China has pledged US$600 million (S$960 million) in aid to Cambodia when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Prime Minister Hun Sen last Sat (8 April).
The high level visit which included the signing of 11 agreements on various issues including health, telecommunications and transnational crime and other events was seen as a symbol of China’s deepening influence in Cambodia.
“It opens a new chapter in the Cambodian-Chinese relationship…after this we believe the Chinese will bring more investment and aid to Cambodia for development,” said Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong after Wen’s arrival.
Cambodia praised the achievements made by China in its reform, opening up and modernization drives and affirmed its commitment to the one-China policy. “Chinais a powerful country, especially in economics, and it also plays a big role as a member of the UN,” said government spokesman Khieu Kanharith. PM Hun Sen also told the reporters that “Cambodia will benefit greatly from this visit”.
Premier Wen is the most senior Chinese leader to visit Cambodia since Beijing’s leadership change in 2003 signaling the close strategic alliance between the two. The Chinese government attaches great importance to its relations with Cambodia and wishes to promote bilateral exchanges and cooperation in all fields. Mr Wen congratulated the people of Cambodia on the remarkable achievements they had made in achieving political stability and economic growth.
Wen also stressed that China supported the integration process of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and backed ASEAN in playing a leading role in the process of East Asian cooperation. This can also be seen as a step closer to the success of the China-ASEAN summit marking the 15th anniversary of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations which will take place in Nanning, China this October.
China has also made a public announcement to pledge its support for Cambodia’s accession to Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
Skeptical analysts have interpreted Beijing’s move as a desire to negotiate deep sea-ports as part of its strategic ambitions in Southeast Asia which is seen as its main fuel gateway. “Its working the turf to establish a Chinese presence. Its broadening out from the political and economic and cultural and scientific dimensions to the military,” said Carl Thayer, University of New South Wales, Canberra.
Others have warned that the warming relations may result in a delay of trial for surviving Khmer Rouge leaders for which, China was a key backer of the 1975-79 regimes, headed by Pol Pot.
Chinese Premier Wen pledges $960m in aid to Cambodia (Straits Times, 9 April 2006)
Cambodia rolls out red carpet for Wen (Straits Times, 8 April 2006)
China grants $600 mln in aid, loans to Cambodia (The Star, 8 April 2006)
Chinese PM calls for more trade with Cambodia (Today, 8 April 2006)
China, Cambodia vow to develop comprehensive partnership (Xinhua, 9 April 2006)
Cambodia reaffirms commitment to one-China policy (Xinhua, 8 April 2006)
China backs Cambodian APEC entry (Bangkok Post, 10 April 2006)