Hun Sen Meets Xi Jinping, Promises to Support Chinese Interests

In a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said that Cambodia was committed to enhancing its cooperation with the Asian superpower and would continue to support China’s core interests and concerns in the region.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia in China’s Hainan province, Mr. Hun Sen told Mr. Xi that “This is Cambodia’s political choice” to support China’s strategic interests, the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

Mr. Hun Sen also planned to sign-off on eight deals for further Chinese investment in Cambodia in Beijing on Monday, said Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Among the deals is a proposed oil refinery project that is worth an estimated $1.67 billion.

During Monday’s meeting, Mr. Xi told Mr. Hun Sen that China will continue to enhance its support for infrastructure projects and pledged to maintain close contact between members of the Communist Party of China and the CPP, according to Xinhua.

Chinese investment in Cambo­dia is growing at a fast tick. From 1994 to 2011, $8.8 billion flowed into Cambodia through Chinese investment, making China the biggest foreign investor in Cam­bodia, according to a report by the Council for the Development of Cambodia released in January.

This figure does not take into account more than $10 billion in promised new investments from China since 2011, including a memorandum of understanding for a deal worth $9.6 billion signed in January between the Cambodia Iron & Steel Mining Industry Group and the China Railway Group Limited to build a new railway line as well as an iron and steel factory in Preah Vihear province.

Scholars and analysts of Southeast Asia have said that China’s largesse in Cambodia has given it large amounts of political leverage over Cambodia’s government. This was most recently seen when Cambodia refused to hold talks about disputed territory in the South China Sea when it hosted Asean summits in Phnom Penh last year.

Still, Mr. Kuong said Tuesday that the surge in investment from China is not opening the door to political influence from Asia’s largest economy.

“Cambodia is a free-market economy so investors from everywhere can come to invest here,” he said.

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