ASEAN: Chinese influence runs deep in Cambodia.

Hu Jintao wants Cambodia help on China Sea dispute, pledges aid. Is China buying Cambodia’s silence?

Hu Jintao in Phnom Penh ahead of ASEAN Summit 2012. - copyright by awmeier.

China’s influence runs deep in Cambodia as the government depends heavily on Chinese aid as well as economic and political cooperation.

China’s President Hu Jintao (L) and Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) sit for a witness during a signing ceremony at the Peace Palace in the Office of the Council of Minister in Phnom Penh. Hu visits Cambodia from March 30 to April 2. (Reuters/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Chinese President Hu Jintao asked close economic ally Cambodia on Saturday not to push talks on the vexed issue of the South China Sea “too fast” as he pledged to double bilateral trade to $5 billion and announced fresh aid to the impoverished country.

Cambodia chairs ASEAN in 2012.

Cambodia holds the rotating chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year, giving it influence over the agenda and talks over resolving growing tensions in the disputed maritime area.

Hun Sen told Hu that while other ASEAN countries would likely raise the issue at the body’s two-day summit in Phnom Penh starting on Tuesday, Cambodia shared China’s belief that the issue should not be “internationalized” . Phnom Penh has already said the issue is off the official agenda for the meeting.

A (Chinese) code of conduct for South China Sea?

Hu told Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen that China wanted to move toward finalizing a code of conduct in the South China Sea but not “too fast” so that the dispute does not threaten regional stability.

That would risk worsening a divide in ASEAN over how to handle the decades-old territorial dispute at a time when Washington is refocusing its military attention on Asia and strengthening its alliance with the Philippines.

China, which says it has sovereignty over the sea and the islands within a looping “nine-dashed line” on its maps, rejected a Philippine proposal within ASEAN in November to define contested areas and allow joint development.

More bilateral aid and direct investments.

The two leaders agreed to target a doubling in bilateral trade to $5 billion by 2017. China has pledged more than $2 billion in aid to Cambodia since 1992, mostly in soft loans.

China’s foreign direct investment in the country was $1.19 billion in 2011, almost 10 times that of the United States, according to an estimate by the government’s Council for the Development of Cambodia.


  • – March 31, 2012
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