Authoritarianism in Thailand and the China Factor

This talk examines the relationship between authoritarianism in Thailand and what role China plays in it. Instead of asking whether it is Beijing’s support that directly assisted the power longevity of the military authoritarian rule in Thailand, this talk argues that a “China factor” works through existing domestic political divisions within Thailand. Specifically it argues that China’s influence is filtered through domestic political divisions in Thailand between those who support authoritarianism and those who support democracy. For those who support authoritarian rule, they overall praise the Chinese model of development, welcomes Chinese investments in Thailand, and would like see more of Chinese influence at the expense of the United States in Thailand. On the contrary, people who have more democratic values would have the opposite preferences. Indeed, often whether support for China or the United States in the country’s foreign policy can be interpreted as a form of domestic political contestation between those who support the military government and those who do not.