China's relations with Cambodia have been in the media spotlight, following reports that Beijing will provide more than $100 million in military assistance, after a visit by Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe to the Southeast Asian country.
China and Cambodia have broad potential for cooperation in such areas as infrastructure, finance, energy and tourism. China's cooperation with Cambodia is comprehensive, multi-dimensional and diversified, so it is normal to see China's aid to the Southeast Asian country include some portion of military assistance. Since the 1950s, China has provided aid in the form of both goods and technology to Cambodia. Today, Beijing is one of Cambodia's largest economic aid sources and its biggest source of foreign direct investment.
China's military assistance has aroused vigilance in the West, where some observers see it as evidence that China is trying to flex its muscles. But this view is unjust and misses the big picture of China's engagement in Cambodia. The huge amount of economic aid and foreign investment from China nicely meets the needs of Cambodia.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), China accounted for about 30 percent of Cambodia's total investment in 2017. As China increases presence in the Southeast Asian country, there has inevitably been controversy over China-Cambodia relations. The SMH report said Chinese investment has brought rapid social and financial changes, but not everybody is happy about the influx of money and people. The report cited one person as saying that Chinese people "are taking over all our space."
It isn't hard to find a few people who are opposed to foreign investment, but this is not the mainstream view in Cambodia. For instance, the Southeast Asian country has been working to promote a "China-ready" strategy that aims to attract 2 million Chinese tourists annually by 2020. The influx of money and people from China is welcomed by Cambodia, as this process is likely to inject new momentum into economic growth and help Cambodia as it faces a complex external environment.
A Cambodian official recently told reporters that "the government gave the Europeans and Americans 15 years to develop (our country) and all they brought was backpackers and marijuana."
However, the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone, built by Chinese and Cambodian enterprises, already employs nearly 20,000 local people. Cambodia's cooperation with China is in the interests of the Cambodian people, and we believe that bilateral economic cooperation can develop free from any outside interference.
The author is a reporter the Global Times. [email protected]