To Thailand, the ongoing ninth BRICS summit means much. The summit is expected to witness the signing of draft contracts of a railway project vital to the Southeast Asian nation.[Special coverage]
Let alone that Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is attending the dialogues on political and security issues on the sideline of the summit attended by leaders of the bloc's five emerging economies and other countries.
Such opportunities for non-BRICS leaders like Prayut are attributed to the "BRICS Plus", a model progressively developed by the bloc grouping Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa to seek a wider partnership, particularly with developing countries.
The model is expected of a key role in making the bloc, that now contributes more than half to the global growth, a leading platform for South-South cooperation.
The BRICS summit will thus experience an important moment in Thailand-China cooperation.
The Thailand-China railway project has been a focus of widespread attention in Thailand. It will produce the country's first standard gauge high speed railway.
A RAILWAY TO DEPICT SOUTH-SOUTH COOPERATION
"It will be the first standard gauge high speed railway of the Thailand and will greatly shorten the traveling time from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima," said Huang Bin, head of the Chinese department at the Kasikorn Research Center, a Thai think tank.
The future railway will "contribute to economic and social development in the less-developed northeast of Thailand," Huang added.
During the BRICS Xiamen summit, Thailand and China are expected to sign the design and supervision draft contracts for the first phase of the railway project, according to Thai officials.
The first phase project divided into four sections is about building a 253-km railway with a maximum speed of 250 km per hour to link the capital Bangkok and the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima.
In the second phase, the railway will extend from Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai on the border with Laos, where it will be further connected to the China-Laos railway that is under construction.
When the whole project is completed, Bangkok and Kunming, provincial capital for Yunnan in China's southwest, will be connected by the modern railway.
"The railway will be an artery railway linking Thailand and the Laos, China and other countries through China. It will upgrade Thailand's role as the regional transport hub and contribute to economic growth in the region," Huang commented.
Thai cabinet approved the design contract and the supervision contract respectively on Aug. 22 and Aug. 29, which, according to Thai Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, is to make it ready for Prayut to bring these contracts to China.
Huang said he is excited that the railway project has come to the last step before construction would begin in October. A Thailand-China Joint Committee on Railway Cooperation met 20 times over the past two years in the preparations.
INVITATION TO HIGHLIGHT THAILAND'S ROLE
Huang said inviting the Thai leader to attend dialogues during the BRICS summit shows the great importance China attaches to Thailand's role as a key developing country.
Thailand also takes part in the Belt and Road Initiative China proposed in 2013 to build infrastructure and trade networks along ancient Silk Road trade routes in order to seek common development and prosperity.
The Initiative, in the opinion of chief economist of the Eurasian Development Bank Yaroslav Lissovolik, complements efforts by the BRICS bloc to facilitate trade and capital flows.
At the same time, he said, the Initiative is "a showcase for economic collaboration."
Experts hail China's efforts to promote and highlight South-South cooperation during the Xiamen summit as the BRICS enters its second decade with calls for a larger role of the bloc in the world amid new challenges and uncertainties stemming from the global economic sluggishness, a rise in the protectionism in some Western countries and geopolitical black swans, among others.
Building on the success of the past decade, the BRICS now eyes starting a more expansive partnership to seek inclusive growth. Thanks to the "BRICS Plus" model, dialogues will be held between BRICS members and other emerging markets and major developing countries during the bloc's annual summit.
Such dialogues, which mean "a wider cooperation", will help the BRICS to achieve its goals as almost all the BRICS members are major players in South-South cooperation, said Xiaojun Grace Wang, deputy director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation.
She added that the BRICS is not set up only for the development of its five members, but also for contributing to the development around the world.
Li Renliang, professor at Thailand's National Institute of Development Administration, said the dialogues, by bringing many developing countries and emerging markets together, will help turn the BRICS into a major platform for South-South cooperation in the world.
"I think it is great to have the dialogues as many developing countries are seeking cooperation," Li said. "The BRICS is becoming more inclusive by adding these countries as their friends to pursue prosperity together."