Cambodia and China signed several high-level cooperation documents on October 17, during Prime Minister Hun Manet’s visit to Beijing for the 3rd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation from October 17-18.

On the sidelines of the forum, Manet also met with several Chinese investors who have injected billions of dollars into Cambodia, in sectors varying from railways to satellite technology.

The document signing event was overseen by Manet and Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

The documents include a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the third round of a joint project for productivity cooperation and Cambodia-China investment, as well as one on the implementation of mechanisms for bilateral cooperation on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

Other documents include MoUs on green and low carbon investment and the development of Cambodia-China railroad cooperation.

An additional MoU was signed between the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce and China’s Guangxi Autonomous Region on the construction of a China-Cambodia industrial park.

An agreement was also inked on loan concessions for the 8th phase of rural electricity connection, while protocol exchanges were agreed upon for a feasibility study on Chinese grants to repair the Preah Vihear Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ahead of the signing ceremony, Manet met with several of the Chinese business leaders who have invested in the Kingdom.

“The prime minister met with Wang Jianping, chairman of the board of directors of China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), and encouraged him to invest in railroad connections that would cover the whole of Cambodia,” said a post by Manet’s social media team.

Manet explained that investment in this sector should focus on upgrading and modernising the Kingdom’s existing railway lines, while also exploring the possibility of expanding connections between Phnom Penh and Bavet, which shares its border with Vietnam, as well as Siem Reap and Poipet, which borders Thailand. He also suggested lines connecting to the Vietnamese border via Cambodia’s Stung Treng and Mondulkiri provinces.

Wang informed Manet that his company has so far invested in 53 projects in Cambodia, at a total cost of $5.3 billion.

He added that the company plans to invest three more major projects – a data management centre to support the digital government, railway connections from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and on to Poipet, and clean water projects in the provinces along the Mekong River.

“[Manet] thanked the CRCC for investing in Cambodia, particularly in clean water and railways. The railways are key to strengthening the logistics infrastructure. He also encouraged them to invest in any other sectors which they operate in,” the post continued.

In a separate meeting with Li Kuo, chairman of the board of directors of China Metro Group, Manet supported the company’s proposed project to develop light-rail networks in Phnom Penh, as well as Kandal and Siem Reap provinces.

During the meeting, Li Kuo told Manet that his company proposed two light rail lines – one connecting the newly opened Siem Reap Angkor International Airport (SAI) to Siem Reap town, and another connecting Phnom Penh to the under-construction Techo International Airport (TIA) – located in neighbouring Kandal province. The company will also examine the possibility of other projects which could reduce the Kingdom’s traffic burden.

While meeting with Tse Ping, vice-chairman of the Bangkok-based Charoen Pokphand Group (CP Group), Manet was informed that the Thai conglomerate intends to invest more in Cambodia, particularly in the real estate and healthcare sectors, as well as in satellite technology.

Tse told Manet that CP Group has been operating for more than 100 years, and possesses a wealth of experience and expertise. At present in Cambodia, the company is investing in raising livestock and livestock.

“Manet expressed his support for the company’s current investments in the agriculture sector and any future projects in other areas of interest to the group, such as the real estate and healthcare sectors. He asked the company to discuss the potential projects with the relevant government institutions,” added the post.

Manet also met with Wang Bo, head of China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC), the sister company of China National Machinery Industry Corporation (Sinomach).

Wang Bo told Manet that CMEC plans to invest capital of $3 billion into a joint venture with a Cambodian company in the natural gas sector.

He also expressed his appreciation for the development of Cambodia under the leadership of former Prime Minister Hun Sen and offered his expectation that this development will advance under Manet, driving more investment into the Kingdom.

Upon his arrival in Beijing on October 16, Manet met with Ge Haijiao, president of the Bank Of China Group. Ge told Manet about his plans to visit Cambodia this November, in order to push for more cooperation between the two countries’ financial sectors.

Manet said that based on a 10 year report by the group, he valued the group’s contributions to the Cambodian financial system, as well as an increase in Cambodia-China commerce, which was reflected by an increase of volume of bilateral trade between the two countries.

“They contribute to the use of local currency, which eases ways to spend for the visitors of both nations, as well as cross-border trade,” the post added.

Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, believes that Manet’s visit to China will bring more investment to Cambodia and spur increased trade between the two countries.

He noted that the new government is focused on economic diplomacy, with investment, commerce, and job opportunities all being raised in Manet’s meetings with foreign leaders.

“We are optimistic that his meetings will bring back Chinese investors and investment to Cambodia. We expect trade volume between the two countries to increase. We want to see Chinese investment in technology, as well as long-term investment that utilises the local labour force and raw materials,” said Phea.