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Thais Celebrating the King's Birthday in Guilin, Guangxi

Thailand and China commemorate 40 years of formal diplomatic relationship

Dec 5 this year marks the auspicious occasion of the 88th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of the Kingdom of Thailand. The king is regarded as the "Father of the Thai Nation" and thus his birthday is also celebrated as National Father's Day and the National Day of Thailand. The love and deep respect that the Thai people have toward the king is attributed to the king's tireless effort in actively promoting the welfare and livelihood of his people throughout his 69 year reign.

This is also a special year as it marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Thailand and the People's Republic of China. Our formal relations started on July 1, 1975, yet our familial ties date back more than 700 years, since the Sukhothai period and the Yuan Dynasty. We share geographical proximity and similar traditions and culture. Historically, millions of Chinese resettled in Thailand and easily assimilated into Thai society. Today, Thailand is home to one of the largest overseas Chinese communities in the world. Thai-Chinese exist at all levels of society and have a particularly strong presence in the business sector as well as the political arena.

Thailand and China's friendship is not only profound but we have also never endured any major conflicts with one another in the past. Our relationship is solidly based on the founding principles of mutual respect and trust, shared values and customs, as well as an ethnic-cultural connection and a friendly and familial bond between our two countries and peoples, and we are both determined to support and extend this friendship in perpetuity.

We have enjoyed close and cordial relations over the past 40 years, with frequent exchanges of high-level visits, especially members of the Thai royal family, as well as government leaders, and positive cooperation in all areas. Most recently, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn visited China in April 2015, which also marked the official beginning of the activities commemorating 40 years of diplomatic relations between Thailand and China. Moreover, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, the prime minister of Thailand has met with Xi Jinping, president of China, and Li Keqiang, premier of China, nine times since he took office in 2014.

In 2012, Thailand and China elevated their bilateral relations to a strategic comprehensive cooperative partnership. China is one of Thailand's most important partners, evident by the massive volume of bilateral trade, which in 2014 totaled $63.58 billion, and Chinese investment in Thailand amounted to 10 percent of Thailand's total foreign direct investment.

In terms of tourism, in 2014, more than 4.6 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand, making China the number one source of inbound visitors, and that number is expected to rise this year to over 7 million tourists. Thailand will continue to enhance its tourism industry, both in terms of service and infrastructure. The royal Thai government recently implemented a multiple entry tourist visa, which enables travelers multiple entry into Thailand during a six-month period.

Although we have made significant progress in our 40 years of diplomatic relations, both sides remain fully committed to further advancing our bilateral cooperation. We will continue to jointly identify new dimensions of cooperation beyond the bilateral level, such as partnership for regional cooperation, in line with the royal Thai government's policy of supporting regional connectivity and the Belt and Road Initiative of China. A prime example of this cooperation is that, at present, Thailand and China are working on the first dual-track railway construction in Thailand, which in the future will connect Thailand and China and help boost overall regional connectivity. The success of this project is expected to bring tangible benefits and a win-win situation to both countries as well as the region.

Thais celebrating the king's birthday

The next step in supporting regional connectivity could be the distribution of economic growth along the Belt and Road and ASEAN's connectivity concepts. For its part, Thailand, with its strategic location, can play a key role in linking the region. Thailand and China should enhance our investment cooperation in each other's special economic zones. Thailand is in the process of establishing special economic zones in 10 border provinces and we are working on the policy framework to establish and classify economic zones by clusters, several of which can be logistically linked to China. Through joint efforts, Thailand and China can extend our cooperation into the areas of development and trade and investment cooperation in other regions to increase our opportunities.

Other areas to advance our cooperation include security cooperation to combat new forms of security threats, science and technology, as well as education and culture. There are now about 18,000 Thai students in China.

The writer is the Thai ambassador to China.