Cambodia both needs and benefits from China’s investment in its infrastructure construction, while China welcomes other countries’ participation in the Cambodian market and is willing to compete there based on fair terms, analysts said.
The comment came as Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen is in China for a four-day visit starting from Sunday.
The visit is intended to improve trade diversification and strengthen political mutual trust between China and Cambodia based on close bilateral relations, Guo Jiguang, an expert on Southeast Asia affairs at the National Institute of International Strategy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said.
Infrastructure, trade, investment and agriculture are the main four areas where the two countries are seeking to expand cooperation opportunities, according to Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian, the Xinhua News Agency reported on January 16.
Bilateral trade reached $4.69 billion from January to August 2018, up 23.8 percent year-on-year, China’s Ministry of Commerce said in November 2018.
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Xinhua reported last September that 86 percent of the companies investing in the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone were Chinese, according to information available as of August. These 108 Chinese companies had provided over 20,000 local jobs.
Infrastructure remains the priority for Cambodia, and China has rich experience in developing infrastructures based on its Belt and Road initiative (BRI), said Guo.
According to the Economic and Commercial Counsellor’s Office of the Chinese Embassy in Cambodia, 80 percent of the electricity in Cambodia comes from Chinese-backed hydroelectric or thermal power projects as of May 2017.
At the end of last year, Cambodia’s largest hydropower project started electricity generation in the northeastern province of Stung Treng, Cambodia. China’s Huaneng Hydrolancang International Energy holds a 51 percent stake in the joint venture, with the rest held by Cambodia’s Royal Group and Vietnam’s EVN International.
Huaneng has said on its website that the station could produce 1.97 billion kilowatt hours annually, which could solve the problem of power consumption for 3 million Cambodians annually.
A resident in the capital city of Phnom Penh, who only gave her surname as Hang, said that Cambodian requires infrastructure projects on a large scale.
“We really need a lot of infrastructure development to improve our productivity, so investment from China or elsewhere into this sector will be a great help to us,” Hang told on Monday.
She added that after the BRI came to Cambodia, there was a significant increase in Chinese investors.
Regarding concerns about China’s presence in Cambodia via the BRI, Bai Ming, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said other countries could either compete or cooperate with Chinese companies together in Cambodia based on fair terms.
“Chinese companies are competitive in terms of project quality and price but other countries could compete with Chinese companies in Cambodia’s market based on fair and reasonable terms. They could also cooperate with Chinese companies to help Cambodia so they could play to their advantages,” Bai noted.