[Ryan Manuel is a Rhodes scholar and doctoral student at Merton College, Oxford. He is currently based at the Australian National University where he is contibuting to the East Asia Forum blog hosted at the Crawford School of Economics and Government. Readers looking for perspectives on the wider East Asian region will find that it contains a treasure trove of useful material.]

In China, reactions to recent events in Thailand are generally along the lines of those in Western newspapers, with many media outlets using the Reuters Chinese language feed to shape their reportage.

Longer opinion pieces, however, reveal some interesting slants on the crisis.

There is, for instance, some debate as to the importance of Thailand in the wider region. The Yunnan government portal is currently carrying a piece from the influential Global Times (quanqiu shibao) newspaper which believes that the crisis will have only a “minor impact on the region” due to Thailand being less important to the region than common opinion would have it.

The reason they give for this is Thailand’s lack of economic growth relative to its neighbours, which they attribute to the impact of political instability.

They also argue that the departure of Thaksin has led to a weakening of affairs between Thailand and Cambodia. In spite of the difficult relations between the nations, they argue that things weren’t actually that bad, as Thaksin had very strong personal friendships with the Cambodian government.

This belief in the importance of individual relationships can also be seen in recent Sina pieces. Monday’s opinion piece argued that 6 major factors allowed the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) to have “far greater impact than their small numbers”. Yet it linked 3 of these to “personal feelings” and argued that the feelings which “characterise the dispute must be put aside”.

Yesterday’s Sina piece argued that the crisis was largely due to Samak’s reputation being indistinguishable from that of Thaksin, and argued, somewhat less than coherently, that without solving this impasse it would be difficult to find any solution to the crisis. (Cutely, Sina also made hay out of the transliteration of Thaksin’s name, which can loosely be translated as “trust him”).

Yet not all of the coverage has concentrated on the personalities. Of some interest to China watchers is the occasional description of the PAD forces as the “Minmeng”. This allusion is to one of the “legally-recognised political parties of the PRC”, a fairly traditional branch of the Communist party comprised mainly of high-end intellectuals and technocrats. Pieces appearing more critical of the PAD’s actions seem more likely to use this abbreviation.

Finally, and also of some interest to China watchers, there has been some criticism of the Samak government for not coming down on the PAD protestors with greater force following the bloody clashes on the 2nd.

Lengthy recent pieces in the Xinhua news group extol the Samak government for its patience and tolerant attitude to the protests, arguing that “after ignoring violent methods of dispersing the crowd, the bloody clashes gave the government forces the opportunity to act”. However, the subsequent use of only shield and baton was seen as “weak”, with the argument put forth that “the strategy was completely flaccid and… will lead to Samak suffering from even greater pressure”. Moreover, it “was tantamount to giving the PAD’s illegal activities legitimacy”.

Read into that whatever you will…