Relations between China and Cambodia date back at least to the 13th century, when Chinese emissary Zhou Daguan—also known by his Khmer language name Chiv Ta Koan—visited the Kingdom of Angkor for one year, from 1296 to 1297.Learn more
Why This Project?
In the modern history of Cambodia, no country has loomed as large as China. Beijing wields pivotal influence on its smaller and poorer southern neighbor – from providing ideological inspiration and patronage for the Khmer Rouge and its radical revolution in the 1970s, to granting a home in exile for Cambodia’s deposed monarch, to offering investment and legitimacy to Hun Sen’s authoritarian state today. For Hun Sen, China’s “no strings attached” aid has helped war-torn Cambodia build a modern infrastructure, and diplomatic support from Beijing helps him fend off human rights criticism from the West. At the same time, however, Cambodians are increasingly wondering if China’s footprint in their country is too big. Rural communities struggle with pollution and deforestation driven by Chinese resource extraction businesses, not all of which is done according to law, and farmers worry about their livelihoods as China’s expanding system of dams dramatically reduce water flows from the vital Mekong River. Cambodia’s Southeast Asian neighbors and fellow members of ASEAN complain that Phnom Penh now acts as a proxy for Beijing, dividing the 10-nation group on critical issues like the South China Sea.
This project aims to take a systematic look at the way in which Beijing has gained and continues to grow its influence over Cambodia. From military aid to infrastructure investment, to mining and logging and even to immigration, RFA’s Khmer Service will dig deep into this complex relationship.