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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Research Overview

Japanese-Thai Relations: Past, Present, and Future

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Japanese-Thai Relations: Past, Present, and Future

 November 2021 - ongoing

When visiting Bangkok as foreign minister in 2016, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida referred to Thailand as “an economic partner that Japan cannot be without” due to the large number of Japanese companies operating in the Southeast Asian kingdom. Their investments since the 1980s were a major contribution to the country reaching middle income status in 2011. Both countries also have enjoyed a close political relationship since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1887, leading to the declaration of a strategic partnership in 2007. In recent years, however, several factors have complicated this close relationship: the decreasing competitiveness of Thailand as a location for foreign direct investments, the kingdom’s democratic backsliding since the 2014 coup, as well as the increasing influence of the People’s Republic of China in Thailand and Southeast Asia.

This interdisciplinary project aspires to contribute to a better understanding of Japan’s political, economic, and cultural influence in Thailand through a series of case studies on their historical development and present significance, as well as by identifying possible future trajectories. Thailand is a founding and core member of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN). As Germany, France, and the European Union have identified both Japan and ASEAN as partners in their respective strategies for the Indo-Pacific region, the project’s outcomes will also be of interest for scholars of European foreign relations.

The project is based on in-depth desk studies of archival and published sources combined with semi-structured interviews with relevant actors in the public and private sector in both countries. The project is multiscalar; it comprises case-studies about state-to-state relations, investigations of non-state networks enabling the flow of people, knowledge, and capital, as well as inquiries on the regional level into Japan’s and Thailand’s engagement with ASEAN.

Recent Publications

Malitz, David M. (2024). "Beyond the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership: Taking Stock of Thailand-Japan Relations". In: Singh, Daljit, Hoang, Thi Ha & Hae Won, Cha (Eds.), Southeast Asian Affairs 2024 (pp. 325-340). ISEAS. LINK
Malitz, David M. (2024). "Japan for Example – National Character as the Driving Force of National Progress in Thai Conservative Writings about Japan". Manusya: Journal of Humanities, 26 (pp. 1-15). LINK
Malitz, David M. (October 16, 2023). "Roboterkatze, Tuk-Tuks und Verfassungen: Aspekte der japanisch-thailändischen Beziehungen". Max Weber Stiftung Themenportal. LINK
Malitz, David M. (2023). "Royal and Imperial Connections : Japanese Influence at the Court of Bangkok and on the Siamese/Thai Monarchy". 世界の日本研究 / Japanese Studies around the World, 2022 (pp. 33-48). LINK
Malitz, David M. (2023). "Introduction: Shinzo Abe’s Legacy for the Future of Japanese-Southeast Asian Relations". Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, 34. LINK
Malitz, David M. (2023). "Japanese-Thai Relations through Two Coups: Back to Business". Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, 34. LINK
Malitz, David M. (2022). "Shinkoku: Reconsidering the Concept of Sentient Landscapes from Japan". In: Coțofană, Alexandra & Kuran, Hikmet (Eds.), Sentient Ecologis: Xenophobic Imaginaries of Landscape (pp. 160-185). Berghahn. LINK
Malitz, David M. (2022). "‘What Is Good about the Japanese System of Governance?’ – The Reception of Imperial Japanese Parliamentarism in Siamese/Thai Political Thought (1880s–1940s)". The International History Review. LINK
Malitz, David M. (2022). "A Long-Term View of Thai Nationalisms: From Royal to Civic Nationalism?". ASIEN, 164/165 (pp. 22-47). LINK
Malitz, David M. (2022). "Kaiser Meiji als Vorbild für die Monarchien des halbkolonialisierten Asiens im Vorfeld deren konstitutionellen Revolutionen im frühen 20. Jahrhundert". In: Schley, Daniel F. (Ed.), Japans moderne Monarchie Beiträge japanologischer Forschung zur Wahrnehmung und Geschichte der Tenno (pp. 205-252). LIT. LINK