In 2024, China and Cambodia formally begin their people-to-people interaction. This fantastic endeavour between the two nations is full of possibilities and hopes. Although their relationship has reached an all-time high, no matter how well-thought-out a strategy may be, there will always be obstacles. What obstacles might there be to their people-to-people exchanges? 

The language barrier is one of the biggest obstacles. Though Mandarin Chinese is China’s official language, English is widely spoken in Cambodia. Initiatives to improve language education programmes, support cultural immersion, and foster language exchanges between professionals and students from both nations are necessary to overcome this hurdle.

Cultural differences in norms and customs present another obstacle. China and Cambodia have different social mores, traditions and cultural identities. Comprehending and honouring these distinctions is crucial for fruitful interpersonal communication. Programmes, workshops and events for cultural exchanges can aid in bridging this divide and developing appreciation and understanding across different cultures.

Furthermore, the effectiveness of an exchange depends on providing equal possibilities for participation. Platforms that enable people from a variety of backgrounds – students, professionals and community members – to actively participate in the exchange programmes must be established. This inclusiveness fosters a feeling of growth as a group, ownership and belonging.

In today’s globalised world, the relationship between China and Cambodia is extremely important. In addition to being essential for bilateral collaboration, closer ties between these two countries are also necessary for regional stability and global development.

Mandarin is the most commonly spoken language in China, yet Khmer is the official language of Cambodia. Making meaningful connections can be challenging due to this extreme linguistic difference. Language limitations can lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretations and even inadvertent offence. Promoting language learning activities, such as language classes, translation services and exchange programmes is crucial to closing this gap. Through these initiatives, people from the two nations may be able to converse more successfully and develop a greater understanding of one another’s cultures.

People-to-people exchanges may also be hampered by cultural differences. China and Cambodia both have distinct social norms, customs and cultural practices. If these differences are not handled sensitively and with an open mind, they may result in misconceptions, prejudices and even confrontations. Promoting cultural awareness and understanding through intercultural discussion, workshops and cultural exchange programmes is essential to overcoming these obstacles. We can promote an atmosphere of respect and admiration by teaching people about the cultures, practices and values of China and Cambodia.

Additionally, initiatives to promote increased travel and tourism between China and Cambodia should be undertaken. People-to-people interaction may thrive by streamlining the visa application process, advocating for reasonably priced travel options, and highlighting the distinctive experiences and attractions that each nation has to offer.

A major obstacle to people-to-people exchanges between Cambodia and China is also the lack of awareness and comprehension of each other’s cultures. Despite the fact that both nations have a vivid past and rich traditions, there is frequently a lack of awareness and comprehension regarding one another’s practices, beliefs and way of life. 

The cultural disparities in communication techniques between China and Cambodia pose a difficulty to people-to-people exchanges. China and Cambodia communicate differently, which occasionally causes miscommunications and misunderstandings.

People in China typically communicate more implicitly and indirectly, relying on context and non-verbal clues to express their meaning. However, Cambodians tend to communicate in a more simple and direct manner, emphasising clarity and directness.

Effective communication between people from different cultures might be hampered by these communication style variances. When a Chinese person assumes their Cambodian counterpart will grasp their subliminal messaging, miscommunication can happen since their Cambodian counterparts could be anticipating a more straightforward and explicit exchange.

To surmount this obstacle, it is critical to cultivate intercultural awareness and understanding. This can be accomplished by promoting candid communication between people in China and Cambodia, organising language exchange programmes and offering cultural sensitivity training. Through fostering a deeper comprehension of one another’s communication preferences, people can overcome differences and forge closer connections throughout interpersonal interactions.

Digital platforms and technology can also be used to assist in breaking down barriers to communication. Instant messaging apps, video conferencing software and online translation tools can all help to guarantee that messages are effectively sent and understood by both sides while facilitating real-time contact.

In order to guarantee the success of people-to-people exchanges between China and Cambodia, it is imperative to tackle any potential obstacles. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to get around these challenges and improve ties between the two countries.

First of all, a more seamless exchange can be substantially aided by fostering intercultural communication and improving cultural awareness. Collaborative efforts in education, language exchange programmes, and structured cultural exchange programmes can all help achieve this. Misconceptions can be cleared up and respect for one another can be nurtured by encouraging people from both nations to learn about one another’s traditions, customs and values.

In addition, creating networking and cooperation platforms can aid in bridging the divide between people who are engaged in interpersonal communication. Like-minded people can join, exchange experiences and start cooperative projects in online communities, forums, and social media groups. These platforms have the potential to improve communication, develop alliances, and build a community of like-minded people who are committed to fortifying bilateral ties.

In conclusion, there is hope for the future of people-to-people exchanges between China and Cambodia. There are numerous advantages that may be realised by overcoming obstacles and putting good solutions in place. These deeper ties will allow the two nations to forge a successful and mutually beneficial cooperation that will last for years to come.

Seun Sam is a policy analyst at the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC).

The views expressed in this article are solely his own.