Sihanouk abdicated in 2004. As he spent most of his old age in China, his influence on Cambodian politics was limited. However, the good relationship built by Sihanouk has deeply influenced the Cambodian public.
Ethnic Chinese in Cambodia only account for 5 percent of the total population, but they control 80 percent of the country’s economy. In the current Cambodian government, more than half the cabinet ministers are ethnic Chinese. These people are believed to play a positive role in maintaining the friendship with China.
More importantly, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is well aware that China can help Cambodia to develop. After long wars, economic growth is the priority for Cambodians. Cooperating with China, which is currently the biggest donor and investor in Cambodia, can bring this country enormous economic interests.
From 1994 to 2011, China has invested over $8.8 billion. The trade volume between the two countries reached $2.5 billion in 2011, 11 times than that in 2000. The capital, technology and market of China complement Cambodia’s needs well. The cheap land and labor can also benefit Chinese investors.
The stable relationship between China and Cambodia relies on common economic interests, which will not be changed by the death of Sihanouk. Amid the building of the ASEAN Free Trade Area, the trade relationship between the two countries is expected to grow much closer.