Prime Minister-designate Hun Manet is scheduled to travel to China in mid-September for the 20th China-ASEAN Expo 2023 in Nanning, the capital city of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region – in one of his first official trips seen by analysts as a significant step in developing his relationship with the world’s second-largest economy.

Manet is slated to assume office on August 22, following a vote of confidence at the National Assembly.

In an August 13 social media post, outgoing Prime Minister Hun Sen highlighted his recent meeting with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, saying the top diplomat had reiterated China’s stance on fostering deeper relations and promoting closer cooperation with Cambodia. Wang, he added, expressed his willingness to welcome the new prime minister to the September expo.

During his meeting with Wang on August 12, Manet expressed his gratitude for Beijing’s unchanging position, noting that the new Cambodian government will maintain its stance on the two nations’ “ironclad” friendship, especially its unwavering support for the “One China Policy” and non-interference in China’s internal affairs.

Manet noted that he will also be present at the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the Chinese capital Beijing in mid-October.

Seun Sam, an international relations specialist at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, sees Manet’s upcoming visit to China as significant both within the ASEAN framework and for the Kingdom.

He said it is certain that the new head of government will strengthen close cooperation with China.

“Manet’s trip to China is important because China desires friendly states to be honest and sincere. Cambodia has a sincere relationship with China since the time of the late Father King Norodom Sihanouk, then the time of Hun Sen. It hopes to see Manet continue these ties,” he said.

He added that as China is a major benefactor to the Kingdom, the new prime minister’s visits will mark the start of a new history and strengthen Sino-Cambodian relations.

Vann Bunna, a geopolitical analyst, also noted that when a country’s new leader visits a foreign country, it demonstrates the importance of that nation to its own foreign and political affairs.

In this regard, he said that if Manet pays an official visit to China after assuming the top office, it will be clear that his government’s foreign policy prioritises China.

“And if Manet goes to China and holds bilateral framework meetings with top Chinese leaders, such as Xi Jinping, it will further demonstrate the value of their relationship,” he added.

Wang paid a two-day official visit to Cambodia from August 12 to 13, following short visits to Singapore and Malaysia.