Thailand's economy is developing rapidly as a result of increased Chinese investment.
Editor's note: This is the seventh in a series of reports focusing on the development of the Belt and Road Initiative, the proposed extended trading route linking Asia, Europe and Africa.
When Xu Genluo arrived in Thailand in 2000, he barely knew anyone and spoke very little Thai. At the time, the executive with Holley Worldwide Holdings, a private developer of electrical equipment in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, was uncertain if his business would grow because there was little Chinese investment in the country, which styles itself "The Land of Smiles".
'Land of smiles' welcomes new opportunities
Now, the company operates an industrial zone in Rayong, a city on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand, in partnership with a local business. Total investment has reached .5 billion and 86 Chinese companies operate in the zone.
"To us, the Belt and Road Initiative has provided a boost when we needed it most," he said, referring to two proposed trade routes, officially called the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.
Data provided by the Chinese embassy in Bangkok show that China has been Thailand's largest trade partner since 2013, the year the initiative was proposed by President Xi Jinping. Last year, the total import/export volume between the two countries was .8 billion, an increase of 2.5 percent from 2015, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
Thailand's main exports to China are plastics and rubber products, plus mechanical and electrical goods. In return, a wide range of machinery and electronic items account for about 50 percent of China's exports to Thailand.
The country - home to one of the largest groups of ethnic Chinese in the world and a gateway to Southeast Asia's 600 million consumers - is a favored destination for Chinese investment.
Last year, China was the third-largest investor in Thailand, following Singapore and Japan, according to the Board of Investment of Thailand.
The number of Chinese tourists visiting the country also has soared in recent years. Last year, there were 8.77 million trips, more than four times the number in 2013, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Zhang Peidong, economic and commercial counselor at China's embassy in Bangkok, said Thailand's development plans and national strategies are a good fit for the Belt and Road Initiative, and will offer new business opportunities for Chinese companies.
However, for the investments to succeed, companies must develop a culture of cooperation, build good brands and obey local laws and conventions, according to a report Zhang wrote last year that was posted on the embassy's website.
In February, Hirunya Suchinai, secretary-general of the Board of Investment of Thailand, told Sing Sian Yer Pao Daily News, a Chinese-language publication in the country, that the initiative has boosted domestic development.
She hopes to see more Chinese investment in the biotechnology, nanotechnology and digital technology sectors to help Thailand reach the targets set in Thailand 4.0, a new, government-designed economic model to develop high-tech industries and innovation.