Sokvy Rim

Co-Founder and Programme Manager, The Thinker Cambodia

Sokvy Rim is co-founder and programme manager of The Thinker Cambodia, a digital commentary forum. 

A health worker inoculates a woman with a dose of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination at a zoo in Surabaya, Indonesia, on 13 September 2021. (Juni Kriswanto/AFP)

China's vaccine diplomacy in Southeast Asia is working, but can it keep up the good work?

For several years now, China has sought to increase its soft power, spending resources to do so, including through providing funding for its Belt and Road Initiative and Confucius Institutes. But its plan has not been very effective, not least because it is often perceived to use coercion more than persuasion. But after conducting rounds of vaccine diplomacy during Covid-19 pandemic, are its efforts finally bearing fruit?
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen (second from right) gestures as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (centre, left) looks on as they attend a handover ceremony of the Morodok Techo National Stadium, funded by China's grant aid under its Belt and Road Initiative, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 12 September 2021. (Tang Chhin Sothy/Pool/AFP)

How China became Cambodia's important ally and largest donor

While Cambodia is aware that its close relations with China may leave it vulnerable in many ways, it seems to think that this is still the better bet in light of shaky relations with the US and a historical distrust of Vietnam.
A woman walks past a closed shop in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 25 June 2021. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

Is Cambodia overly dependent on China?

Sokvy Rim warns Cambodia against being over-reliant on China. As the saying goes, there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests. As the US did in the past with policies that contributed to the rise of the Pol Pot regime, China could abandon Cambodia or take actions against its interests. What would Cambodia do then?