China-Cambodia relations

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Manet poses for pictures, as he attends an event to meet with garment workers on his first public appearance since taking office, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 29 August 2023. (Cindy Liu/Reuters)

Cambodia’s foreign policy under new Prime Minister Hun Manet

Hun Manet, son of Hun Sen, has been named Cambodia’s new prime minister in August. While Cambodia has maintained a close relationship with China during Hun Sen’s rule, how will its new leader negotiate the nation’s foreign relations amid great power rivalry? Cambodian commentator Rim Sokvy says even if the new leadership wants to align more with the West, and improve the transparency and accountability of the nation's bureaucratic system, the current state of domestic politics could hold it back from doing so.
Supporters of Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) attend an election campaign for the upcoming national election in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 1 July 2023. (Cindy Liu/Reuters)

What is China's role in Cambodia’s upcoming election?

The US’s previous approach of pressuring Cambodia on improving its processes for democratic elections only pushed Cambodia closer to China, says Cambodian researcher Sokvy Rim. Now, with the ruling party dominating politics, the US and the West’s impact looks set to be further diminished. Will China’s influence further increase?
A Ukrainian soldier of the 10th Separate Mountain Assault Brigade "Edelweiss" prepares to fire a French MO-120-RT61 mortar towards Russian positions at a front line in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on 4 March 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP)

Why China's close ally Cambodia is a staunch supporter of Ukraine

While China appears to be getting further embroiled in the Russia-Ukraine war on the side of Russia and may seek to influence close ally Cambodia to follow suit, the latter does not seem to be easily swayed.
A screen grab from a video featuring the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway. (Internet)

Easy highway, troubled city: How China wins and loses Cambodians’ hearts

Two China-driven projects show striking contrasts. The newly opened Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has been well-received by Cambodians. But grand plans for Sihanoukville to be an investment hub and “multi-purpose” city have instead seen Chinese businesses crowding out locals, a boom-bust cycle in construction and illicit trades.
Local people are seen on their vehicles as they get stuck in traffic while the VIP convoys pass during the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 3 August 2022. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

China: Needed but not well-loved in Cambodia

Cambodian commentator Sokvy Rim explains why recent Chinese immigrants in Cambodia are viewed with suspicion and even some dislike despite major Chinese investment flows in Cambodia and related economic benefits.
Almost all signboards in the Cambodian city of Sihanoukville are in Chinese. (Kwong Kai Chung/SPH Media)

The revival of Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s ‘Gold Rush’ city

In this fourth instalment of a seven-part Lianhe Zaobao-Business Times series on China and ASEAN, we look at the role of Chinese investors in the rise, fall and recovery of Cambodia’s Sihanoukville province.
Theary Seng, a US-Cambodian lawyer and activist who is facing treason and incitement charges, poses in front of Phnom Penh Municipal Court ahead of her hearing in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 3 May 2022. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

Why Cambodia is leaning towards China and not the US

Sokvy Rim explains why Cambodia’s foreign policy options have been constrained by the leaders’ concerns of regime survival at various stages of its history. If this trajectory continues, it may be hard for it to conduct a hedging strategy in its relations between China and the US.
Lion dance heads are displayed at a temple in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 21 January 2022. (Cindy Liu/Reuters)

Cambodians welcome yet are wary of the new Chinese

The new Chinese of Cambodia, namely Chinese migrants who arrived in the country after the 1990s, have reinfornced the dominance of the ethnic Chinese in Cambodia's politico-economic order. The findings of a preliminary online survey of 100 respondents conducted in February 2022 show that Cambodians generally perceive the new Chinese positively but social tensions between Cambodians and the new Chinese are high as well.
A vendor pushes a bicycle loaded with brushes and brooms for sale along a street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 10 February 2022. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

How will Cambodia manage the ASEAN chairmanship and China relations?

Though small, Cambodia is a state with agency, says Cambodian researcher Chheang Vannarith. The country has shown that it can stand up for what it believes in at key moments, such as when it decided to co-sponsor the UNGA resolution demanding Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine. As ASEAN chair for 2022, it seeks to bridge differences, and even if it has the image of being dominated by close friend China, this does not mean that it will do its every bidding.