The Khmer Times, 30 December 2015
The revival of China ushers in a new era of regional and inter-regional connectivity. China has invested in infrastructure in the region and beyond to gradually realize its global power by connecting economic with strategic, political, cultural interests.
In 2013, President Xi Jinping initiated “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR), which consists of the land-based Silk Road and the maritime Silk Road, connecting the continents of Asia, Europe, and Africa. It is estimated that OBOR will benefit 4.4 billion people, which accounts for about 63 percent of the global population.
To implement OBOR, China has created China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund valued at RMB 3 billion in 2011, contributed $40 billion to the Silk Road Fund in 2014, and established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which was formally launched in late this year.
OBOR is the hallmark of Mr. Xi’s vision of building a community with common destiny which features on four principles: 1) the need to make sure that all countries respect one another and treat each other as equals; 2) the need to seek win-win cooperation and common development; 3) the need to pursue common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security; and 4) the need to ensure inclusiveness and mutual learning among civilizations.
China is interested in promoting trade and investment, tourism and people-to-people ties, and diversifying and securing the supply routes of energy and raw materials. OBOR is instrumental in deepening economic cooperation and integration in Asia and beyond. To sustain economic development, China needs to accelerate its opening-up strategy through the enlargement of economic, strategic and cultural linkages with global growth centers. China’s own successful development is linked to the economic growth of others.
OBOR is also a strategy to compete with the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which consists of 12 Pacific Rim countries, and the Translatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the US.
ASEAN leaders adopted a Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) in 2010, which focuses on infrastructure connectivity, institutional connectivity, and people-to-people connectivity. However, ASEAN has limited financial resources and capacity to implement MPAC.
China is one of the core development partners of ASEAN in deepening regional economic integration and community building. China is the largest trading of ASEAN and the main source of funding in infrastructure development. China’s OBOR compliments well with MPAC given it also prioritizes infrastructure development, trade and investment promotion, and cultural ties. ASEAN is the core partner of China in realizing OBOR. In the post-2015, ASEAN needs to develop strategic action plans to integrate MPAC with OBOR.
Financing infrastructure development is the main development challenge for Cambodia. To increase its competitiveness and to grasp the benefits from ASEAN economic community, Cambodia needs to double its efforts to attract foreign direct investment, to expand export capacity, to strengthen institutional capacity, and to develop human resources.
OBOR presents a great opportunity for Cambodia to get access to financial resources and technical expertise in developing and connecting its roads, rails, and ports with the region.
Detailed infrastructure development projects under OBOR are being studied and developed. So far China has developed special economic zone, airport, seaport, hydropower plants, and highways in the Kingdom. At the national conference co-organized by the Chinese Embassy to Cambodia and the Royal University of Phnom Penh this month, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An underscored the significance of OBOR in developing Cambodia’s infrastructure which constitutes a critical part of the industrial policy.