Cambodia welcomes and supports China’s rise and sees it as not only a development miracle more significant than the rising tide that raises all boats but also as a global phenomenon that raises hope and values for the China Silk Road member countries.
Both countries have seen a growing interdependence and interconnectedness in economic and trade sectors, particularly through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cooperation. Moreover, Cambodia and China will benefit from promoting the relations at all levels, in particular people-to-people ties, in the implementation of the comprehensive and strategic cooperation programmes.
The two countries have envisioned some joint development plans as the two economies are increasingly interdependent. Cambodia is also supporting the Chinese BRI in that the investments that come through the BRI have benefited the country in many ways, such as for the development of physical infrastructure and regional connectivity in the Mekong region. The inflow of those investments comes in large volume from both the Chinese state-owned enterprises and the private sectors to support the local development needs of the country.
In recent years, not only are state-to-state and party-to-party strong, but people-to-people ties have formed a cornerstone that bridges the two nations even closer.
China has been an important player in the development of Cambodia. China was engaging in the UN peacemaking process in the early 1990s, contributing to the success of the peace building process of Cambodia.
It is worth noting that the historical relations between the two countries dated back to at least a thousand years ago as evidenced in the Cambodian ancient inscriptions and the Chinese chronicles. These relations have become further cemented over the past 25 years. The two countries have attempted to work together to push forward the development of the China-Cambodia comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, at both bilateral level and at regional level, such as through the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation.
For whom has the vision been exalted and why it matters at all?
The two-way trade volume between the two countries reached over $7.4 billion in 2018 in which China had a trade surplus of more than $6 billion. Since early 2022, the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) went into effect, while both countries have expected to boost bilateral trade to $10 billion by 2023. China is Cambodia’s first bilateral FTA partner before other bilateral FTAs, including the Cambodia-Korea FTA, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement.
China has made a steady progress in removing technical and non-technical trade barriers with the Kingdom. Since 2000, bilateral trade has grown steadily from barely $500 million in 2005 to over $8 billion in 2020. In 2020, Cambodia’s exports to China reached over $1 billion.
Both countries have planned to jointly construct the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and forge a development cooperation and partnership programme as the bilateral relations have reached an all-time high lately.
In April 2019, both countries signed the action plan 2019-2023 on building the Cambodia-China community of a shared future. Since the action plan has been signed, despite some progress has been made, a lot of potential remains to be tapped. Peace, security, stability and the growing middle-class in Cambodia have provided domestic and foreign investors, professional expatriates and tourists with opportunities to enjoy the fruits of peace, freedom and rule of law.
China has also been a leading provider of Covid-19 vaccines and medical supplies to the Kingdom in the concerted fight against the pandemic.
For this, the government and people of China should share the pride with the government and people of Cambodia for the success achieved so far in the containment and prevention of the pandemic, much in line with the China Health Silk Road diplomacy. For Cambodia, the Chinese vaccines are strategic ones, while other vaccines are used as a booster. I wish to highlight here that China has gained more respect and international recognition not only in Cambodia but across the globe.
The Covid-19 pandemic has derailed development plans and efforts of many governments, including those of Cambodia and China. Despite the challenges, Cambodia is keen on promoting a quick and resilient recovery through modernisation of the agricultural, service and manufacturing sectors and diversification of the Cambodian economy, while speeding up institutional, legal and policy reforms to improve efficiency, competitiveness and attractiveness as a destination for responsible investment, clean businesses and free trade.
Cambodia is on a steady path toward transforming itself into a regional hub for production, assembly and distribution of goods and services. I believe that the plan for building a community of shared future for Cambodia and China will take shape and become a gateway for Chinese investors as well as visitors.
When crimes such as kidnapping, act of money swindling, drug debauchery or deadly attacks reported in Cambodia are associated with Chinese residents doing businesses or on a short-term stay, the news often goes viral, affecting both Cambodia and China.
The alleged “Blood Slave” involving a 31-year-old Chinese national identified by his surname Li – who appeared to reside in Sihanoukville and was reportedly physically abused for repeated blood extractions by a Chinese gang who threatened to have his internal organs harvested for sales in the black market – has been proven untrue. On February 28, the Cambodian National Police released a press statement debunking the allegation. Sadly, the alleged crime was concocted by the alleged “victim” and a few of his supporters to gain sympathies and to solicit financial contributions, including free medical treatments for his chronically ill health.
In fact, “Blood Slave” has never been the case in Cambodia. My salutes are due to the governments of Cambodia and China for their swift action to bring the issue to the fore and settle it out first thing first. As a lawmaker, I wish to reassure that Cambodia has put the rule of law into practice as the nation is moving progressively toward a mature democracy and an active player in the global economy.
Moreover, Cambodia respects the Constitution which protects and upholds human rights and adheres to the universal values, the rules-based multilateralism and international order and norms. In this regard, Cambodia fully protects the welfares and rights of all people in Cambodia, including their other legal rights as enshrined in the Cambodian laws.
Yara Suos is a member of the Cambodian National Assembly