When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Cambodia last October to meet Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen it was clear that the relationship between both countries is thriving.
On his first trip since becoming China’s top leader in March 2013 – he visited as vice president in 2009 – Xi also oversaw the signing of 31 agreements.
But it’s not only the political ties between Cambodia and China which continue to floursih.
Economically, China is Cambodia’s top foreign investor, a major donor, and an increasingly important trading partner.
According to the Chinese Association in Cambodia, there are about 500,000 Chinese and Chinese-Cambodians living in Cambodia, where they are one of the largest and most visible ethnic minorities. Chinese-Cambodians play a prominent role in the Cambodian business sector as well as within Cambodia’s political scene. Mandarin Chinese is the second most spoken language in Cambodia after English. There are approximately 56 schools offering Chinese-language classes to some 30,000 students nationwide.
In recent years, China has emerged as a major foreign player in Cambodia. Prime Minister Hun Sen once said Cambodia’s strong economic growth in past years has owed a great deal to China’s investment and steady technical and financial assistance.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows are seen as a main driver of economic development and liberalization in Cambodia.
After the restoration of peace and stability in 1993, Cambodia started to see an increase in FDI and has since been a popular destination for foreign investors from China, South Korea, the United States, Malaysia, and Thailand due mainly to its unexplored natural resources, low labor costs, and attractive investment incentives.
According to the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) the highest decision-making body of the government for private and public sector investment, between 1994 and 2015 FDI from China had reached $10.1 billion, making it the largest investor in the Kingdom, followed by South Korea, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Spurred by this China-led investment, Cambodia’s economy is expected to continue its strong growth story with the Asian Development Bank predicting 7 percent growth or higher in 2017 and beyond.