On March 30, China and Cambodia completed the recent iteration of their joint military exercise. The conduct of the exercise and its messaging thereafter spotlighted how both sides are viewing the interaction amid wider trends and developments in the relationship and in the region more broadly.
As I have observed before in these pages, while Cambodia has long had a defense relationship with China, the security aspect of ties between the two countries has nonetheless come under intensified scrutiny over the past few years amid wider developments, including Cambodia’s tighter embrace of Beijing amid its deteriorating rights record and fears of Chinese military facilities in Cambodia. One of these defense engagements is Exercise Golden Dragon, which has expanded from just a few hundred people when first held in 2016 to thousands of personnel. The most recent iteration, featuring around 3,000 personnel, kicked off on March 15 amid the global coronavirus pandemic.