Concerns over China’s giant investment in Cambodia


The bilateral relations between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the People's Republic of China have strengthened considerably after the end of the Cambodian-Vietnamese War, during which China had supported the Khmer Rouge against Vietnam. Although they do not share a contiguous border, China has had a historic cultural and commercial relationship with Cambodia. Ethnic Chinese constitute approximately 3-5% of Cambodia's population or 350,000.
Since 1997, China began developing closer relations with the regime of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Facing international isolation after the 1997 coup that brought him to power, Hun Sen cultivated close ties with China, which opposed efforts by Western countries to impose economic sanctions on Cambodia.
During the visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao between April 7-April 8, 2006 both nations signed several bilateral agreements and a treaty of "Comprehensive Partnership of Cooperation." China diversified its aid and investments in Cambodia and promised to provide USD 600 million in loans and grants. China has canceled much of Cambodia's debt and granted a fresh loan of USD 12.4 million for the construction of the building housing the Cambodian government's council of ministers and the restoration of the Angkor Wat temple and heritage site. About USD 200 million has been earmarked as a low-interest loan for the construction of bridges spanning the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. China has cultivated strong ties with Cambodia, gaining access to its sea ports that can allow China to exploit oil reserves in the Gulf of Tonkin. During the visit, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen described China as Cambodia's "most trustworthy friend." Trade between Cambodia and China totaled USD 732 million in 2006. However, Cambodia has a significant trade deficit of USD 632 million with China as 60% of products in Cambodian markets are Chinese-made.
China undeniably plays a crucial role in Cambodia’s economic development. China invested a total of US$9.17 billion between 1994 and 2012. Chinese investment in the textiles industry has increased Cambodia’s exports and created employment for thousands of women in rural areas, while investment in the energy sector, particularly in hydropower development, has helped reduce Cambodia’s chronic energy shortages. China is also a major source of foreign assistance for Cambodia. By 2012, Chinese loans and grants to Cambodia reached US$2.7 billion, making it the country’s second-largest donor after Japan. Cambodia has been using China’s so-called ‘no strings attached’ aid to build roads and bridges, helping to improve the country’s much needed infrastructure.
The China–Cambodia relationship has reached new peaks in recent years. China is now Cambodia’s largest foreign investor, a major donor of aid and an increasingly important trading partner. But this growing relationship is also accompanied by renewed controversies. Behind these impressive numbers lie hidden agendas and serious social and political implications. Cambodia’s largest opposition party has expressed concern that China’s investment in the country is heavily skewed towards exploiting natural resources, wreaking havoc on the environment. While Chinese investment and aid is much needed for economic development, China’s unquestioning approach to how its aid and investment money is distributed and used has exacerbated corruption, deteriorated good governance and human rights, and ruined Cambodia’s resources and natural environment. Human rights activists have often accused Chinese textile factories of abusing worker’s rights, while China’s hydropower investments have destroyed protected areas, forest biodiversity and wildlife habitat.
In return for its generous financial aid, China has exerted its influence on Cambodia to propel its own political interests. Cambodia’s decision to deport 20 ethnic Uyghur asylum seekers to China upon Beijing’s request in 2009 is a clear example of this. In another instance, after receiving millions of dollar in pledges from China last year, Cambodia refrained from discussing the South China Sea disputes during the ASEAN Summit, which was harshly criticised by the international community and resulted in the failure by ASEAN’s foreign ministers to issue a joint communiqué for the first time in ASEAN history. Cambodia has also been accused of favouring Chinese investment, putting China’s investment interests above that of other nations. According to a report by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, 50 per cent of the land concessions granted since 1994 — totalling 4.6 million hectares — were given to Chinese companies to invest in mining, hydropower and agriculture in Cambodia.
To Vietnam, China has served Cambodia as a counterweight to the dominating influence of Vietnam. There are concerns that the government is at risk of losing its autonomy. If it were to rely solely on China, Cambodia also risks losing face and trust from the international community, and its role in ASEAN might be marginalised if it continues to put China ahead of ASEAN./.
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All comments [ 10 ]

Quân Hoàng 14/10/14 19:56

We, Vietnam, should also concerned about that.

Huy Quốc 14/10/14 19:57

China began developing closer relations with the regime of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who had actually been a pro-Vietnamese leader and a defector from the Khmer Rouge during Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia.

Hoàng Lân 14/10/14 20:01

China's close ties with Cambodia have also served to gain leverage against Vietnamese influence in the region

Vân Nhàn 14/10/14 20:09

Being influenced in economics will lead to being influenced in politics and lose sovereignty.

Hùng Quân 14/10/14 20:38

China has also cultivated military ties. In the aftermath of the 1997 coup, China provided USD 2.8 million in military aid and has since supplied wide range of military equipment,[5] training of military and police cadre and naval vessels to combat drug trafficking and piracy.

Lê Tín 14/10/14 21:10

Instead of chosing to be a Vietnam's friend, Cambodia has chosen to be China's servant

Quốc Cường 14/10/14 21:14

Cambodian laborers work the soil in this remote area under the watch of Chinese bosses and guards whom they cannot understand and live in bamboo shacks painted with Chinese characters they don’t comprehend.

Huy Lâm 14/10/14 21:18

The China National Overseas Oil Corporation (CNOOC) have sought to launch projects for oil exploration and exploiting of Cambodia's hydrocarbon reserves.

Quốc Kiên 14/10/14 21:23

That's a vivid lesson for Vietnam, we should be independent from China's economy and culture.

Phạm Hiếu 14/10/14 21:28

Cambodia is so ungrateful, they don't remember in the past who save them from Khmer Rouge's genocide. Vietnam should consider the relationship with Cambodia in the future.

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