By Sun Narin
Recently, China has agreed to lend $US195 million to Cambodia so it can buy Chinese military helicopters, in addition to some 29 agreements signed by the two countries. China last year donated more than 250 jeeps, trucks and ambulances to Cambodia’s army after the United States cancelled plans to provide it with 200 vehicles, in response to the government sending 20 ethnic minority Uighur asylum-seekers back to China in 2009.
One-China policy in Cambodia has lead China to flow a tremendous amount of investment and assistance in the country.
Today, China tops the list of countries in terms of foreign direct investment, the term for long-term economic participation, despite a significant drop from US$4.48 billion invested in 2008 to $930 million in 2009, according to statistics from the Council for the Development of Cambodia. In addition, China has become the biggest international aid in Cambodia both grant and soft loan.
In return, Cambodia’s government has always agreed on the investment of China. The government provides a lot of land concession to China’s investors.
Since the famed Chinese diplomat Zhou Daguan made his well-documented trips to Cambodia late in the 13th century, Cambodia and China have maintained bittersweet relations, with China often taking the upper hand.
But while Chinese money has made many commercial projects in the Kingdom possible, the resulting power this gives these firms in Cambodia’s economy has sceptics concerned over Beijing’s political and commercial influence.
Son Chhay, an opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, told Lift that China’s investors use economic promises to gain political clout in Cambodia, and never consider the adverse impacts of their investments on the developing country.
He said that, in reality, Chinese investments damage the Kingdom’s environment and fail to generate sustainable employment for the country’s labour force.
“Chinese investors are aggressive businesspeople who capitalise on Cambodia,” he said. “They are given special rights by the government”, which “invariably agrees with what [Chinese businesses] want”.
Rather than develop the Kingdom’s private sector, Son Chhay said that huge Chinese investments smother the efforts of local businesspeople, who are unable to compete with these bigger, better-funded competitors, which undercut them with lower prices.
“If the government doesn’t take action and improve their management of laws and principles, Cambodia will lose its current resources and there will be no reason for other people to invest in the country.”
At the same time, Cambodia has started to forge relations with the closed allied countries with China. Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Spokesman Mr Koy Koung Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Spokesman Mr Koy Koung says that Cambodia, which is following one-China policy, is opening the consulate in Lahore, the second largest city in Pakistan, to establish the relations and cooperation on the diplomacy and trade between both countries.
He said: “Cambodia sees the potential of Pakistan and then the relations will strengthen and develop the trade, investment and tourism.”
He adds that Cambodia is the independent and neutral country, which is not the coalition state of other countries. “It is not related to China’s clout in Cambodia. It is the country’s decision to side with those countries,” he said.
It is noticeable that Cambodia, recently, has started to forge the relations with the closed allied countries with China. Last month, North Korea and Cambodia has agreed to exchange the business while North Korea is wishing for rice import from Cambodia. In August 2010, leaders from Iran and Cambodia met and discussed the relations while Iran was under the world’s sanctions.
However, Cambodian critics say that Cambodia has tendency to start the relations with the countries, which are against the United States, but are intimate friends to China.
Mr Yim Sovann, the Sam Rainsy Opposition Party Spokesman in Cambodia said that everything is dependent on the country’s government to start the relations with those countries. However, he says that the government has to make sure that the relations will benefit the nation and people, and urge those countries to respect human rights, democracy and people’s benefits.
Cambodian critics say that Cambodia has tendency to forge the relations with the countries, which are against the United States, but is closed friend to China.
Last month, North Korea and Cambodia has agreed to exchange the business while North Korea is wishing for rice import from Cambodia. In August 2010, leaders from Iran and Cambodia met and discussed the relations while Iran is under the world’s sanctions.
Mr Son Chhay, the Kingdom’s opposition Sam Rainsy Party’s lawmaker, raised the two reasons that North Korea started forging relations with Cambodia: first North Korea sees the noticeable relations between Cambodia and South Korea, which reflects the concerns of its loneliness and second, the country has been facing the extreme shortage of rice and they want low-price rice from Cambodia with the exchange of something else.