’ norms. To understand all of the CP’s institutional growth processes in the 20th century as a whole, the authors have illustrated the pathway of the CP group through three stages; aligned period to sustaining period and then to dominant period. Within the aligned period, all of the members within the firm have to align/balance the family logic with the business logic to enter the sustaining period. Family businesses, the CP group in particular, may in some point struggle with institutional complexity due to their limited resources and lack of expertise compared to larger, non-family firms, therefore, in this case, the CP group has balanced family logic and business logic by implementing a number of strategies such as separating ownership and management, hiring professional managers, establishing a clear governance structure, implementing a system of checks and balances, and creating a family council to manage family issues separately from business issues. In return, these strategies help to ensure that business decisions are based on economic logic rather than family considerations. All of which helps the organisation reach the period of sustaining whereby the CP group could secure the availability of demand and end product as well as steadily enter the dominant period by considering plenty of both formal and informal mechanisms to expand their diversification of capital and network chain. With this point in mind, the company has been able to navigate institutional complexity by building relationships with government officials. Many countries, including Thailand during the time, have played a large role in regulating and influencing economic activity, by which it is quite essential for businesses to ensure preferable relationships with government officials to operate effectively.
Interestingly, the formal mechanism that the CP Group has employed to navigate institutional complexity is active participation in industry associations. These organisations play a significant role in shaping the regulatory environment and setting industry standards. By participating in these organisations, the CP Group has been able to influence the direction of the industry and ensure that its interests are taken into account. In addition to these formal mechanisms, the CP Group has also utilised informal mechanisms to navigate institutional complexity. For instance, the company has cultivated a reputation for integrity and fairness, which has helped to build trust and goodwill among government officials and other stakeholders. This has made it easier for the company to navigate the complex institutional environment and has helped to protect it from potential regulatory challenges. Furthermore, the CP Group has also been able to maintain its competitive advantage by balancing tradition and innovation. Family businesses often have deep roots in their communities and industries and may be reluctant to change longstanding practices and traditions. However, to compete in a rapidly changing business environment, family businesses must be willing to adapt and innovate. The CP Group has been able to do this by carefully balancing tradition and innovation, which has helped it to maintain its competitive position. The CP Group also adopts a long-term perspective in its decision-making. Family businesses often have a long-term perspective, which can be an advantage in the face of institutional complexity. The CP Group has used this perspective to make strategic investments and build long-term relationships with stakeholders. This has helped the company to navigate the complex institutional environment and build a sustainable, long-term business.
Therefore, the CP Group serves as an excellent example of how family businesses can navigate institutional complexity and achieve long-term success. By building relationships with government officials, participating in industry associations, cultivating a reputation for integrity, balancing tradition and innovation, and adopting a long-term perspective, the CP Group has been able to navigate the complex institutional environment and continue to grow and succeed. It's essential for family businesses to understand the importance of institutional complexity and develop effective strategies to navigate it in order to achieve long-term success.
Intriguingly, as Thailand liberalised its economy in the 1970s, the CP Group eventually entered into more business deals with major Thai banks, the Thai government, and foreign companies which again, reflected the illustration of the dominant period. All of which includes the company having a large supply chain network with the large grocery stores, restaurants, and fast food franchises across Thailand and internationally expanding their contract farming model to other countries in Southeast Asia and around the world, including The United States, China, Taiwan, Portugal, Mexico, Indonesia, and Turkey, etc (figure 2).
Figure 2: illustrating locations of CP’s activities
As Thailand fully embraced capitalism in the 1980s, the CP Group also ventured into the aquaculture business, applying their successful formula to raise and market shrimp. As China began to welcome foreign direct investment in the 1980s, the CP Group became a preferred partner for major international brands such as Honda, Walmart, and Tesco. The company's connections to mainland China allowed it to become the first foreign company to establish itself in the newly created Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, where it set up its Chia Tai Co. subsidiary. In 1987, the company acquired the rights to the 7-Eleven convenience store chain and the KFC fast food restaurant chain. Additionally, the company expanded its presence in Shanghai by manufacturing motorcycles under licence from Honda and brewing beer with a licence from Heineken. In 1989, CP Group also ventured into the petrochemical industry and acquired a stake in TelecomAsia, a joint venture with US telecommunications firm NYNEX to build and operate 2 million telephone lines in Bangkok worth around US$3 billion. The company also acquired interests in satellite launch, cable television, and mobile telephone services.
According to Pavida Pananond in her notable work “The Making Of Thai Multinationals”, all of the above institutional complexity has created the legacy of the company as a whole. In this sense, the expansion of the CP Group as a multinational corporation was driven by both industry-specific factors such as economies of scale and scope, as well as by their networking abilities. The company's ability to utilise resources from different partners and turn them to their advantage, was crucial to their domestic and international development. Three key types of network relationships that were essential to the company's growth were; (1) connections with financial sources, (2) links with foreign technology partners, and importantly, (3) political connections. These networks provided the CP Group with resources that they previously lacked, allowing them to combine their own resources with those of their partners to increase their competitive advantages. These networking capabilities, developed in response to opportunities and weak market institutions in their domestic Thai market, enabled the company to accelerate its domestic and international expansion. By investing in other Asian developing countries with similar conditions, the CP Group was able to utilise both their technological and networking capabilities in their internationalisation efforts.
In conclusion, Wang, B., Liang, Q., Song, L. and Xu, E as well as Pavida Pananond have provided quite a similar insight of the coming of the Charoen Pokphand (CP) whereby both readings offered the company’s timeline from International Trading period (1921-1950s), Animal Feed (1950s-1969), Vertical Integration (1970-1979) to Conglomerate Diversification (1980s). Appealingly, there were three stages of development that marked the beginning of the CP legacy to the modern day which are; align period, sustaining period, and dominant period as discussed. Additionally, the CP group serves as an excellent example of how family businesses, through the mentioned three-stage development, can navigate institutional complexity and achieve long-term success. The company, which has its roots dating back to 1921, has grown into a successful business by implementing a number of strategies such as separating ownership and management, hiring professional managers, establishing a clear governance structure, implementing a system of checks and balances, and creating a family council to manage family issues separately from business issues. The CP Group has also built relationships with government officials, participated in industry associations, cultivated a reputation for integrity, balanced tradition and innovation, and adopted a long-term perspective, all of which have helped the company navigate the complex institutional environment and continue to grow and succeed through both formal and informal approaches.