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Chinese foreign policy – On track

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by Nikkei Asia Review

“When Japanese trading house Itochu and train maker Hitachi withdrew from a soon-to-be-decided $7 billion tender for a high-speed rail project near Bangkok, it appeared to be another victory for China and its grand plans to connect Southeast Asia with railways.

Thailand has for decades been the centerpiece of Tokyo’s strategy for Southeast Asia, and long-discussed plans to build extensive shinkansen-style rail lines in the country’s east and north were meant to cement the relationship between the two nations.

But while Japan’s ambitions have been stalled by disagreements about financing and other details, Beijing has managed to push ahead with construction of a separate high-speed rail line in northern Thailand. To some, the rail projects are a symbol of China’s growing influence in a country where Japan had spent decades building ties.”

The article predicts that the Chinese investment into South East Asian rail services is part of its broader ‘belt and road’ policy that is stretching out into new routes and connecting regions, and China, with hitherto remote parts of the asian continent.

“China’s high-speed rail ambitions in Southeast Asia don’t end in Bangkok, however. Under its planned 3,000-km pan-Asian railway network, Chinese rail lines will extend even further south, stretching through Malaysia and feeding into Singapore.”

Chinese foreign policy - On track | News by The Thaiger

China’s reach southwards will allow it to exert greater political influence on places like Singapore which, for now, still retains strong connections to Washington. Investing in high-speed railways all the way from China’s borders to the tip of the Malay Peninsula is a lot more than just an economic investment, it’s a high-profile symbol of China’s new influence in the region where issues such as ‘Taiwan’ and it’s demands in the South China Sea have caused prickly negotiations with the ASEAN countries.

But to reach Singapore, China must first get Malaysia on side…

“A dramatic recent shift in Malaysian politics has put China’s plans for Singapore on hold, however. After his election in May, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad decided to hold up “for now” the $20 billion 688-km east coast rail line connecting southern Thailand to Kuala Lumpur, and postpone for two years a 350-km high-speed rail link between the Malaysian capital and Singapore.”

The article says that these ‘investments’ are actually just loans for high-priced infrastructure that often cannot be repaid by smaller economies….

“China typically provides loans, not grants, for foreign infrastructure projects, and takes possession of the project if the recipient is unable to repay its debt – as happened with a port in Sri Lanka. Such instances have prompted critics in the West to accuse China of practicing ‘debt diplomacy’.”

Read more of this fascinating and important article from Nikkei Asia Review HERE.

Chinese foreign policy - On track | News by The Thaiger

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Thailand’s media spend shrinks as brands shy away from ‘bad’ news

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Thailand’s media spend shrinks as brands shy away from ‘bad’ news | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thailand Business News

Young protesters, who use social media and messaging intuitively vs Thai officials and police who try and track those messages to keep up with the plans of the protest movement. Although Thai police have water cannons and brute force, the Thai youth at the core of the current protest movement also have a valuable weapon. And it’s being used more than ever at the moment. But this increased traffic is not transforming into increased media spending from Thailand’s main brands.

Social media analyts Wisesight say social media is being ‘weaponised’, not only to plan and communicate with fellow protesters, but also “spread the word” of the issues behind their campaign and share their stories with friends. Posts on social media have nearly doubled to 40 million messages a day over the past week. The daily average of posts in past months are around 20-22 million a day.

“Some 40 million messages were posted on social media in Thailand on Oct 15, mainly driven by political strife,” according to Kla Tangsuwan, CEO of Wisesight.

But the increased traffic on social media hasn’t meant that brands are increasing their spending to take advantage of the additional ‘reach’.

In fact, Wisesight say brands are pausing digital media spending after the political conflict ramped up this week. Usually digital media spend spikes in Q4 with the approaching festive season, a peak buying time for consumers. Media were hoping that sentiment would rebound as the world “pandemic” started the settle in October, but fresh political protests, and a surge in new global Covid-19 cases, have caused brands to “pause or wait and see”.

“Brands have begun to hold back on digital media spending in the fourth quarter as political messages flood online platforms, drawing attention away from commercial activity.”

According to the business director of Media Intelligence, Pawat Ruangdejworachai, businesses are pausing their media spend.

