China-Cambodia relations

People walk along the riverside in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on 19 November 2021. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

Is Chinese support the main reason for Cambodia's success with pandemic control?

Cambodia, a lower-middle-income country, has enjoyed relative success in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. Approximately 88% of the entire Cambodian population has been vaccinated, which makes it ranked 6th globally and only behind Singapore in ASEAN. Some have credited Cambodia’s success as a result of Chinese support, but academic Bradley Murg thinks that many other reasons are just as important.
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?
A food delivery motorist rides on a street as deliveries rise due to lockdown restrictions introduced to try to halt a surge in cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus in Phnom Penh on 26 April 2021. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

Japan passes China in the sprint to win Cambodian hearts and minds

Since 2010, Japan’s foreign policy toward Cambodia includes a new geopolitical dimension of balancing China’s influence in Cambodia, including strategies such as non-interference in Cambodia’s domestic affairs and providing development assistance that aligns with the Cambodian government’s development plan, focusing on infrastructure, human capital development, and agriculture. Japan has been relatively successful given the Cambodian population’s mixed reactions to China’s engagement in Cambodia. And it seems that Cambodia will continue to benefit from Japan's balancing-China strategy, as long as China-Japan rivalry stays manageable.   
People wait at a traffic light on a street in Phnom Penh on 11 January 2021. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

Confucius Institutes accepted in SEA and embraced by Cambodia, unlike in the West

China’s Confucius Institutes have been vilified in the West, but they have gained much traction in Cambodia. This is not surprising, given that Cambodia is one of China's closest allies in Southeast Asia. ISEAS visiting fellow Vannarith Chheang explains why.
A street vendor pushes her cart in the rain in Hanoi, 15 October 2020. (Nhac Nguyen/AFP)

How should Southeast Asian countries respond to an upsurge in Chinese investment

In this geostrategic climate, Southeast Asian countries should welcome rather than reject investments from China for their own developmental needs. Welcoming Chinese investment will also likely spur competing investments from the West and Japan.
A general view shows a market in Phnom Penh on 2 October 2020. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

Cambodia: Hard landing for China’s soft power?

Since the early 2000s, there has been an influx of Chinese nationals, investment, and development assistance as part of China’s projection of its soft power in Cambodia, most prominently in Sihanoukville. All this has led to resentment among Cambodians, amid China's seeming efforts to turn Sihanoukville into Cambodia's Shenzhen.
Soldiers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Marine Corps are seen in training in China, 21 January 2016. (Stringer/REUTERS)

Will China establish military bases in Southeast Asia?

The US Department of Defence has asserted that Beijing has “likely considered” logistics and basing infrastructure in five Southeast Asian countries. It is worth noting that such arrangements are predicated on a host nation’s inclination to support such a presence. At the moment, such willingness appears to be in short supply, except in the case of Cambodia.
A stretch of the 400-kilometre long China-Laos railway in Vientiane, 29 July 2020. (Xinhua)

China's Belt and Road Initiative faces huge challenges in Southeast Asia

Beijing has pledged financing, materials, technology and manpower to build railroads, hydropower stations and other infrastructure projects in Southeast Asian countries under the BRI. But China continues to face enormous challenges getting projects off the ground in countries that need the investment most. US academic Murray Hiebert examines why.