This year, 2023, has been designated the “Year of Cambodia-China Friendship” to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two nations. Over the years, Cambodia and China have forged and nurtured an unbreakable, “ironclad” friendship that has weathered many storms and overcome many difficulties.

The friendship is rooted in the five principles of peaceful co-existence: mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty; mutual non-aggression; mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; equality and mutual benefit; and peaceful co-existence. The two countries are jointly addressing common and global challenges, strengthening contacts at all levels and across all platforms, and deepening mutual understanding to ensure they continue great achievements at national, regional and global levels.

In a daily briefing ahead of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s first visit to China since 2020, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson emphasised that the two nations have traditionally been “close neighbours and ironclad friends” while friendship forged by the older generation of their leaders has “stood the test of time and grown from strength to strength”.

At the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Hun Sen is paying an official visit from February 9 to 11. He had last visited China in February 2020 when the pandemic situation in both countries was still grave, demonstrating Cambodia’s strong support for China. Hun Sen becomes the first foreign leader to be hosted by China after the 2023 Lunar New Year.

Both sides are highly optimistic that the visit will boost cooperation between the two countries and deepen development in all fields. The Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation highlighted that the visit would offer an opportunity for both governments to further advance the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) and bolster the building of a “Cambodia-China community with a shared future” for the mutual benefit of the two nations and their peoples.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning, too, spoke highly of Hun Sen’s visit, noting that it would push for even greater progress in the building of the “community of common destiny” and carry forward the Sino-Cambodian friendship from generation to generation.

In both deeds and words, Cambodia and China have stood together through thick and thin and attach great importance to upholding genuine multilateralism, democratisation of international relations, and development of global governance toward greater justice and equity. They also firmly uphold the basic norms of international relations, safeguard international fairness and justice, and oppose all forms of hegemony, power politics, unilateralism and exclusivity, Cold War mentality, interference in other countries’ internal affairs and double standards.

Cambodia has always maintained its unwavering adherence to the One-China policy and opposition to any action or remark undermining China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, any form of separatist activities seeking “Taiwan independence”, and any form of interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. Cambodia supports every Chinese effort to safeguard core interests and achieve national reunification.

Cambodia supports and actively participates in China’s Global Development Initiative, in line with its commitment to the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It supports China’s Global Security Initiative proposal and stands ready to work with China on global security governance toward common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security.

The CSP between the two nations should not stop Cambodia from having good relations with other countries or powers, nor does it put the Kingdom at risk. The healthy relations between the two countries have always been based on the principle of equal rights and equal footing, respecting one another’s interests and adhering to the principle of non-interference.

The special and unbreakable Sino-Cambodian ties are a “unique role model” of interstate relations that can be replicated both regionally and globally. In this Year of Cambodia-China Friendship, the strong commitment and great efforts made by the leaders and peoples of the two countries underpin the mutual knowledge that the building of the Cambodia-China community with a shared future is a reality.

Kin Phea is director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC).

The views expressed are his own.