During an Asean-Anhui media tour in China’s Anhui province, The Post’s Kun Kourchettana sat down with Vithit Powattanasuk, director of the Information and Public Relations division of Beijing’s Asean-China Center (ACC), to talk about the importance of media and how Cambodia can benefit from closer ties between Asean and China.
What is the ACC and what role does it play in media?
The ACC is an organisation founded by 11 countries of Asean and China in 2009. In 2011, we started operating this centre in Beijing. It comprises of several officials from China and Asean. At the moment, I am one of two Asean officials who work here. We aim to promote cooperation between Asean countries and China. Practical cooperation focuses on six aspects – trade, investment, education, culture, tourism and media.
What is the purpose of the Asean-Anhui media tour?
The ACC and the Anhui provincial government are co-hosts. This is the fourth year that the Anhui government has invited media from Asean to visit. It shows that the relationship is getting better, and there are more transactions of business and greater investment. That’s why the local government of Anhui still invites media to promote their cities every year.
Should Asean countries copy this model to promote its members?
Definitely. China wants the Asean media to understand the country better. We should make the change to let Chinese media know more about Asean as well. It is very important for both sides to learn from each other, and one effective way is to use media as a bridge for better understanding.
How will Cambodia benefit if the government organises such an event?
For one, understanding will improve. China is a big country with 1.4 billion people. The more Chinese know about Cambodia, the more interest they will have in going there. So, the first and very important thing is that you have to let the Chinese know about your country. The Chinese government always invites the Cambodian media to their country. They would like you to tell your people about China because they cannot reach every single Cambodian. I believe Cambodia must do the same thing. You cannot wait for someone to promote you . . . you have to do it yourself.
The ACC is willing to be a partner for such a campaign to ensure that people know more about your country. Chinese tourists already know about Cambodia. However they know only Angkor Wat. You have more beautiful places to tell potential visitors about. That’s why the media is so very important. The Cambodian government must do something of its own to invite Chinese media and promote your country. The ACC will be your partner and help ensure that your effort is successful.
Asean-Chinese business and investment ties are now closer than ever. Will this relationship continue to grow?
What we are seeing now is an increasing volume of trade, investment, travel and educational cooperation. The trend is still very bright. China has a policy of opening up the country and it regards Asean as a good neighbour and partner.
In general, many Asean countries have done better with China in different sectors. For instance, in my home country of Thailand we welcome nearly 10 million Chinese tourists per year. Malaysia is number one in welcoming investment from China. Singapore is the top Asean country investing in China, while Vietnam leads in volume of trade between an Asean country and China. I believe the Chinese government intends to get closer with Cambodia. Everyone knows that they have already pushed hard to promote industries in Sihanoukville. This is a good sign that in the years to come, Cambodia could be at the top in some aspect of the relationship with China.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.