More than one million vehicles had travelled on Cambodia’s first-ever expressway connecting the capital Phnom Penh and the deep-sea port province of Preah Sihanouk in the first three months since its inauguration on October 1 last year.
The 187-km-long freeway, invested by the China Road and Bridge Corporation with $2 billion, is one of the results of cooperation between China and Cambodia under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
There’s a proverb in Cambodia saying “there is road, there is hope.” Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen once said China has built a lot of roads and bridges for Cambodia, so it means that China has built a lot of hope for the Cambodian people.
Hun Sen visited China in February, 2020, when the COVID-19 epidemic situation in the country was still grave. Recalling that meeting, Chinese President Xi Jinping Friday said the visit was a token of support and that Hun Sen stood firmly with the Chinese people in their fight against COVID-19.
“It gives me great pleasure to work with you to realize our three-year appointment and open a new era of building a China-Cambodia community with a shared future at the start of spring,” Xi told Hun Sen at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.
Xi pointed out that the two sides can build a cooperation framework in six major areas: politics, production capacity, agriculture, energy, security and people-to-people and cultural exchanges. Hun Sen expressed his full agreement with the idea.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pact and the China-Cambodia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) entered into force on January 1, 2022. According to the Economic and Commercial Office of the Chinese Embassy to Cambodia, the trade volume between China and Cambodia hit $14.5 billion from January to November 2022, a year-on-year increase of 19.1 percent.
On Friday, Xi stressed that China will also encourage more Chinese enterprises to invest in Cambodia, help in the construction of the Sihanoukville Special Economic zone, and support building transportation infrastructure.
As well as the expressway, China-funded projects such as national roads, hospitals, rural road and clean water supply, went into operation in Cambodia in 2022, and more agricultural products such as longan, corn and pangasius, gained official access to the Chinese market.
Also, a team of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) experts came to Cambodia last March to help the Southeast Asian nation fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
As for people-to-people and cultural exchanges, Xi noted the Chinese side will give priority to restoring and increasing direct flights between China and Cambodia, encouraging tourism cooperation and carrying out cultural heritage protection and restoration work.
China has helped restore ruined temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park since 1997 by successfully restoring the Chau Say Tevoda temple and the Ta Keo temple.
‘Development is not the prerogative of a few’
During the meeting, the Chinese president also emphasized that development is not the prerogative of a few nations.
The acts of engaging in rivalry of systems or ideological confrontation, politicizing and weaponizing economic, trade, scientific and technological exchanges, forcing the decoupling and breaking of the chain, curbing and suppressing the development of other countries, and requiring countries in the region to choose sides, are all power politics and hegemonic practices, and can never be popular, said Xi.
China stands on the right side of history and will resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests, as well as international fairness and justice, Xi vowed.
Hun Sen said the China-proposed BRI, the Global Development Initiative (GDI) and the Global Security Initiative (GSI) are of great significance to maintain world peace and promote common development, adding the Cambodian side will actively support and participate.
Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn has said the GDI “is another public good that China provides to the rest of the world,” adding it is crucial in supporting the least developed countries to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and reduce poverty.