As China continues to invest in Preah Sihanouk province, despite fears raised by residents over the recent influx of its nationals, an official from the Asian giant on Monday said President Xi Jinping is pushing for further investment in the coastal area.
“Cambodia and China are good friends and good neighbours. Jiangsu is a Chinese province [and] we are pushing for more cooperation with Cambodia,” Huang Xiqiang, the deputy director-general of the Foreign Affairs Office of Jiangsu Provincial People’s Government, told visiting Cambodian journalists to the southern Chinese province on Monday.
“President Xi Jinping regards [Preah Sihanouk province] as a role model of cooperation between China and Cambodia.”
Preah Sihanouk has seen huge growth in the manufacturing, tourism and gambling sectors, and a local real estate agency director said further investment in manufacturing would “help transform Cambodia from an agricultural to an industrialised nation”.
Bilateral trade between Jiangsu and Preah Sihanouk, which have just signed an agreement to become sister provinces, was valued at $1.2 billion last year. This is equal to one-fifth of China’s total trade with Cambodia and is expected to increase 30 per cent this year, Huang said.
Jiangsu province accounts for 10.38 per cent of China’s total economy, with its GDP hitting $1.2 trillion last year.
Preah Sihanouk province has increasingly become a hotbed for Chinese investment in the Kingdom, and its geography has proven strategic in pushing Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative in Southeast Asia.
“We encourage enterprises to invest in Cambodian production, from resources and labour to technology,” Huang said. “In the past, [investment] was more focused on garment manufacturing. In the future, we will cooperate in technology. This is a win-win strategy.”
Huang said the Preah Sihanouk Special Economic Zone has 125 enterprises and has created 21,000 jobs with $500 million in investments. He said the zone plans to create between 80,000 to 100,000 jobs.
Emerging Markets Consulting senior consultant Ngeth Chou said he welcomed an increase in investment in Preah Sihanouk province’s manufacturing, which he said would largely benefit the Kingdom.
He added that investment in the sector would help Cambodians acquire new skills and stable incomes, as opposed to growth in the gaming industry, which has been blamed for causing social problems.
“Casinos do not offer as many economic benefits as the manufacturing sector, because investment in factories could help Cambodia benefit greatly, from the use of local raw materials to [the creation of] a skilled workforce, as well as reduce migration.”
However, Chou suggested that for sustainable development, the Cambodian government must also create mechanisms to control the nature of investment, such as insisting on the use of local human resources and raw materials.
Key Real Estate director Sorn Seap said that while the influx of Chinese has raised property prices in Preah Sihanouk, more investment in manufacturing would help create new jobs and technology for the future development of Cambodia.
“It will help transform Cambodia from an agricultural to an industrialised nation, and promote the Kingdom’s image on the international stage,” Seap said.
Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Yun Min, who visited Jiangsu province last week to strengthen city-level relations, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Jiangsu provincial statistics showed that 200,000 of its residents visited Cambodia in 2016.
The increase of tourists led to direct flights between Jiangsu and Cambodia’s international airports, Huang said.