The Belt and Road in Cambodia: Successes and Challenges

It’s time for the BRI to incorporate a more participatory and inclusive approach in Cambodia.

The Second Belt and Road Forum was held in Beijing from April 25-27 this year. Some 5,000 participants from more than 150 countries and 90 international organizations, including 36 heads of states and government, were reported to attend the forum. With Cambodia being a staunch supporter of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it was no surprise that Prime Minister Hun Sen and his delegation were among the participants. Cambodians across the country, who have an increasing interest in the course of the relationship between Cambodia and China, kept an eye out for newly signed agreements that the delegation would bring home after the trip.

By many accounts, Cambodia is one of China’s closest allies in the Southeast Asian region. Politics aside, China has undeniably become Cambodia’s largest economic influencer, being the largest foreign investor, largest bilateral donor, largest trading partner, largest buyer of Cambodian rice, and the largest source of foreign tourists in the country. Since the inception of the BRI in 2013, Cambodia has embraced this China-led initiative and hopes to transform it into a source of national development. From connectivity to cross-border trade to tourism, Cambodia has benefited greatly from cooperation with China under the BRI framework and future enhancement of cooperation between the two countries will lead to even greater potential.

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