Cambodia-China ties advance further

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Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (centre L) speaks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (centre R) during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing April 8, 2013. REUTERS/Minoru Iwasaki

China is an old and true friend of Cambodia. Bilateral cooperation has produced remarkable results especially after the signing of a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement in 2010. Now China is Cambodia’s top trading partner and investor.

China has helped strengthen Cambodia’s national independence, empowered the Kingdom to implement its own development path, and offered a strategic space for the country to manoeuvre with other nations on an equal footing.

Cambodia has been consistent in respecting China’s core national interests and supported Beijing’s position on many international issues of common interests.

Both countries have enjoyed and cherished an equal relationship although China is a big country and Cambodia a small nation. The power asymmetry does not translate into the loss of Cambodia’s independence and sovereignty.

Political trust and a convergent strategic vision and interests are the foundations as well as the characteristics of bilateral partnerships. Trust has been earned through mutual respect, mutual learning and adjustment, and common interests.

China has sincerely supported Cambodia in many fields from socio-economic development to defence and security cooperation. In return, Cambodia has supported China-led multilateral initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC). Cambodia can be an important gateway for China to exercise its benign leadership role in the Mekong region and beyond.

The visit by Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe to Cambodia this week marked another milestone in promoting bilateral defence and security cooperation. China pledged an additional grant of $130 million to support the defence sector in Cambodia in 2018. And the first exhibition of Cambodia-China military cooperation was held to commemorate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two “ironclad” friends.

Notably, both countries will strengthen cooperation on maritime security and expand the scope and scale of the joint military drills in 2019, dubbed the “Golden Dragon”. The enhanced defence cooperation not only benefits the two countries and peoples but also the whole region as bilateral and multilateral mechanisms are intertwined. Good bilateral relations between Cambodia and China also positively contribute to the partnership between Asean and China.

Also this week, Chinese Deputy Minister Gao Yan paid a visit to Cambodia to further promote bilateral economic and development cooperation. The bilateral trade volume reached a target of $5 billion in 2017.

China also pledged a $2.5 million grant to clear unexploded ordnances in Cambodia, agreed to send Chinese experts to conduct studies on the transport system in Cambodia, and supported the renovation of the Royal Palace building in Siem Reap province.

Looking forward, Cambodia-China ties will continue to bear fruits with closer strategic coordination at different levels and across different sectors. Defence and security cooperation will be remarkably strengthened through joint military exercises and capacity building, while economic ties and people-to-people bonds advance further.

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