Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Hun Sen heralded the continued strong bilateral ties between their nations in a meeting on Monday as part of the latter’s ongoing state visit to the Asian giant. In the meeting, China also committed $588 million in aid to the Kingdom.
President Xi emphasised the strong diplomatic ties the two countries had enjoyed over the past 60 years, adding that he believed that with Chinese cooperation, Cambodia was set to undergo a period of sustained economic growth.
“The Belt and Road Initiative will continue to strengthen and expand China’s cooperation with Cambodia. Both sides will continue to pay close attention to expand cooperation at the regional and international levels."
“At the moment, though there are uncertainties in international relations, the relationship between China and Cambodia has truly offered a lot of benefits for both countries. Through this, China will continue to enhance cooperation with Cambodia, especially its contribution to Cambodia’s development."
“Cambodia will be more successful in the next 60 years. Like a good neighbour, China supports [Prime Minister Hun Sen] and the Cambodian People’s Party [CPP], which won a landslide victory in the general election of July 2018,” Xi said.
The prime minister expressed his pleasure to be back in China. He also thanked the Chinese government and its people for warmly welcoming Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk during their recent visits to China for medical check-ups.
Hun Sen updated Xi on the situation in the Kingdom following the general election, government reforms and measures his party were putting into place to stop foreign interference in Cambodian affairs.
He also highlighted the establishment of the Supreme Council for Consultation and Recommendations last year, a forum made up of the government and political parties that took part in the elections, 19 of which have joined.
During the meeting, Hun Sen urged Xi to encourage Chinese investors to invest more in the Kingdom, especially by opening new factories. He also affirmed his commitment to strengthening bilateral ties, saying that this year would see further cultural and tourism exchanges between the two countries.
Hun Sen further confirmed that he would join the second Belt and Road Forum that is due to be held in April this year. The first forum was held in Beijing in July 2017, drawing 29 foreign heads of state, as well as representatives from over 130 countries.
The Belt and Road Initiative remains Xi’s signature foreign policy plan, with it intended to boost investments in ports, power plants and other infrastructure across more than 80 countries from Asia, Europe and Africa.
Xi said that China and Cambodia will continue to formulate comprehensive cooperation plans across all sectors, including politics, security and economics.
He added that China will import 400,000 tonnes of Cambodian rice this year, and will strive to boost the trade volume between the two countries to $10 billion by 2023. Further to this, Xi committed four billion yuan ($588 million) in aid between 2019 to 2021 to facilitate
Cambodia’s ongoing development strategy.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said that China’s aid has increased Cambodia’s dependence on that country, which is “the largest donor, biggest creditor, largest rice buyer, largest investor, the largest contributor to Cambodia’s largest economic development and guarantor of Cambodia’s territorial sovereignty that is most influential and most powerful”.
Political analyst and Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch said Sino-Cambodian ties were more important than ever, as the EU continues to exert economic and political pressure – most notably threats to withdraw the Everything But Arms preferential agreement – over what it claims is a decline in democracy in the Kingdom.
“China can use Cambodia as a [positive] example to show other countries what happens when any country holds hands with China."
“The era of Xi Jinping with Hun Sen must show the world that holding hands with China is not as bad as they said."
“The benefit for Cambodia is that the Chinese bring money to invest. But we as the landlord must think about the master plan – where are the special economic zones, what areas should be preserved and what should be developed."
“China’s intention is to strengthen solidarity, history and politics, while the intention of the West is democracy, transparency, human rights and its own interests,” he said.
Ministry of Economy and Finance Secretary of State Vongsey Vissoth could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.