China, ASEAN Cooperation on EV Burgeoning for Mutual Benefit

A Wuling Air EV car is pictured during the roll-out ceremony at Wuling's production factory in Bekasi, West Java province, Indonesia, Aug. 8, 2022. Xinhua/Xu Qin

BANGKOK — From Bangkok to Jakarta, electric vehicles (EVs) manufactured by Chinese carmakers are becoming a new trend in Southeast Asian cities.

From two-door mini cars to upscale minivans, Chinese EVs are also testimony to the cooperation among China and member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the region's transition to green energy and efforts to build a robust and open EV supply train for the benefit for all.

Across Southeast Asia, governments are rolling out incentives to boost EV sales and actively attracting foreign investment to build up the EV industry. As a global leader in EV production, Chinese carmakers are becoming Southeast Asian countries' natural choice of partners with their increasing presence in the region.

Dubbed the Detroit of Asia, Thailand is eyeing consolidating its position as the hub of the region's EV industry. Chinese leading car manufacturers SAIC Motor's MG, Great Wall Motor, BYD, Hozon, Changan, and GAC Aion have made inroads into the regional market, with plans for local manufacturing, according to media reports.

During the recent East Asia summits in Jakarta, China pledged support for ASEAN countries in the development of a regional EV ecosystem. For their part, ASEAN countries have vowed to uphold the principle of openness and multilateralism, as expressed in a joint leaders' statement with China, Japan and South Korea on developing the EV ecosystem.

The gesture of ASEAN is in sharp contrast to Europe, another market in which Chinese EVs were gaining traction before the European Union (EU) leadership recently announced an anti-subsidy probe into Chinese EVs.

"China has a complete industrial supply chain, a significant advantage in raw material costs, and a strong emphasis on production cost control. This is why Chinese EVs often enjoy a price advantage. Europe should pay more attention to how to encourage European companies to develop EVs and enhance their competitive edge," said Seksin Srivatananukulkit, former dean of the faculty of social science at Chiang Mai University.

Decha Chatutananant, inspector general of Thailand's Industry Ministry, has said that Thai automotive industry is in early stages of transitioning to EV production base so the country would like to learn from China's experience, as China has the largest EV market in the world and has developed the domestic automotive industry to become the world's leading producer and exporter of EVs and batteries, which comes with modern technology.

Chinese companies are actively engaging with local industrial partners to build up the EV supply chain in the region, ranging from battery producers, raw material extraction and refinery, and charging infrastructure. In July, Chinese battery manufacturer SVOLT broke ground for its first plant in Southeast Asia.

The entry of Chinese EVs into the ASEAN market, including Thailand, along with investments in local manufacturing facilities, has propelled the development of Thailand's EV industry and has provided Thai consumers with a wider range of choices, said Seksin of Chiang Mai University.

Chinese EVs are winning the hearts and minds of local consumers in Southeast Asia as EV sales in the region soared almost 10 times year on year in the first quarter of this year, market data showed.

In Thailand, Thailand Automotive Institute expects EV sales to reach 50,000 units this year from 20,000 in the previous year, with Chinese EV makers expected to increase their market share, according to a Bangkok Post report.

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