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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - China-Cambodia affection on display

Prime Minister Hun Sen (left) and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang share a light-hearted moment at a signing ceremony in Beijing in Apri.
Prime Minister Hun Sen (left) and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang share a light-hearted moment at a signing ceremony in Beijing in April. REUTERS

China-Cambodia affection on display

With Cambodia and China celebrating the 55th anniversary of diplomatic ties last Friday, a series of breathless letters exchanged between leaders to herald the occasion was released Sunday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The exchanges represent the first time the anniversary has been celebrated since China’s fifth generation of communist leadership, led by President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, came to power in November.

In his letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Li promised the new leadership would continue to “unswervingly adopt a friendly policy toward Cambodia”.

Chinese investment and loans have flowed into the Kingdom in recent years, with Chinese investment totalling $9.1 billion since 1994, according to the Cambodia Investment Board.

“I wish to take this opportunity to reiterate our deep gratitude to the Government and people of China,” Hun Sen wrote to Li, as well as inviting him to visit Cambodia.

Former Chinese President Hu Jintao visited the Kingdom in 2012, while Hun Sen made an official visit to China earlier this year for talks that proclaimed 2013 the Cambodia-China Year of Friendship.

King Norodom Sihamoni also wrote Xi, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong wrote his Chinese counterpart.

In his letter, the King said his father, the late Norodom Sihanouk, who spent extended periods living in Beijing, had “cherished and nurtured” relations between the countries.

Responding to King Sihamoni, Xi also recalled the late King Father’s role in Cambodia-China relations, and promised to “unswervingly consolidate and deepen [the] friendship”.

Despite that, he noted past leaders had “withstood the test of the vicissitudes in the international arena”.

China was the largest foreign supporter of the Khmer Rouge regime and opposed the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1979 that brought an end to Democratic Kampuchea.

The anniversary celebration comes soon after a US congressional hearing on Cambodia, which was dominated by talk of Chinese influence and no-strings-attached investment in Cambodia as threatening to US interests.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan recently told the Post that the government wanted the superpowers to work “harmoniously” as partners in the Kingdom.

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