One can’t understand modern Thailand without understanding the role of the ethnic Chinese. And one can’t understand the role of the ethnic Chinese without understanding the history of their relationship to the Thai monarchy. This is exactly what Wasana Wongsurawat
has documented in her new book, The Crown and the Capitalists: The Ethnic Chinese and the Founding of the Thai Nation
(University of Washington Press, 2019). The book explores this remarkable relationship against a backdrop of tumultuous changes in Thailand, Southeast Asia, and China: the Opium Wars, the European colonization of Southeast Asia, the rise of Chinese nationalism and the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in 1911, the 1932 Revolution in Siam, Japanese imperialism, World War II, and the Cold War. While the relationship between the ethnic Chinese, the Thai monarchy, and China, has experienced stresses and strains throughout this long period, it has endured intact. And, arguably, today, it is stronger than ever. According to Wasana, this relationship lies at the heart of the Thai nation-state.