Fresh impetus for China-Cambodia ties

By Ge Hongliang Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/10 20:08:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The year 2018 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Cambodia. In celebration, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attended the second Lancang-Mekong River Cooperation (LMC) leaders' meeting in Phnom Penh and paid an official visit to Cambodia on Wednesday and Thursday.

During the past 60 years, joint efforts have been made by both countries to consolidate the traditional friendship and promote bilateral comprehensive strategic cooperation. Pragmatic cooperation is expanded and strengthened through cooperation mechanisms like the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the LMC. New impetus is injected into the development of China-Cambodia relations in the new era.

Diplomatic relations between China and Cambodia started in the mid-1950s. After the Korean War (1950-53), there was an obvious shift in Chinese policy. The government sought to achieve some diplomatic breakthroughs between Asian and African countries so as to enhance the international standing of the People's Republic of China and open a new chapter for Chinese diplomacy.

On June 20, 1954, the first step of mutual understanding between the two countries was made during the Geneva Conference by former Chinese premier Zhou Enlai and the Cambodian delegation sent by the late Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk.

Sihanouk was initially wary of the alleged threat posed by communism in China and Vietnam. He even turned to the US for military protection and signed a military defense agreement with the US government in May 1955.

But due to his personal interaction with Zhou during the Bandung Conference in 1955, he was impressed with the friendly attitude of Chinese leaders, which further changed his opinion of China and made him firmly convinced that China would never interfere in the internal affairs of Cambodia. Then in February 1956, Sihanouk paid his first official visit to China.

The most critical period before China and Cambodia officially established diplomatic ties was 1956-58, during which the two countries made further progress in political security. When Cambodia was confronted with a diplomatic dilemma involving then South Vietnam and Thailand as well as problems of border security, the Chinese government repeatedly offered to help Cambodia stand up to the US and South Vietnam.

Before the official establishment of diplomatic ties, relations between China and Cambodia were heavily focused on economic cooperation. China has been providing Cambodia with financial aid since 1956, offering materials, supplies and merchandise for free, aiding in the construction of complete equipment projects. Cambodia was the first non-socialist nation to which China offered non-reimbursable assistance. The sincere attitude of the Chinese government and the substantial progress in China-Cambodia relations strengthened Sihanouk's determination to establish diplomatic ties with China in 1958.

In July 1996, the two countries signed the agreement on trade, investment promotion and protection. According to statistics, as of October 2017, China is the biggest source of foreign investment for Cambodia.

The historical visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Cambodia in October 2016 opened a new era for the two countries to develop their comprehensive strategic partnership. With the proposal and implementation of the Belt and Road initiative, great cooperation potential in the fields of global production capacity, trade and investment, infrastructure interconnectivity and energy resources has injected a fundamental impetus to an improvement in China-Cambodia relations. The cooperation mechanism of LMC has offered a brand new opportunity for the development of practical cooperation between the two countries.

The upgrading and elevation of China-Cambodia ties marks an expansion of traditional friendship between the two neighbors and good friends. It also marks a comprehensive development of their political, economic, security and people-to-people relations. The two countries are making joint efforts to strengthen integration of policy and development strategy, connect infrastructure and improve people-to-people contacts.

Featuring pragmatic, high-quality and high-level cooperation, China-Cambodia relations will supply the most remarkable evidence that the two countries are forging a community with a shared future.

The author is a research fellow with the Charhar Institute and the College of ASEAN Studies at Guangxi University for Nationalities.


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