Cambodia’s Outreach to the West Does Not Change China’s Centrality

The view that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet is recharting foreign policy — by reaching out to Western countries and relying less on China — is overblown. China remains Cambodia’s closest friend due to its inside track to the Cambodian elite and its pervasive influence in Cambodia’s economy.

There is a view that Hun Manet is moving away from the pro-China tilt of his father Hun Sen, towards a more diversified foreign policy since becoming Cambodia’s prime minister in August 2023, as evidenced by his interactions with American and European business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum and his meeting with the French president during a visit in January 2024. However, Cambodia’s efforts to make new friends, especially the West, does not necessarily mean that Phnom Penh is rethinking its enduring relationship with China.

Cambodia-China relations are currently on a strong footing. China is Cambodia’s largest investor, trading partner, and aid donor. Numerous Chinese infrastructure projects such as roads, expressways, bridges, buildings, ports, dams and airports, and most recently, a controversial 180 km-long Funan Techo Canal, dot the country’s landscape despite concerns of corruption, adverse environmental impacts, debt burden, and vice and criminal activities.

Why have Chinese projects remained so pervasive?

In full:

Related Stories

Latest News