Prime Minister Hun Sen’s official visit to Beijing has drawn to a close, with the Cambodian premier reporting a string of successful meetings with high-ranking officials, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, to strengthen bilateral ties and secure investment.
During the trip from February 9 to 11, Hun Sen met with President Xi Jinping for talks that saw the two leaders discuss the future of the two countries, further Chinese investment in Cambodia, and projects that have strengthened bilateral relations.
Hun Sen also held discussions with Premier Li Keqiang and met with Chairman Li Zhanshu, of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, according to a joint statement from Cambodia and China on ‘Building a Cambodia-China Community with a Shared Future in the New Era’.
“Both sides spoke highly of Cambodia-China impregnable ironclad friendship, which has been carefully nurtured by the elder generation’s leaders of both countries and has been constantly growing from strength to strength in the last 65 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, showcasing the new type of international relations,” it said.
During the visit, which was also attended by Hun Sen’s son Hun Manet, the two nations officially launched “Cambodia-China Friendship Year” events to celebrate the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations. In addition, 2023 marks the “Friendship Year”, which aims to create a “Cambodia-China Community with a Shared Future”, to ensure relations remain strong looking forward.
Under a raft of pledges, China committed to continue to heavily invest in Cambodia’s development. During the visit, Hun Sen also met with three leading Chinese companies who are spearheading major road, rail and water infrastructures in the Kingdom.
China also gave its support to invest further in bridges, reservoirs, sewage treatment, and submarine fibre optic cables. In addition, it will roll out projects to build rural roads, enhance water supply, construct schools, and conduct medical projects.
The creation of a “Fish and Rice Corridor” centred around north-western Cambodia and the Tonle Sap Lake area was discussed, along with developing modern ecological agriculture near the lake. China also unveiled plans to digitise the sector by introducing digital agriculture.
Further promoting Sihanoukville as an economic hub was also on the agenda. China pledged to explore the development of an “Industrial and Technological Corridor” with the goal of developing Preah Sihanouk province as a model of a multipurpose Special Economic Zone.
“Build on the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone as a flagship project and Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway to attract more competent Chinese enterprises to increase investment in Cambodia, exploring cooperation possibilities in transportation facilities, power grids, fibre optics networks, warehousing and logistics, to optimise the mix of Cambodia-China production capacity cooperation,” the statement said.
Investing in increasing Cambodia’s green energy capacity was another issue tackled during talks. Hydropower and solar power were the two hot topics, with both parties pledging to look into developing other clean energy.
The military was also discussed, with agreements made to tighten engagement between the People’s Liberation Army and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, “tapping into the potential of the cooperation mechanism through the two militaries by enhancing counterpart forces exchanges and joint exercises and training, with enhanced practical cooperation in such areas as capacity building, military training, logistics and equipment,” the statement added.
In addition, an increase in information-sharing between law enforcement officials to combat transnational crimes, counter-terrorism, “preventing a colour revolution”, human trafficking and cross-border gambling, was agreed.
Hun Sen also encouraged China to promote Cambodia as an attractive tourism destination now Covid-19 restrictions have been dropped. While China agreed to invest in developing Cambodia’s science, technology and innovation sector to bolster human resources.
China committed to continue investing in preserving Cambodia’s rich heritage and culture. This includes restoration projects at Preah Vihear temple and the Royal Palace at Angkor. China also said it will welcome more Cambodian students in the future.
In May, Cambodia is slated to host the South East Asian Games. China offered its support and said it will continue to help train the Kingdom’s athletes in preparation. Cambodia will send delegations to attend the Chengdu Summer World University Games at the end of July and the Hangzhou Asian Games in September.