Integrated strategies upgrade China-Cambodia ties

By Shen Shiwei Source:Global Times Published: 2019/1/24 19:59:55


Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

"To build a community of shared future with strategic significance between China and Cambodia." It is an important expression for China and Cambodia's decades long friendship and cooperation.

Indeed, integration between Cambodia's "Rectangular Strategy" and "Belt and Road" initiative (BRI) has injected new impetus. At the China-Cambodia Trade and Investment Promotion Forum 2019 in Beijing, Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen emphasized that the Chinese investment has played an important role in infrastructure urgently needed for Cambodia's economic transformation and industrialization.

The 400-megawatt Lower Sesan II hydroelectric power dam, Cambodia's largest hydropower project completed by Chinese company, recently has become a symbol of that. 

The power project contributes around 20 percentage of Cambodia's total installed capacity. It has greatly relieved electricity shortages, increasing energy independence, reducing reliance on oil-fueled power plants and alleviating poverty. Moreover, it makes lowering the electricity price possible and not increasing debt burden to Cambodia via the built-operation and transfer (BOT) model.

With more reliable and stronger energy support, coupled with Cambodia's Industrial Development Policy 2015-2025, Phnom Penh decided to gradually lower electricity prices this year. At present, Cambodia is on a fast track to jump-start industrial expansion and socioeconomic development.

This will accelerate the BRI and Cambodia's Industrial Development Policy 2015-2025 development, aiming to further clarify cooperation priorities like transport, production capacity, energy, trade and people's livelihood. Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen attended the groundbreaking ceremony for Phnom Penh's third ring road construction, financed by China's concessional loans.

As Cambodia's biggest foreign investor and trading partner in recent years, China is a sincere and true friend in Cambodia's economic diversification and participation in the global value chain.

A statement from the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) shows that the Chinese-invested Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (SSEZ) exported $372 million in 2018, a 68 percent increase year-on-year.

By late 2017, Chinese investment in Cambodia had reached $5.45 billion, about 36 percent of the total investment in the country, according to Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Bilateral trade reached $5.79 billion in 2017, a rise of 21.7 percent year-on-year. Indeed, there remains great potential for Cambodia to export more qualified high-tech products to China including agriculture products. Both countries have aimed to increase the annual trade volume to $6 billion by 2020.

China and Cambodia are "good brothers," "good friends" and "good neighbors." Intensive economic cooperation promotes intensive people-to-people exchanges. 

China is Cambodia's biggest source of tourists with more than 1.6 million visiting in 2018, accounting for one third of Cambodia's total foreign tourists and a more than 30 percent increase over the same period in 2017. The recently opened direct air link between Beijing and Phnom Penh reflects the increasing momentum.

There are more flights between China and Cambodia each week than a few years ago. On the occasion of Prime Minister Hun Sen's official visit, both sides announced that 2019 would be China-Cambodia culture and tourism year and signed relevant agreements. Phnom Penh set a clear goal to attract two million Chinese tourists by 2020 and five million by 2025.

Sincerely, China and Cambodia are integrating China's BRI and the "Rectangular Strategy" set forth by the Cambodian government, aiming at providing tremendous new opportunities for both sides and the region as a whole.

The author is a research fellow of the Charhar Institute and former government relations and investment consultant for Chinese enterprises overseas business.

Posted in: INSIDER'S EYE

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