China's top diplomat has assured outgoing Prime Minister Hun Sen that Sino-Cambodian relations will further strengthen under the new government led by Hun Manet, with the Chinese side keen on aiding the Kingdom in its journey towards greater prosperity.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi made this pledge during a meeting with Hun Sen and Manet at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on August 13, the second day of Wang’s official visit to the Kingdom.

Hun Sen’s personal assistant Eang Sophalleth told reporters after the meeting that Wang had extended greetings from Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders to the caretaker prime minister.

“[Xi] also congratulated [Hun Sen] and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on their victory in the 7th National Assembly election with the support of more than 80 per cent of the electorate,” said Sophalleth.

“It was evaluated as a transparent, fair and just election in accordance with the law by many national and international observers,” he added.

Sophalleth quoted Wang as saying during the meeting that his visit to Cambodia is to reaffirm that “China supports the Kingdom and believes that under the leadership of Manet, cooperation between Cambodia and China will grow even bigger. Especially, Cambodia will be more prosperous”.

Sophalleth further noted that Wang’s frequent visits to Cambodia have enabled him to witness the country’s vibrant growth, particularly in Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen extended his gratitude to Xi and other Chinese leaders for their greeting messages. He noted that the Cambodian people were “aware” of the impending change in leadership before the 2023 general election and that the ruling party’s sweeping victory demonstrated their support for the imminent transition.

Wang’s visit was filled with numerous meetings. On August 12, he met with Sok Chenda Sophea – secretary-general of the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC). He then met with former foreign minister Hor Namhong, lauding him for his efforts to enhance cooperation between the two nations. The following morning, Wang continued his meetings with foreign minister Prak Sokhonn.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, commented on China’s diplomatic approach, noting that Wang’s visit and meetings with top Cambodian leaders represented diplomacy linked to the building of a “community of common destiny”.

He said it demonstrated China’s support for Cambodia across generations.

“The relationship between Cambodia and China and their cooperation underscores the common interests, both geopolitically, economically and socially, and affirms to the world the strong “ironclad” ties between the two nations,” Peou said.

Outgoing Prime Minister Hun Sen (rights) meets with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on August 13. SPM

Ro Vannak, co-founder of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy, said China has pursued a soft foreign policy. The diplomatic relations and meetings during Wang’s visit are in line with China’s strategic agenda and reflect the nation’s commitment to fostering connections with other nations.

The diplomatic meetings between China and the leaders of Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia, particularly those involving the outgoing and incoming prime ministers of Cambodia, serve China’s interests first, he added.

Vannak emphasised that China’s diplomatic agenda is primarily aimed at fulfilling its ambitions in Southeast Asia.

“I think that the relationship between Cambodia and China will not change in the future and will be even better so that the two countries can protect each other’s interests because the new leader is seen to be implementing the same policies as the old leader,” he said.

“The apple does not fall far from the tree,” he added, suggesting that the relationship between Manet and China will continue on the same positive path that his father has established.

Wang arrived in Cambodia on the afternoon of August 12 for a two-day official visit as part of his tour to two other ASEAN countries: Singapore and Malaysia. He was also granted a royal audience with King Norodom Sihamoni.

During his meeting with his Cambodian counterpart, Wang reaffirmed China’s unwavering commitment to respecting Cambodia’s sovereignty and expressed strong support for the Kingdom’s emerging government leadership and development path.

China also reaffirmed its support for Cambodia’s initiatives within international frameworks, while Sokhonn renewed the Kingdom’s support for the One-China policy, according to the foreign ministry’s press release.

“While reassuring Cambodia’s steadfast adherence to the One-China policy, Sokhonn reaffirmed the Kingdom’s firm commitment to further reinforcing a high-quality, high-level, and high-standard community of common destiny, and fostering the diamond cooperation framework, thus mutually benefiting both countries and peoples,” it said.