Cambodia remains one of China’s key partners for its Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks exchanges of mutual understanding and economic development in partner countries that have steady political atmospheres, economists said yesterday.
China’s drive to invest significant amounts in these initiatives, ranging from economic corridors to infrastructure developments, are not driven solely by the county’s objective to achieve the set targets but are also mitigated by country risk assessment and management, as well as political and economic stability in the countries which have the initiative, said Zhai Jinjun, vice chairman of the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges.
Mr Jinjun said that Cambodia is a strong partner of China’s, evidenced by the numerous trade delegations between the countries and aid projects currently underway.
“The railway line proposed from China to Asean, the Kunming Singapore railway, under construction in various stages would connect China to Singapore and all the countries of Southeast Asia of which Cambodia is a key component, as emphasised because of its geopolitical importance and geographical location,” Mr Jinjun said.
Mr Jinjun added that Cambodia also remains a strong partner for China because of its aligned stances on certain issues, including the South China Sea controversy.
Mr Jinjun said the railway line consists of three main routes: from Kunming to Bangkok, an eastern route via Vietnam and Cambodia, a central route via Laos, and a western route via Myanmar.
The southern half of the network from Bangkok to Singapore has long been operational, though a high-speed line has been proposed and is targeted for completion by 2021, he added.
Mr Jinjun noted that the disconnected rail link from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City is being reconsidered.
“The cost for construction is estimated to be around $600 million and the Chinese government will fund most of the construction,” he said. “The Cambodian government will deal with the relocation of people who will be affected by the proposed railway.”
Professor Chen Wenling, the chief economist with CCIEE, said that while China was determined to implement its objectives as rapidly and as smoothly as possible, there were projects which were hampered by a change in governments, investment policies, or by economic failure in host countries.
“China and its corporations which undertake the various projects under the BRI have always kept these risks in mind and undertook country risk analysis and mitigation to ensure the successful implementation of the projects.
“While we want to implement projects as soon as the host country agrees to them, we still have to undertake these studies as well as financial and economic viability. Though the host country or countries may not be able to foot the bill for the bilateral projects, China stands ready to provide financing on favourable terms or through its two major banks,” he said.
Ms Wenling noted that while many countries have embraced the initiatives, there were some who declined to be part of the initiatives such as India and the United States, which want to create their own initiatives along similar lines as the BRI.