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On track for success

By Yang Han | China Daily | Updated: 2021-07-13 07:39
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Surasit (right) attends the second Wanshou Dialogue on Global Security in Beijing in July 2019. CHINA DAILY

Surasit visited China for the first time in 1996. "The (railway) technology was at an initial stage at that time, but I saw the vision of the engineers and it was surprising," says Surasit, who was impressed by how the younger generation of Chinese took to the new technology.

China launched its first high-speed rail line in 2008 and the technology has become proof of the nation's independent innovation, with the country now home to the world's biggest high speed rail network.

The total length of high-speed rail lines in China stood at 37,900 kilometers as of the end of 2020, up 2,900 km from 2019 and almost double the 2015 level, according to the China State Railway Group.

Just as Surasit hoped, after the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, China and Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding on railway cooperation in 2014.

On Dec 21, 2017, China and Thailand jointly inaugurated the construction of Thailand's first high-speed rail line, which would run from the capital city Bangkok to the Nakhon Ratchasima province in the nation's northeast.

The 253-kilometer railway has a maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour. China is responsible for design of the railway, supervision of construction and manufacturing of trains and signal systems, among other things.

The venture was described by Premier Li Keqiang as a flagship project in jointly realizing the BRI in the spirit of "wide consultation, joint construction and shared benefits".

There will also be an additional line connecting Nakhon Ratchasima to the Thai border at Nong Khai province, which will link Thai railways with the Laos network and China.

Surasit joined the NRCT after retiring from the army in 2017. His research is focused on bilateral relations between China and Thailand and cooperation under the BRI.

On Sept 4, 2017, the two countries signed a preliminary agreement for cooperation on the BRI.

Established in 1959, the NRCT is the only official think tank in Thailand and reports directly to the Thai prime minister. It serves as the main national agency responsible for guiding the development of the country and public policy through research.

Even though he is a China expert and speaks the language, Surasit says he only started becoming interested in China in the 1980s when he received a "little red book "containing quotes of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong.

"At that time, the book was prohibited in Thailand," says Surasit, who had started to learn Chinese. "That was my first time (to read about China) and it was very different from the Western point of view."

His interest in China was further stoked in the following decade. In the early 1990s, when studying in Germany, Surasit found that all his friends, whether from Europe or the United States, were reading The Art of War by Sun Tzu, a Chinese general who lived in the 6th century BC.

The Art of War is regarded as one of the oldest and most famous studies of strategy applicable to military planning, social navigation and business.

"After study and learning, I realize that oriental wisdom had been so close," says Surasit, who eventually applied to study at National Defense University of the Chinese People's Liberation Army.

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