“They lack confidence and are hard to gain attraction from audiences that have more interest in political movements.”

The report also notes that Thailand’s social media landscape, and broader media landscape generally, are entering a new paradigm where usage is driven mainly by Generations Y and Z who use their media intuitively and consume it in real time, the vast majority on their smartphones.

Gen Y. Gen Y, or Millennials, were born between 1980 and 1994. They are currently between 24-39 years old.

Gen Z. Gen Z is the newest generation to be named and were born between 1996 and 2015. They are currently between 5-24 years old.

According to Media Intelligence, media spending is expected to fall 20% in Thailand to 71.2 billion baht this year. Internet channels are forecast to be the only media which will see growth this year, up 0.5% to 19.7 billion baht.

SOURCE: wisesight.com

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Business

Foreign investors and businesspeople seek clarity about the current “situation” in Thailand

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Foreign investors and businesspeople seek clarity about the current “situation” in Thailand | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Are business groups still able to "meet"? - EU Business Avenues

With Thailand battling to come up with a safe and sustainable manner of re-opening its borders, and the footage of the street protests reaching out to a world audience, foreign investors are saying they need more details of what they can or cannot do in Thailand under the new State of Emergency.

The Thai Chamber of Commerce is calling for additional details and a long term “plan” about how Thailand is going to slowly re-open and how foreign businesses can continue to invest in the country under the current “restrictions”. The State of Emergency, announced hastily on Thursday morning at 4am and then endorsed by the Thai cabinet yesterday afternoon, sends mixed signals to business and the Thai Chamber of Commerce is seeking more clarification.

TCC chairman Kalin Sarasin says that foreign investors are enquiring whether they can go ahead with holding conferences and meetings in Thailand, after the decrees’ ban on gatherings of more than 5 people. People in a BTS Skytrain carriage, or even the meeting of the Thai cabinet yesterday are gatherings of more than 5 people, so the TCC want answers to what, specifically, is allowed and what is not.

The Nation reports that Chambers of commerce in Thailand’s provinces are also asking Kalin if they will be able to continue with planned activities.

“It would take a few days to judge whether emergency rule will hit foreign-investor confidence. The economy could escape damage from political turmoil if the anti-government protests end soon.”

Meanwhile, according to the Japan External Trade Organisation, Japanese “faith in Thailand remains high”, JETRO president Atsushi Taketani says that Japanese investors “were still confident in Thailand and remain committed to driving its economy regardless of current political situation”.

The Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand says that Thailand’s core economic showpieces, including development of the Eastern Economic Corridor, won’t be affected by escalating political tensions.

And the deputy governor of the authority, Attapon Jirawatjanya, stated that… “ongoing anti-establishment protests would be a short-term problem”.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Economy

Bangkok office rents drop for the first time in 10 years

Caitlin Ashworth

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Bangkok office rents drop for the first time in 10 years | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Ragnar Vorel

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to take a toll on Thailand, and the region’s, economy, Bangkok office rents and occupancy rates are expected to drop after consistent growth over the past 10 years, according to Colliers International Thailand.

It will be the first contraction in that sector since 2010, according to the property consultancy’s associate director of research and communication, Phattarachai Taweewong. He adds that it is one of the “roughest years because of political unrest.” Since July, pro-democracy protesters have been calling on an end to the military-run government and a rewrite of the 2017 Constitution.

The ‘political unrest’ is not a new topic in Thailand and Bangkok life, but the affects of the Covid-19 lockdowns and border closures since April have put the Thai economy into recession and forcing smaller and larger businesses to reassess their businesses and trim their costs, including Bangkok’s high rents.

Bangkok office rents and occupancy rates grew around 3 – 5% each year from 2011 to 2019, but after this year’s 3 month lockdown and business restrictions, rents and occupancy rates have fallen, and are forecast to continue to fall. The new office demand following the lockdown was mostly relocations to buildings with lower rent option with landlords prepared to deal. Colliers predicts that trend will continue until at least the end of the year.

“Many tenants are struggling with the business downturn. Some returned rental spaces to landlords. Others asked for a decrease in rental rates to save on costs… Landlords cut rents slightly to help tenants. Some offered a lower rent to retain existing tenants.”

HERE’sa perspective of the situation back in May this year.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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