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“Bamboo Swirling in the Wind”: Thailand’s Foreign Policy Imbalance between China and the United States

“Bamboo Swirling in the Wind”: Thailand’s Foreign Policy Imbalance between China and the United... Abstract: This article examines Thailand’s foreign policy posture towards China and the United States since the early 2000s. It argues that Thailand increasingly faces difficulties in maintaining its time-honoured diplomatic tradition of flexibility and pragmatism. The “China factor”, together with domestic developments since the late 1990s, including the rise of nationalistic sentiment among the public and political polarization, have become important determinants in the decisionmaking process vis-à-vis Thailand’s relations with Washington and Beijing. As a result, compared to other US allies in Asia, Thailand does not always accommodate American policies but, in many circumstances, acts in favour of China instead. This policy posture is not a product of a well-planned strategy, but rather a reaction to the China factor and domestic sensitivities surrounding decision-making. This current stage of Thai foreign policy can be labelled “bamboo swirling in the wind” instead of the conventional “bending with the wind” diplomacy that tends to reflect a better-calculated strategy to balance Great Power influence. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs Institute of Southeast Asian Studies

“Bamboo Swirling in the Wind”: Thailand’s Foreign Policy Imbalance between China and the United States

“Bamboo Swirling in the Wind”: Thailand’s Foreign Policy Imbalance between China and the United States


Contemporary Southeast Asia Vol. 38, No. 2 (2016), pp. 233–57 DOI: 10.1355/cs38-2c © 2016 ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute ISSN 0129-797X print / ISSN 1793-284X electronic “Bamboo Swirling in the Wind”: Thailand’s Foreign Policy Imbalance between China and the United States PONGPHISOOT BUSBARAT This article examines Thailand’s foreign policy posture towards China and the United States since the early 2000s. It argues that Thailand increasingly faces difficulties in maintaining its time-honoured diplomatic tradition of flexibility and pragmatism. The “China factor”, together with domestic developments since the late 1990s, including the rise of nationalistic sentiment among the public and political polarization, have become important determinants in the decisionmaking process vis-à -vis Thailand’s relations with Washington and Beijing. As a result, compared to other US allies in Asia, Thailand does not always accommodate American policies but, in many circumstances, acts in favour of China instead. This policy posture is not a product of a well-planned strategy, but rather a reaction to the China factor and domestic sensitivities surrounding decision-making. This current stage of Thai foreign policy can be labelled “bamboo swirling in the wind” instead of the conventional “bending with the wind” diplomacy that tends to reflect a better-calculated strategy to balance Great Power influence. Pongphisoot Busbarat is Dorothy Borg Scholar in Southeast Asian Studies at the Weatherhead Institute of Asian Studies, Columbia University, and Research Affiliate at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, University of Sydney. Postal address: 420 West 118th Street, 9th Floor, International Affairs Building, New York, NY10027, United...
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Publisher
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Copyright
Copyright © The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
ISSN
1793-284X
Publisher site
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Abstract

Abstract: This article examines Thailand’s foreign policy posture towards China and the United States since the early 2000s. It argues that Thailand increasingly faces difficulties in maintaining its time-honoured diplomatic tradition of flexibility and pragmatism. The “China factor”, together with domestic developments since the late 1990s, including the rise of nationalistic sentiment among the public and political polarization, have become important determinants in the decisionmaking process vis-à-vis Thailand’s relations with Washington and Beijing. As a result, compared to other US allies in Asia, Thailand does not always accommodate American policies but, in many circumstances, acts in favour of China instead. This policy posture is not a product of a well-planned strategy, but rather a reaction to the China factor and domestic sensitivities surrounding decision-making. This current stage of Thai foreign policy can be labelled “bamboo swirling in the wind” instead of the conventional “bending with the wind” diplomacy that tends to reflect a better-calculated strategy to balance Great Power influence.

Journal

Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic AffairsInstitute of Southeast Asian Studies

Published: Aug 13, 2016

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