Chinese Premier Li Keqiang signed six proposals with Thailand to strengthen the economic ties between the two countries, continuing a charm offensive China launched last week to strengthen its position in the Southeast Asian region.
Mr. Li and his Thai counterpart, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, signed six memoranda of understanding that cover cooperation in trade, infrastructure development, energy and maritime, among others. On Friday, Mr. Li also gave a speech to Thai lawmakers at the Parliament and promised to buy more rubber from Thailand, the world's biggest rubber producer, and to aid Thailand in modernizing its infrastructure and developing a high-speed rail network.
'China is pleased to cooperate with Ms. Yingluck's administration in every way, especially in being a strategic partner in the region and in the international community,' Mr. Li said at a joint news conference with the Thai leader.
Ms. Yingluck said her government is hoping to partly pay China for helping develop its plans for a high-speed train network in barter form, utilizing in part vast stockpiles of rice that Thailand has accumulated through a multibillion dollar subsidy that procures rice from local farmers at above-market prices. 'In principle, Thailand is pleased to pay part of the cost in the form of agricultural products,' Ms. Yingluck said. 'The two parties will assign relevant agencies to study the details.'
Building trade and economic relations with Thailand might be only part of the reason for Mr. Li's visit, however.
According to some analysts, Mr. Li's swing through the kingdom is part of a broader initiative designed to win the confidence of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and further isolate the Philippines, the country China clashes with most frequently over the resource-rich waters of the South China Sea.
Earlier this month China's President Xi Jinping visited Malaysia and Indonesia ahead of the Asean and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summits in Brunei and Indonesia and signed a plethora of trade and financial agreements. After visiting Thailand, Premier Li intends to travel to Vietnam.
The Philippines, in contrast, is getting the cold shoulder. Earlier this year it filed a legal challenge against Beijing's claims to control the South China Sea at the United Nations, and the two countries engaged in a stand-off at Scarborough Shoal, which the Philippines says is in its United Nations-defined exclusive economic zone. In September, relations worsened further. Manila's ministry of foreign affairs said that China had asked President Benigno Aquino III not to attend an Asean-China trade exposition after the Philippines' president refused to comply with Chinese requirements--widely speculated to have been a demand for the Philippines to withdraw its petition at the U.N.
'Ever since the eruption of tensions between China and the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal in April 2012, Beijing has pursued 'wedge politics' in an attempt to isolate Manila from other Asean states,' says Carlyle Thayer, an expert on the politics of the region and a former professor at the Australian Defense Force Academy in Canberra. 'China's new foreign minister, Wang Yi, pointedly omitted the Philippines from the itinerary of his two trips to the region this year.'
Regional politics aside, Ms. Yingluck has made the improvement of Thailand's infrastrucure a key policy goal.
Her government has been pushing Parliament to approve a bill that will enable it to borrow as much as 2.2 trillion baht, or $70.4 billion, to invest in projects that will improve the country's infrastructure. The Thai government said the projects, which include the building of dual railway tracks and high-speed trains, will improve the country's aging transport system and strengthen Thailand's position as a logistics hub.
Thailand's Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt said China may be interested in the development of high-speed train link from Bangkok to northeast Nong Khai province, which will then connect Thailand to Yunnan province in southwest China through Laos. During his visit, Mr. Li will also preside over the opening of a high-speed trains exhibition at Queen Sirikit Convention Center in Bangkok, which is organized by the Chinese embassy to showcase China's expertise in the area.
European Pressphoto Agency上周五，泰国曼谷，泰国总理英拉与中国总理李克强在政府大楼前进行的欢迎仪式中走向仪仗队。
据一些分析人士说，李克强通过泰国实施影响力是一项更广泛计划的一部分，该计划意在赢得东南亚国家联盟(Association of Southeast Asian Nations，简称：东盟)的信任，进一步孤立菲律宾。在围绕南中国海(South China Sea，中国称南海)资源丰富的水域的问题上，菲律宾是与中国冲突最频繁的国家。
本月早些时候，中国国家主席习近平在文莱举行的东盟峰会和印尼举行的亚太经济合作组织(Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation，简称APEC)峰会开幕前访问了马来西亚和印尼，签署了一系列贸易和金融协议。在结束泰国之行后，李克强计划访问越南。
相比之下，菲律宾则受到了冷遇。今年早些时候，菲律宾向联合国(United Nations)发起申诉，挑战北京对南中国海的领土主张，此外，中菲两国还在斯卡伯勒浅滩(Scarborough Shoal，中国称黄岩岛)发生对峙。菲律宾说黄岩岛位于其由联合国界定的专属经济区内。今年9月，中菲关系进一步恶化。菲律宾外交部说，菲律宾总统阿基诺三世(Benigno Aquino III)拒绝满足中国提出的要求，中国随后要求阿基诺三世不要出席东盟-中国贸易博览会。外界普遍猜测，中国提出的要求是菲律宾撤回向联合国发起的申诉。
这一地区政治专家、曾为堪培拉的澳大利亚国防军事学院(Australian Defense Force Academy)教授的塞耶(Carlyle Thayer)说，中国和菲律宾自2012年4月因斯卡伯勒浅滩爆发紧张形势以来，北京方面已经实施了分化策略，试图让马尼拉在其他东盟国家中孤立，中国新外交部长王毅今年两次访问东南亚的行程都刻意忽略了菲律宾。
泰中战略研究中心(Thai-Chinese Strategic Research Center)的胡慧文(Aksornsri Phanishsarn)说，中国在泰国有其必须要保护的利益，也一直在注意这个高铁项目，显然这个项目是中国想要的。
泰国运输部长斯提潘(Chadchart Sittipunt)说，中国可能对连接曼谷和泰国东北廓开府的高铁线路的开发有兴趣，这条线路还将穿过老挝，连接泰国与中国西南的云南省。李克强在访问期间还将主持曼谷诗丽吉王后国家会议中心(Queen Sirikit Convention Center)举行的一个高铁展览的开幕式。这个展览由中国大使馆组织，旨在展示中国在这一领域的专长。