China pledges $800m in aid to Cambodia

A poster of the Cambodian People's Party is seen at Koh Pich island in Phnom Penh, on July 31, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

PHNOM PENH • China has pledged four billion yuan (S$800 million) in aid to Cambodia from this year to 2021, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday, highlighting strong ties between Beijing and Phnom Penh amid a European Union threat of trade sanctions.

Mr Hun Sen is on a three-day visit to China, his most important regional ally, and held bilateral talks with President Xi Jinping in Beijing in which he asked for more aid and investment in his country's crucial textile industry.

Mr Xi pledged the grant in response, Mr Hun Sen's official Facebook post said. The Chinese leader also promised to import 400,000 tonnes of rice from Cambodia, vowed to push bilateral trade to US$10 billion (S$13.6 billion) by 2023 and encouraged more Chinese investment, the post said.

China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Mr Xi told Mr Hun Sen that China wanted to strengthen political, economic and security cooperation with Cambodia and increase China-Cambodia coordination at the United Nations and within Asean.

The two sides should hasten links between China's Belt and Road plan and Cambodia's development strategy, Mr Xi said.

The statement made no mention of the financial aid.

China has already poured billions of dollars in development assistance and loans into Cambodia through Mr Xi's Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to bolster land and sea links with South-east Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

Some Western governments have accused China of pulling countries into a debt trap with the initiative, an accusation Beijing has denied.

Mr Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party won all seats in a general election in July last year after the Supreme Court dissolved the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party in 2017 at the government's request.

The EU condemned the election as not credible and threatened to strip Cambodia of its Everything but Arms status because of the crackdown on the opposition, media and civil society groups before the election.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2019, with the headline China pledges $800m in aid to Cambodia. Subscribe