Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday met with the Chinese Minister of Culture and Tourism Luo Shugang to further boost cooperation between the countries.

During the meeting, which took place at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Mr Hun Sen and Mr Luo officially declared 2019 as ‘the year of tourism and culture exchange’.

Mr Luo’s five-day visit follows Mr Hun Sen’s official three-day visit to China last week.

In Beijing, the Cambodian Prime Minister met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang to discuss the future of Sino-Cambodian relations. Senior officials from both countries signed at least eight agreements.

Eang Sophalleth, Mr Hun Sen’s assistant, told reporters after yesterday’s meeting that Mr Hun Sen and Mr Luo discussed the strong relationship between the countries.

“Mr Luo Shugang congratulated Samdech Techo (Hun Sen) on his successful trip to China, where much was achieved,” he said.

During his meeting with Mr Hun Sen, Mr Luo said the purpose of his visit to Cambodia was to declare 2019 ‘the year of culture and tourism exchanges’ between China and Cambodia, according to Mr Sophalleth.

“Samdech stressed that we should use the year of tourism and culture exchange to promote closer ties and cooperation between the countries, who have strong historical ties.”

On Tuesday, Mr Luo attended a gala dinner with Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong, Tourism Minister Thong Khon, Culture Minister Phoeurng Sackona, and the Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian.

Mr Hun Sen praised the strong relationship between Cambodia and China in a post on his Facebook page yesterday, citing the “great success” of his official trip to Beijing.

During the trip, Mr Hun Sen presided over the signing of eight agreements with the Chinese government, which covered infrastructure projects like the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway, ancient temple restorations, clean water supply projects, and other developments as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Kao Kim Hourn, Minister Delegate Attached to the Prime Minister, said after the prime minister’s return that Mr Hun Sen had secured a 100,000-tonne increase in the import quota China has in place for Cambodian rice. The quota increase, he said, will help offset the impact of tariffs recently imposed by the European Union.

China also announced that it will provide about $600 million in assistance during the next three years to support the Kingdom’s economy and build infrastructure.

“It is the first time that we have seen agreements linked to the Belt and Road Initiative,” Mr Kim Hourn said. “Many good things came out of this visit, including a commitment to strengthen bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries.

“This visit brings Cambodia-China relations to the highest they have been in history. The visit was a success, especially when it comes to politics and the economy,” he added.

Political analyst Hang Vitou yesterday said cultural exchanges, along with political and economic interests, are improving ties between the Cambodian and Chinese governments.

“The strong ties between both countries are based on many sectors but culture is definitely one of the most important ones,” he said. “Both countries have strong cultural ties that allow them to keep forging closer bonds.

Mr Vitou noted that the relationship between Cambodia and China improves every year as political tension between China and the US and between the US and Cambodia mounts.

“In this context, both countries need to join together to challenge the US,” he said. “Cambodia needs China’s assistance to face potential encroachments from neighbouring countries,” he added.