Cambodia and China are commemorating their 60th anniversary this year with the official visit of Premier Li Keqiang this week.
China is the engine of global growth and a core development and strategic partner of Cambodia.
The Cambodia-China relationship is unique in three ways.
First, although Cambodia and China have different political ideologies and systems, they still can work closely together to advance their common interests.
Second, although China is much bigger and stronger than Cambodia, in terms of size and power, both countries treat each other equally and with mutual respect.
Equal sovereignty and non-interference are the key principles of international relations and the foundations of international peace and stability.
Cambodia, as a sovereign and independent state, does not submit to any foreign intervention.
Learning from the past history, Cambodia is well aware of how a small state can survive and thrive. Economic pragmatism and strategic diversification are the core strategies of a small state.
Third, personal friendship between the leaders of the two countries has been nurtured from generation to generation.
The friendship between the then Prince Norodom Sihanouk and Premier Zhou Enlai is special. Their friendship is the bedrock of the contemporary and future cooperation between the two countries.
The current generation of leadership has nurtured and strengthened the traditional friendship.
The future generation of leadership will continue to sustain and advance the relationship based on a shared vision and interest.
The Cambodia-China relationship can be a role model in modern international relations. It is about a special and equal relationship between a big country and a small country.
Both countries can offer experiences on how two countries with a large gap in power and size, and with different political ideologies and systems, can work together to promote trust and cooperation.
Currently, China is Cambodia’s top investor and donor. In 2016, the bilateral trade volume was $4.760 billion (Cambodia’s imports from China accounted for $3.926 billion and exports to China was $430 million).
This year, Cambodia will export 300,000 tons of rice. Last year, Cambodia exported 128,000 tons.
From 1994 to 2016, Chinese investment to Cambodia accounted for about $15 billion. In 2016, Chinese investment capital was $1.05 billion.
The investments concentrate on the garment industry, hydropower, rice milling, rubber plantation and processing, mining and construction.
In terms of Chinese investment in hydro-energy, there are seven projects with total investment capital of about $2.4 billion.
In terms of development assistance, China has committed about $554 million of grants to Cambodia from 2016 to 2018.
The number of Chinese tourists to Cambodia has increased from 700,000 in 2015 to around one million in 2017 and will reach two million by 2020. Air connectivity between two countries will boost tourism and business opportunities.
Currently, there are more than 100 direct flights from China to Cambodia.
From 2004 to 2017, China has offered more than 1,000 scholarships to Cambodian students to pursue their education in China, and more than 700 fellowships for short-term training.
Looking forward, both countries need to maintain the momentum of the bilateral relations across sectors at multi-tier and multi-track levels.
The fast-rising economic presence of China in Cambodia needs further promoting of the public communication strategy and corporate social responsibility. Therefore, those who have invested or will invest should perform also as diplomats. Their activities directly will contribute to the global image of China-Cambodia ties that become a model of country-to-country relations.
Suos Yara is a Member of Parliament from the Cambodian People’s Party.