200-strong government-business delegation an indication of increasing Chinese involvement in the Cambodian economy
Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Interior Minister Sar Kheng (left) greets the delegation led by Chinese Minister of Public Security Meng Jiangzhu last Sunday.
AHIGH-RANKING Chinese government and private-sector delegation - the third to visit Cambodia in as many weeks - touched down in Phnom Penh Tuesday evening for talks that officials say will strengthen bilateral ties and mark five decades of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
"The purpose of the visit is to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the relationship between Cambodia and China," said Qian Hai, first secretary of the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh, adding that Beijing was hoping to sign agreements of cooperation in the fields of education, health and economics during the four-day visit.
The 200-strong delegation, headed by Jia Qingling, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), will hold talks Wednesday with Prime Minister Hun Sen and King Norodom Sihamoni, and take part in a Chaktomuk Theatre ceremony celebrating the continuing ties between the two allies.
According to local officials, the trip is part of a mutually beneficial series of exchanges between the two countries, which hope to strengthen economic ties in the years ahead.
[China] needs to maintain the status quo by making friends around the world.
"Today, 200 Chinese delegates arrived in Cambodia, including businessmen, who will see the situation and consider the possibility of investment in Cambodia," said CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap.
"I am optimistic that exchanging delegations with China will continue to help Cambodia in all sectors."
The current visit comes just two days after the departure of a delegation led by Minister of Public Security Meng Jiangzhu, who held talks with Hun Sen and senior officials Sunday.
Recent weeks have also seen a Chinese donation of supplies to Cambodia's Ministry of Defence, and a November "goodwill" tour by a high-ranking CCP delegation.
Analysts say the rash of state visits from China - which has pledged the Kingdom $880 million in loans and grants since 2006 - is a result of the country's thirst for natural resources to fuel its economic boom.
"The economic achievements in China are pushing the government to maintain its economic development, and the natural resources of Cambodia are getting China's attention," said independent analyst Chea Vannath.
"They need to maintain the economic status quo by making friends throughout the world - not just in Cambodia."
But SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said the influx of Chinese money was unlikely to benefit Cambodians, since Chinese infrastructure loans, in addition to attracting interest, were only used to pay Chinese building contractors.
"It's not good for Cambodia to move closer to China," he said. "We don't see the Chinese will bring Cambodia to a better stage of development. There is no sign they have done that anywhere in the world."