Cambodia’s Development “Inseparable” from China’s Support: PM

PM Hun Manet met with Liu Jianchao, head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on Sep 3, 2023.

PHNOM PENH – The backing of the Chinese government is essential for Cambodia's overall growth, Prime Minister Hun Manet said, reiterating the support of the one-China policy.

“Cambodia's development in all areas is inseparable from the support of the Chinese government and people, especially the timely assistance for the successful management of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hun Mnet said to the head of the International Laison Department of the Communist Party of China Liu Jianchao on Sept.3.

Hun Manet met with Liu Jianchao at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, a day before he headed to the ASEAN summit in Indonesia. Liu proceeded to meet former PM Hun Sen on Sept. 4.

Liu said China supports the new government and is supportive of further cooperation and new initiatives with Cambodia. He applauded the Pentagonal Strategy unveiled right after Hun Manet took office, which defines the key areas of development for the coming 25 years.

Hun Manet said the Cambodian People’s Party led by Hun Sen continues to endorse the One-China Policy, pledging to advance youth cooperation, such as training, a youth house project for Cambodia-China friendship and upcoming Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) in many cooperation areas, as a testament of the two counties’ closeness.

Liu Jianchao stressed the Cambodia-China shared community building in the new era (2024-2028), placing high hopes on the Hun Manet for Cambodia’s development. He addressed Hun Manet as a young leader with a vision while saying Hun Sen was a true leader and a respected political teacher for China. 

Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi visited the country last month before Manet took power. All eyes were on the new leader, and questions of whether the West Point graduate swings more to China or the West were posed.

Some analysts said Hun Manet is likely to maintain solid policy and infrastructural connections with China, yet he would make an effort to improve ties with the United States and the West.

Jack Sato, a data analyst at the Lowy Institute think tank in Australia, wrote that Hun Manet's diplomatic activities suggest that his priority is strengthening connections with Cambodia's direct neighbors as well as close allies like China and Japan.

“Despite Hun Manet’s West Point education, his engagement with the United States has been limited,” Sato wrote.

China is Cambodia’s number-one source of investments

Director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute Kin Phea said the underlying ideas of the nation's foreign policy are independent of the leader's educational background.

“The guiding principles of the country's foreign policy are not based on the leader's educational background but on Article 53 of the Constitution, which affirms Cambodia's commitment to permanent neutrality, non-alliance and peaceful coexistence,” he wrote in an opinion piece.

Phea continued that the economic issues affecting both the European Union and the U.S. are well known to Hun Manet and “his youthful new administration”, who also understand the financial benefits of having strong connections with China.

“While the ‘old guard’ of Cambodia carries a lot of scars from the Cold War, the ‘young leaders’ are faced with diminishing returns from the country's relations with Western economies, especially because, despite trade with the European Union and the United States rising over the past years, China remains Cambodia's largest trading partner and primary source of investment,” he wrote.

Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia Senior Advisor Kavi Chongkittavorn said Cambodia will focus on the countries that greatly impact its economic and political security, such as China.

“It is pretty clear that Hun Manet's biggest challenge is managing Cambodia's relations with the West, especially the U.S. and Western Europe. The West is critical of Hun Sen's way of doing things, but Hun Manet can pave his own way,” he wrote

“In fact, Washington should be Hun Manet's top priority.”

Hun Sen wrote that Cambodia and China have a long-standing, friendly relationship, established in 1958, nurtured by generations and now an ironclad friendship.

“I could certainly affirm that Cambodia-China relations are built on the foundation of a profound political trust and driven by a deep sense of mutual respect of each other's independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and non-interference in internal affairs,” he wrote in the op-ed which was published in the China Daily.




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