China’s Strategic Canal in Cambodia May Cause Regional Destabilization

A Chinese-backed canal project aims to connect the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh on the Mekong river with the sea by 2028, removing the need to go via Vietnam.

The Funan-Techo canal will be financed, built, operated and owned by a Chinese state-owned firm at a cost of $1.7 billion. The Cambodian government has been conducting an intense propaganda campaign about the supposed merits of the project. But the official rationale is confused, incomplete and contradictory.

Cambodia has an existing deep-water port at Sihanoukville, which is not mentioned a single time in the studies purporting to show the economic advantages of the Funan-Techo canal. The Sihanoukville port, built with French help in 1961, is a vital conduit for Cambodia’s international trade. The port today is badly managed, with its administration undermined by corruption, to the detriment of its competitiveness against ports in neighbouring countries.

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