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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - For Chinese, it's business as usual

For Chinese, it's business as usual

090123_15.jpg
090123_15.jpg

When it comes to future of economic relations between Cambodia and China, things look as good as they always have been; so despite a general downtown, expect business as usual.

Photo by:

Sovann Philong

A vendor at O'Russei Market displays Lunar New Year-themed good on Thursday.

CHINESE business has traditionally driven the Cambodian economy for centuries, but as the global economy continues to fall into decline - even hitting recently booming China - Cambodia is looking to the mainland for continued strong trade and investment.

Kang Chandararot, president of the Cambodia Institute for Development Study, told the Post Thursday that Chinese investment in the Kingdom still looked to be strong for the coming Year of the Ox, and beyond.

"Due to the crisis in China and the rest of the world, Chinese investment will remain stable or grow more slowly because [the Chinese] are short of capital investment, but things are fine. It will be good for us," he said.

Cambodia has initiated a policy of offering long-term economic concessions to foreign investors - particularly tax breaks - that have proved highly attractive to Chinese companies on the mainland. Other factors have also helped smooth the way for economic ties between the two countries, most importantly the high number of Chinese-Cambodians already residing in the Kingdom and the close diplomatic ties enjoyed between Phnom Penh and Beijing. These are factors that won't be affected by an economic downturn, no matter how bad things get, analysts say, given the high level of cooperation past and present.

"We have never seen discrimination between the two races. We live, run businesses and work together thus far without dispute," said Eak Sheng, assistant director of the Chinese Association in Phnom Penh. "We have been living in harmony in the country, and the relationship will continue forwards."

Eak Sheng's prediction for future economic integration between Cambodia and China appears to be well-founded.

More than 30,000 Cambodian-Chinese students are studying in Cambodian schools nationwide, and an ever-increasing number of people in Cambodia are learning Mandarin, the official language of the mainland - a trend that will almost certainly see English and French relegated to the third- and fourth-choice languages respectively used in the Kingdom.

Looking back at the history of China's economic influence in the country, Ros Chantrabot, vice president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, a body that researches Cambodian culture, says he also sees a healthy future cooperation between the two countries.

"The Sino-Chinese community has a clear influence in business and trade, buying and selling. Some also play a prominent role in [Cambodian] politics," he said.

Again, the figures speak for themselves: Ros Chantrabot notes that close to 70 percent of all businesses in Cambodia are run by people of Chinese ancestry. China has traditionally fuelled the Cambodian economy, and that is unlikely to change in the future.

So, while China also feels the squeeze of the global financial crisis, Cambodia can take heart from the fact that the mainland's economy remains one of the most robust in the world, and with Beijing offering a further US$300 million of concessionary loans to Cambodia in 2009, strong cooperation in the future is practically assured. 

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