Hedging, Alignment, and Unintended Consequences The Geopolitical Meaning and Outcomes of Thailand's Procurement of Chinese Submarines

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    Abstract

    Thailand’s potential acquisition of three Yuan-class submarines from China has sparked discussions, prompting some to view it as a strategic shift toward China. This article assesses this procurement decision within the context of Thailand’s governance challenges in defense procurement and its modest maritime security goals. The article reveals that while the 2014 junta intended this purchase as a strategic message, two factors temper its significance. Firstly, Thailand maintains a unique perspective on its alliance with the US, striving for equidistant positioning among great powers. From this standpoint, obtaining Chinese submarines served as a short-term diversion of pressure, rather than a substantial realignment. Secondly, Thailand assigns relatively low priority to seapower in its military planning, mitigating the submarine purchase’s automatic implication of trust in China. However, it is emphasized that Thailand does not fully control the risks stemming from efforts to maintain strategic ambiguity, such as bolstering China’s logistical presence in Thailand, leading to unintended outcomes, including the weakening of the Thai–United States military alliance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)66-81
    JournalJOURNAL OF INDO-PACIFIC AFFAIRS
    Volume7
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2024

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