How Will China’s Relations With Cambodia Fare Under PM Hun Manet?

Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit Cambodia this weekend in order to secure the support of the country’s more youthful leadership.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit Cambodia this weekend as part of his three-country tour to Southeast Asia that also includes Singapore and Malaysia. This is Wang’s first visit abroad after replacing his successor Qin Gang as foreign minister in late July, following Qin’s short-lived tenure and mysterious disappearance from the public eye.

Wang will arrive in Phnom Penh in the midst of a high-stake transition, in which long-time Prime Minister Hun Sen is stepping down after more than 38 years in power, to be replaced by his eldest son, Hun Manet, who is scheduled to take office on August 22. It’s not only him; almost all of the old-guard cabinet members will leave their posts to make ways for younger officials, in some cases the children of the current ministers. Wang’s visit will be significant for both the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP)’s quest for international legitimacy and the future of Sino-Cambodian relations during an era of new leadership in Phnom Penh.

Wang has often visited Cambodia at important political junctures. Not long after first becoming foreign minister in 2013, Wang visited Phnom Penh shortly after the CPP had suffered a shocking drop in popularity to the then-rising Cambodia National Rescue Party, which its domestic and international standing was severely under threat. At the time, Wang declared that Beijing would defend Phnom Penh against foreign interference during its political crisis. Similarly, in 2018, after the CPP collected all 125 parliamentary seats as a result of the one-horse race election that year, Wang met his Cambodian counterpart Prak Sokhonn in Singapore and promised that China would shield the Cambodian government from Western pressure.

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