China, Cambodia to enhance exchanges


Cooperation with China will benefit Cambodia’s economy and reduce Western pressure, Chinese experts said on Sunday as Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen kicked off his four-day visit to China on Sunday.

Cambodia has been a vital force, trusting and supporting China in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and in the construction of the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative, Xu Liping, a senior research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ National Institute of International Strategy in Beijing, told the Global Times on Sunday.

The strengthening China-Cambodia relationship would not be changed by questioning voices from some Western countries, Xu stressed.

Sok Touch, president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, was cited as saying by The Phnom Penh Post on Friday that Cambodia should use Hun Sen’s trip to strengthen economic, trade and investment ties with China in the face of economic sanctions by Western countries.

Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian said in an interview with the Xinhua News Agency on Thursday that Hun Sen’s visit will promote mutual political trust between China and Cambodia and strengthen bilateral economic, cultural and security exchanges.

Strengthened cooperation

Trade between China and Cambodia was $4.69 billion from January to August 2018, a 23.8 percent increase compared to the same period in 2017, the China’s Ministry of Commerce said in November 2018.

A total of 125 companies from all over the world had invested in the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone as of August, Xinhua reported in September. They include 108 Chinese companies employing over 21,000 people.

Established by China and Cambodia in 2008, the zone has boomed since 2013 with the launch of the Belt and Road initiative, Xinhua said.

China has also become the biggest source of tourists to Cambodia with more than 1.27 million visiting between January and August 2018, up 72 percent over the same period in 2017, according to an October Xinhua report.

China and Cambodia have maintained deep and friendly ties for a long time, Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the Hainan-based National Institute for the South China Sea, told the Global Times on Sunday.

The two countries’ leaders have also kept close contact, Chen noted, and economic cooperation with China will help Cambodia promote modernization and industrialization.

The two countries can enhance cooperation fighting cross-border crimes like e-fraud, internet gambling, drug dealing and human trafficking, Chen said.

Many e-fraud and internet gambling criminal suspects are based in Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, which lack the capacity to crack down on such crimes on their own, Chen noted.

Cooperation with China can help Cambodia safeguard social stability, Chen believed.

China retrieved 233 e-fraud suspects from Cambodia in December, who were invovled in more than 2,000 cases worth 63 million yuan ($9.3 million), according to China’s Ministry of Public Security.

Western pressure

Hun Sen’s visit comes as Cambodian authorities are steeling themselves in preparation for the European Union (EU) stripping the country of Everything but Arms status, according to The Phnom Penh Post.

Everything but Arms is an initiative that allows the world’s poorest countries to sell goods tariff-free to the EU, except weapons. The bloc began formal proceedings to remove the status in November, Reuters reported.

US senators have proposed trade sanctions to “restore Cambodian democracy,” The Voice of America reported on Wednesday.

Unlike the West, China has not violated Cambodia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and internal affairs, Sok Touch, president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, was quoted as saying in The Phnom Penh Post, and Beijing can help the kingdom counter punitive economic measures imposed by the EU and the US.

Cambodia’s evolving political modernization is based on stable economic development and the economy is the basis for democratization and political reform, Chen concluded.

Some Western countries believe that anything different from their political system is not democracy, said Chen, “and this is prejudice.”