Prime Minister Hun Sen has praised the strong relationship Cambodia enjoys with China, saying the Asian giant plays a significant role in promoting peace, stability and development in the region and the world.
In a September 9 interview with Chinese media, broadcast by Fresh News yesterday, Mr Hun Sen extended his congratulations over the upcoming 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, adding that China’s development has brought benefits to Chinese people and people around the world.
“Looking into its geography, with less than 10 percent of the world’s total land area, China feeds nearly 20 percent of the world’s population,” he said. “This is its success that [everyone] should not overlook, and it is a great achievement under the leadership of the Communist Party of China.”
“Besides development, China has also played many important roles in maintaining peace and bringing prosperity to the region and the world,” he added.
Mr Hun Sen said China played key roles in resolving the Asian financial crisis in 1997 until 1998, and the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 due to its robust economic growth.
The premier noted that the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative has also provided great opportunities and advantages to participating countries, including Cambodia.
“I have seen more and more countries joining the BRI,” he said. “The initiative has abetted Cambodia in accelerating the improvement of infrastructure such as roads, ports and airports, as well as special economic zones.”
Mr Hun Sen also noted that Cambodia-China diplomatic ties, established by both countries’ leaders of previous generations, has grown stronger and the relationship is based on the principal of mutual respect, trust and understanding.
“The respect for the one-China policy is to respect China’s sovereignty,” he said. “Respect for independence, sovereignty and mutual benefit is a special feature in our relations.”
Mr Hun Sen noted that China has helped Cambodia construct more than 3,000 kilometres of roads throughout the country, eight longspan bridges that have contributed to the Kingdom’s economy and other infrastructure which have helped to strengthen ties with neighbouring Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.
Mr Hun Sen also took the opportunity to lash out at critics over accusations that Cambodia will fall into a debt trap of China, claiming that the country only owed 23 percent out of a debt limit set at 40 percent of the GDP.
“There are many countries that have debts to China […] I do not believe that Cambodia will fall into a debt trap since we have implemented a clear debt management mechanism like this. I will not allow the debt to exceed the limit,” he said.
Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, yesterday said Cambodia’s debt to China is manageable due to the government’s clear policy and evaluation of its repayment.
However, he noted that Cambodian foreign policy faces criticism for its tendency to lean toward China and away from the western countries.
“Although Cambodia has gained a lot of benefits from its relationship with China, it also faces problems on another side,” he said. “As a small country positioned between superpowers, Cambodia will have a hard time if it suffers direct and indirect effects from those countries.”
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay yesterday said the government should not rely too heavily on China.
“Our Prime Minister’s statement should have reflected our country’s and government’s dependence on China,” Mr Mong Hay said.