After a bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen attended a signing ceremony between senior Cambodian and Chinese officials.
In total, Hun Sen presided over the inking of eight agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoU) before leading his delegation back to the Kingdom on Wednesday, the prime minister’s official Facebook page said.
The Rural Road Renovation Project Phase II Exchange Letter, Rural Water Supply Project Phase II Exchange Letter and the Phnom Penh-Preah Sihanouk Province Express Way Support Construction Project Exchange Letter were signed by Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Vongsey Vissoth and China International Development Cooperation Agency chairman Wang Xiaotao.
The Council of Ministers Bodyguard Building Project Consignment Letter was signed by Vissoth and Chinese Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan. The Consignment Letter of the Project for National Road 7, which has been damaged by floods, was signed by Minister of Public Work and Transport Sun Chanthol and Zhong. The Takeo Temple Renovation Consignment Letter was signed by Minister of Tourism Thong Khon and Zhong.
The concession loan agreement for the Preah Vihear Province Reservoir Development Project was signed by Vissoth and Export-Import Bank of China president Hu Xiaolian.
The remaining one, the Agreement on the Promotion of Investment Cooperation under the Rectangular Strategic Plan and Belt and Road Initiative was signed by Sok Chenda Sophea, the minister attached to the Prime Minister and Secretary General of the Council for the Development of Cambodia, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China executive director Yi Huiman.
Along with the $600 million grant from China, Prime Minister Hun Sen confirmed on Facebook that his official visit had strengthened and expanded cooperation on key sectors, such as agriculture, commerce, investment, tourism and infrastructure.
He said the Kingdom is ready to support China with the Belt and Road Initiative and promote bilateral trade of up to $10 billion in 2023.
Political analyst Kin Phea said though people claim Chinese aid negatively impacts the Kingdom, he believes the opposite. He said the Kingdom will see positive impacts and opportunities when it establishes clear conditions to the aid it receives from China and uses them effectively.
“It is also a geopolitical balance because China is the second world economic power and one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. When we have good relations with any superpower, it brings geopolitical balance for a small country like Cambodia,” he stressed.
Phea said the Kingdom needed to develop a foreign policy in its, and its peoples’ interest. Cambodia should not be a puppet and should not surrender to the international community because doing so is a loss of sovereignty.
“We are facing difficulties. First, we lose foreign relations with some countries and second, we lose independence in foreign policy decision-making. We cannot follow the reins of a foreign country, whether it be China, the US or anyone else,” he said.
Centre for Policy Studies president Chan Sophal said as China is becoming the largest creditor and aid donor in the world, having good relations with it will cause a positive impact for the Kingdom and bring more investment for both private and public sectors.
The Kingdom currently lacks infrastructure and needs more development. However, he said that in exchange, China receives the Kingdom’s natural resources, such as its minerals and trade.
“Cambodia’s economy is growing by seven per cent [annually] because we started from a low point, so we have many things to do. Infrastructure is the first – and we lack it. Our country is small, but it does not have bridges, roads, irrigation systems, canals, electricity or clean water. We lack many things,” he said.
Sophal said that a strong and connected infrastructure reduces transportation costs for agricultural products and is key to strengthening the economy.
During the prime minister’s three-day official visit to China between January 20 and 23, the Chinese government offered a $600 million grant to the Kingdom and increased its import quota of rice up to 400,000 tonnes.