Korn Dabbaransi, a former Thai vice prime minister and president of the Thailand-China Friendship Association, has visited China more than 150 times since the 1970s and witnessed the robust economic development and enormous social change in China over the past four decades.
In a recent interview with China Daily Website, Korn shared his views on China’s economic growth, the Belt and Road Initiative and the deep-rooted China-Thailand friendship.
“For China, I will use the word ‘economy evolution'”
Korn was among the first official Thai delegation that visited China in April 1975. He worked as second secretary to Chatichai Choonhavan, then-minister of foreign affairs.
Recalling his first visit to the Chinese capital, he said, “I stood in front of the Peking (Beijing) Hotel. Looking to the left. Looking to the right. There were so many bicycles. No cars. Once in a while, you would see a black car driving by… People were dressed in blue and grey, with hats.”
With limited transportation options, bicycles were a vital part of everyday life in Beijing in the 1970s.
“Last month I went to Beijing again for a meeting. I stood at the same spot where I stood then. Forty-four years has passed, the development of Beijing is just a miracle to me. The economic success of China has been the most popular subject everyone has been talking about for the past four or five years. But they didn’t see how China was 44 years ago.”
What equally impressed him were the massive changes in Shenzhen in Southern China’s Guangdong province, now a tech hub.
In 1978, Korn visited Shenzhen with a group of Thai officials under the invitation of Deng Xiaoping, who initiated China’s reform and opening-up. The Southern Chinese city was no more than a fishing village back then.
“Deng Xiaoping told us (the idea of) baihua qifang (let all flowers bloom) and wanxiang gengxin (everything looks fresh again),” Korn recollected.
“We went to Shenzhen. There was nothing there. It was a small fishing village in 1978. And baihua qifang has become a reality, 40 years later. In 2018, I was invited to Shenzhen again to make a speech about the past 40 years of baihua qifang, and Shenzhen has become the most advanced digital technical city of the world… From that day, which I witnessed with my own eyes: There was nothing.”
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“If you want to talk about the economic success of China, I would not use ‘economy development’. For China, I will use ‘economy evolution’. From that day in 1978 until today, this is truly ‘economy evolution’ in the most tenable manner.”