Tipping the balance in Southeast Asia? Thailand, the United States and China

Diplomacy Defence Thailand China United States of America

This analysis provides a roadmap to scholars seeking to understand shifting Thai policies and for policymakers seeking to maintain a strong footing for the U.S.-Thailand alliance during a time of strategic flux. This paper is co-badged with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Washington D.C, USA. It was funded by a grant from the Minerva Research Institute.


  • Modulate approaches for advocating on democracy. Partner countries should continue to advocate for a return to democracy, but in a way that is less likely to be construed as interference or taking sides. The focus should be on representations in private meetings and a broad program of engagement on democratic processes and principles.
  • Support more historical reflection. Historical scholarships and workshops should be provided on Cold War topics to encourage a more mature and balanced understanding of the period.
  • Foster cultural and linguistic sensitivity. Partner countries should have closer engagement with messages conveyed in the Thai language.
  • Support ASEAN. Partner nations should demonstrate an awareness and support for ASEAN goals and programs. òòAvoid zero-sum views on Thailand and China. The Sino-Thai relationship is rich, long, deep and complex. But Thailand’s own strategic culture is more influential on its national security choices.
  • Engage on environmental challenges. Thailand and its neighbours have developed a keen interest in non-traditional security matters including massed migration, water shortages and over damming of the Mekong River. Support for countries like Thailand over emerging environmental challenges has the potential to generate considerable benefits.
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