Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Forum mulls Biden’s foreign policy

Forum mulls Biden’s foreign policy

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Roundtable discussion on the Joe Biden administration at the Royal Academy of Cambodia on Monday. Hong Menea

Forum mulls Biden’s foreign policy

Cambodian political analysts have said that no matter what direction US President Joe Biden’s foreign policy goes, the Kingdom must look after its own interests while it stands between superpowers, the US and China. Furthermore, the country’s politicians should not dwell excessively on foreign criticisms.

Analysts expressed their views on what the world can expect from the new US president during a roundtable discussion organised by the Royal Academy of Cambodia on February 8.

Social analyst Meas Nee said Cambodia may hold fast to its positions only when it has the capacity to face and work with the superpowers. Leaders must not be led to attack one superpower by representatives of the other. Cambodia should look to examine issues and solve them cooperatively.

“In the past, we lost our land until it became what we have today. If we follow our old historical norms, our small country will encounter further dangers,” Nee said.

Puy Kea, a news agency correspondent, said the US and EU see Cambodia as leaning towards China. He said Cambodia had made attempts to build closer ties with the US, but their side had not reciprocated.

Geological expert Jean-Francois Tain said Cambodia is currently returning to a policy of neutrality as it did during the period from 1953 to 1970. He described Cambodia as having fallen under the influence of the US from 1970 to 1975 and the influence of China from 1975 to 1979, followed by that of the Soviet Union from 1979 to 1989. Neutrality, he stressed, is only a theory.

“Cambodia must see where its national interests are. I don’t agree that we should push China away. If not for China, Cambodia would still use ox-driven carts for transportation. China was the first country to invest in Cambodia and the first to provide development assistance grants. China lends the most to Cambodia and helps build infrastructure. Why should we push China away?” he said.

“Developing a nation is one thing, and maintaining a policy of neutrality is another. If we open our arms to Western countries like the US and EU, but they don’t return the gesture, what can we do? We tell them that our foreign policy is neutral, and we desperately need development. We cannot stand to see neighbouring countries developing [while we fall behind].”

To improve Cambodia’s neutrality, Tain said the country must strengthen its economy and local politics. If Cambodia is not independent, its neutral foreign policy will not work.

“I pray that the US and Western countries come to invest in Cambodia. Then they would not talk about democracy here because their companies would be here, too,” he said.

Pen Bona, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists and editor-in-chief for the television station PNN, said Cambodia should prioritise its own development. Cambodians of all political leanings should not favour China or the US, but should instead look at the directions in which those countries are moving and capitalise on opportunities brought by aligning interests. This would also help the Kingdom avoid unforeseeable risks, he opined.

“Politicians should overlook some issues that appear to interfere with the sovereignty or internal interests of the nation. Of course, one must stand up to opponents, but we needn’t overreact with regard to national interests.

“I appeal to the public on all sides of the political spectrum – we need to push development forward to avoid making our next generation suffer. We must push our country forward, not backward,” Bona said.


  • All Covid restrictions for inbound travellers lifted

    Cambodia has apparently taken the final step towards full reopening of the country without Covid-19 restrictions by removing all requirements for inbound travellers, who until now had to show health certificates indicating that they have tested Covid-19 negative in the past 72 hours as well as

  • Typhoon Noru brings flash floods – 16 dead

    An official warned that that the 16th typhoon of the season, Noru, had brought heavy rains to areas the Mekong River and flooded thousands of homes in the provinces bordering Thailand. As of September 27, the death toll from the flooding had risen to 16. National Committee

  • Cambodia stands firm on 5PC: No invite for Myanmar to ASEAN Summit this year

    Cambodia has not invited Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, chairman of Myanmar’s ruling State Administration Council (SAC), to the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summit and related meetings scheduled for next month in Phnom Penh. The government will instead invite a non-political representative from Myanmar

  • Mushrooming borey projects and home financing – a cause for concern?

    A spurt in housing developments is typically a sign of a growing economy but underneath all that might lay some anxiety of credit growth as developers offer financing to buyers at higher rates, an activity the central bank identifies as ‘shadow banking’ Earlier this year,

  • Thai Senate delegates in Cambodia to discuss anti-graft co-op

    A delegation from Thailand's Senate was in Phnom Penh on September 28 to meet their Cambodian counterparts to discuss strategies for fighting corruption and enhancing cooperation. The Thai delegates were from its Senate’s Committee on Studying and Inspecting Corruption, Misconduct and Strengthening Good Governance. They

  • Hun Sen’s rare visit to Cuba: What’s going on?

    Back on August 17, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that he would deliver a speech at the 77th UN General Assembly (UNGA) at the UN headquarters in the US’ New York City, visit Cuba and attend the state funeral of the slain Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo