No simple solution to China’s dominance in Cambodia

The origin of Cambodia–China ties can be traced back to the 13th century when a Chinese diplomat visited Angkor Wat, yet it is only in the last decade that the relationship has strengthened dramatically.

This China–Cambodia marriage of convenience presents both opportunities and challenges for Cambodia.

The country attracted US$3.6 billion in foreign direct investment in 2019, of which 43 per cent came from China. That year, bilateral trade between the two countries reached US$9 billion. China has financed around 70 per cent of Cambodia’s much-needed roads and bridges — by 2017, Cambodia had received US$4.2 billion in Chinese grants and loans. China also promised to deliver 4 billion RMB (US$588 million) in aid between 2019–2021. And Chinese investors support Cambodia’s garment industry, which represents 15 per cent of its 2019 GDP through export earnings, and generates 750,000 jobs. Also, as part of its coronavirus diplomacy, China has supported Cambodia by sending medical supplies to Cambodia, with Chinese President Xi Jinping describing Sino-Khmer relations ‘unbreakable’.

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