Cambodia Has Benefited From BRI projects, but Must be More Strategic Going Forward

Cambodia’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative has strengthened relations with China and brought net benefits, but also highlighted the risks of over-reliance on one country and the need for a more comprehensive framework for evaluating new investments.

China is Cambodia’s largest bilateral donor, lender, investor, and trading partner. About a quarter of Cambodia’s total trade, a third of aid and two-fifths of FDI and external debt involves China. Although Sino-Cambodian diplomatic and economic relations date back centuries, they have intensified and grown sharply over recent decades.

Economic relations have been strengthened by Cambodia’s active participation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Cambodia has been a vocal and enthusiastic proponent of the BRI since its inception in 2013.

In Cambodia, the BRI focuses mainly on loans provided for the development of physical transport infrastructure, although it has also been indirectly associated with the development and transformation of the port city of Sihanoukville. There are also investments in agriculture, energy, and manufacturing, apart from strengthening ties through people-to-people exchange.

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