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Southeast Asian boom forecast

By Yang Wanli in Bangkok | China Daily | Updated: 2023-03-13 08:44
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Wichai Kinchong Choi

Economies should do well this year as nations collaborate more with China

Despite the post-pandemic downward pressures on the economies of many regions, Southeast Asian economies are expected to perform well this year, with China playing a crucial role, a Thai banker said.

China revealed its aim to expand its economy by around 5 percent this year during the opening meeting of the first session of the 14th National People's Congress in Beijing on March 5.

"Although an estimated economic recession will be seen in many countries, there will be more confidence in Southeast Asia as it increases collaboration with China, which has strong economic resilience and fundamentals," said Wichai Kinchong Choi, senior vice-president of Thai bank Kasikornbank, in a recent interview with China Daily.

The Government Work Report said China has deepened reform and opening-up across the board and has seen notable improvements in the business sector. The country's foreign trade volume reached 42.1 trillion yuan ($6.05 trillion) last year, growing at an average annual rate of 8.6 percent. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Choi said trade between Thailand and China had grown slightly.

Moreover, Choi said business ties between China and some Southeast Asian countries are recovering even more quickly than the tourism industry, since China announced the optimization of its COVID-19 response measures and resumed cross-border travel in January.

"For me, it's been the busiest two months ever. Numerous Chinese business delegation groups came to Thailand, bridging the two countries' demands and needs for further cooperation. That's very encouraging," he said.

Choi said China and Southeast Asian countries are two major forces in the global economy.

"Achievements that can be reached together will be very influential to the post-pandemic global economic recovery," he added.

In particular, he said Chinese innovation and green technology have attracted investment from Southeast Asia in recent years.

For example, electronic vehicles have performed significantly well in the Thai automobile market. Chinese EV brands, such as Great Wall Motor, BYD and the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, shined at last year's Thailand International Auto Expo.

"China is an emerging force in the Thai EV industry and has reached a turning point in the country's automobile market, which had been dominated by Japan and other Western brands for decades," Choi said, adding that China's 5G technology has also encouraged Southeast Asian countries to accelerate industrial upgrades.

As one of the biggest Thai banks, Kasikornbank has spared no effort to provide financial support to boost bilateral trade, he said.

"We've established several branches on the Chinese mainland and hope to further contribute to trade efforts in the future."

He said strengthening bilateral trade and boosting green cooperation precisely meets the aim of Thailand 4.0, the Thai government's ambitious 20-year strategy to accelerate the kingdom's development by promoting innovation, creativity, research and development, higher technologies and green technologies.

This explains why the Thai government is happy to strongly support Chinese investment and improve bilateral trade, according to Choi.

"China is not only helping Thailand accelerate its industrial upgrading, but it is also creating more employment opportunities for local people," he explained.

Instead of practicing unilateralism or developing a Cold War mentality, China has been promoting international trade and opening up its domestic market, contributing both its wisdom and solutions to tackle crises and challenges in the world, especially those in developing countries, Choi stressed.

He also cited several international trade fairs hosted by China over the past few years as evidence, including the China International Consumer Products Expo, the China International Fair for Trade in Services and the China International Import Expo, all of which are serving as excellent gateways for foreign goods to enter the Chinese market.

"People have sharper eyes," he said. "A more rational perspective will be afforded to China, which has stayed committed to openness and is always seeking win-win cooperation."


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