Monday, April 2, 2007

Crown Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Goes to China, Again

Thai princess kicks off visit to China

People's Daily Online

At the invitation of the Chinese government, Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn arrived in Beijing Monday afternoon for a 12-day visit to China.

During Sirindhorn's visit, Chinese top legislator Wu Bangguo and State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan will meet with her, respectively.

Besides Beijing, Sirindhorn will also visit northwest China's Qinghai Province, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, central China's Hubei Province, east China's Zhejiang Province and China's economic hub Shanghai.

This is Sirindhorn's 24th visit to China.

24 visits to China? The Chinese Government is obviously interested in succession politics.

The Bangkok Chinese put King Thaksin and the Chakri Dynasty on the throne. Up until King Mongkut, Thai kings sent personal envoys to China to make obeisance at the feet of the Chinese emperors and receive investiture in return.

It looks like China is bent on reestablishing its ancient and traditional role in Southeast Asian politics.


I blogged this topic, because I'm probably the only one who will talk about it, at least in public.

I'm convinced that courting the royal family is a ploy on the part of the Chinese to ingratiate itself into succession politics. I think the princess is a willing party to China's political courtship. She has been allying herself with the Thai-Chinese business community for years now. She sponsors many Chinese festivals in Thailand. She visits Chinatown ofter. She is no fool. She is a historian. She knows who controls the means of production of the country. Also, she probably senses that China is on the rise and the US on the wane, at least regionally.

We are entering a period of end of reign politics. Every Thai king, going back hundreds of years, has had to forge alliances with powerful domestic and international factions, especially when it came to succession. No king is an island onto himself. During the Ayutthaya period, many Thai kings used the power of foreign traders and imperial agents to ascend the throne. At one time or another during the Ayutthaya period, the Portuguese, the Japanese, the Persians, the Dutch, the French and the British had helped Thai kings ascend the to the throne and/or consolidate power. And to prevent one European power from becoming to powerful in Siam, Thai kings would play the rival powers off each other. One could imagine now that if China ever became to powerful in Thailand, the government would invite the US back in, or court the EU or Japan in order to maintain a certain balance.

Anyway, like I wrote before, every Thai king before King Mongkut had to have the blessings of the Chinese emperor. The Chinese seal of approval sanctified the succession.

After China collapsed during the mid-18th century, the British became the regional power broker. British imperials agents signed off on King Chulalongkorn, King Vajirayudh, and King Prajadipok-- the last two noted Anglophiles.

After Rama VII abdicated, Pridi and Plaek chose Prince Ananda as his successor, because he was unformed by any faction or international power (His cousin and alternative choice for the throne, Prince Chakrabongse, was an Anglophile). And while King Ananda was still a boy, the regent, Pridi, could speak for him. Put simply, he was intended to be the People's Party's puppet.

During the late 30's to mid 40's, Thailand moved away from the British sphere into the Japanese sphere, deliberately, because the British controlled a large part of the Thai economy. As we all well know, siding with the Japanese was the wrong move for Thailand, because they lost the war. After the war, the British thought it could go back to its traditional imperial role as Thailand's political and economic patron, but the Thais didn't want that, so they ran into the arms of their new friend and protector, the United States. The US told the British to back off, and they did. Regardless, the British Empire was disintegrating in the East anyway, so the Thais probably wouldn't have had to suffer under the British for long.

As the Cold War started to heat up and China was lost to the Communists, the Thais held on more tightly to the US for protection. The story that the Thais would want you to believe is that the US imposed this relationship on the Thais, which is, of course, a lie. The Thais were the ones who were hankering for the relationship. Anyway, the US became Thailand's patron for most of the Cold War. As a result, the US pored billions of dollars into the Thai economy, as well as built up a close relationship with the monarchy, the military and bureaucracy. This relationship continued up until the early 80's and the end of Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia. Coincidentally, this is about the same time Deng started to open up China to foreign capital.

As China has become wealthier and politically potent, it has started a Go South policy, which means that it has been interfering in the domestic affairs of Southeast Asia states on its periphery. Currently, Burma and Cambodia are client states of China. When you look at the geography, Thailand fills in the hole on China's southern flank, assuring protection from the sea and from the Muslim hordes in the deeper South.

So, I don't think China interfering in the succession is unprecedented. In fact, it is consistent with its foreign policy. And the Thai government's acceptance of foreign interference in its succession politics is not unprecedented either. Indeed, the Thai royal family has a long history of allying itself with foreign patrons and protectors.

I'm sure there are some in the US who have come up with the same analysis and are concerned about Thailand's cuddling up with Red China. But this current administration is so grossly incompetent that it will take the next administration years to re-evaluate its foreign policy, especially with China, and clean up relations with its traditional allies all over the world. In the meantime, as the US stupidly wastes time and energy chasing crazy Muslims all over the world, China is going to take every advantage that it can get by increasing it influence in the region and beyond.

Also, the great thing about China is that it, unlike the US, doesn't announce its foreign policy to the world on the 6 o'clock news every night, so it can make plays undetected towards second and third tier powers without much of the world paying attention.

Ironically, it is smart enough to announce that it doesn't interfere in the internal affairs of other countries when that is exactly what it is doing.

Anyway, the larger point I'm trying to make is that Thais will choose a powerful patron as it ascends and dump it as it descends. Thais not only do this in personal relationships, but on a larger international scale as well.

The US is on the decline, China is ascending, so the princess will choose to go with China as the powerful patron and protector. Will the US try to woo her into the US camp? Probably not. But the Crown Prince may go that way if he thinks he will lose the throne. But I don't even know if the US is stupid enough to back that unpopular horse, at least publically. The fortune tellers say that he will die within years of taking the throne, so who knows what will happen there, but I don't put too much faith in that mumbo jumbo.


Anonymous said...

Either that, or she has a close personal friend in China...

Anonymous said...

Timing of her visit is also important. Is this planned long ago -- before or after the coup?

Anonymous said...

Both the Thai King and the Chinese Communist leadership know that there can be only one undisputed monarch of Thailand, and as long as the Princess is around, people will never feel satisfied with a future King Vajiralongkorn.

My guess is that when the King dies, the Princess will hop on the first plane to Beijing....

Anything else would lead to massive bloodshed, as the Princess is too popular with the military.

hobby said...

Anonymous said...

The ramblings of anonymous bloggers are as meaningful as a mosquito's bite on an elephant's arse- so don't hold your breath expecting him to respond.

The fact is we'll never be privvy to the behind the scenes going on and jostling for power. All this talk is pure speculation.

Anonymous said...

it isn't hard to see the motive..

the question is will the u.s. step up and support whoever china isn't supporting to balance their influence?

in that case......

we could have some fireworks.

Anonymous said...

Great analysis, Shark ! You are a historian yourself so it needs another historian to analyze and disagree with you.